Hitting a Nerve

Seems like my buddy Dan Hebert hit a nerve with his post last week about how hard some companies make it to reach and speak with a real, live person. Oddly, the nerve Dan hit belongs to one of the good guys--a supplier who knows how to do it right--Opto22.

Check out Opto's website to see how it's done. The phone number at the top of every page. The company address on the Contact Us page. Contact information for real folks within the company. An email page with options that will get your message to someone who may actually be able to answer your questions or handle your problem.

Of less importance to customers, but greatly appreciated by we ink-stained wage slaves in the press, is the "Press Room" link, again with a name, direct phone number and email address (in this case of the ever-helpful Dave Crump). And copies of recent press releases. And a company fact sheet. And a link to available pictures that can be downloaded.  All stuff that simplifies my life as a journalist--and, if you as a supplier care about such things, makes me more eager to seek out your company as a source.

Kudos to Benson Hougland and the rest of the Opto22 marketing team.

Opto22 isn't the only company that gets it, but a look at such a website can be instructive.

The point is this: The InnerWebs are a wonderful way of getting your corporate message out to the world, but when you're designing your site, you have to remember that not everyone wants all-electronic communication all the time. People still want to hear real live people at the other end of a communication. Don't get so caught up in the bells and whistles of website design to the point that you forget what the goal was in the first place.

I think what happens is that companies frequently turn their site design over to some highly focused person (usually young) who's whole way of thinking about communication is skewed by the Web. Their site design reflects the fact that they just don't think about picking up the phone as the first -- or even best -- way of establishing a connection with another person. Isn't that what Facebook and Twitter and Instant Messaging are for?

Um, no. And it's your job as the site owner to say that. Real people buying real, complex products have complex questions and concerns that can best be addressed by real conversations. Buying process automation equipment or software is NOT like ordering up from iTunes.

Of course, if you really would just as soon not have to talk to your customers in real time, that's your call. But it does raise some other questions about your business model. Just sayin'.