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Email Basics

EmailThe posting last week called “Unsubscribe” seemed to resonate with a lot of readers. Dave Hart from Johannesburg in South Africa agreed 100%, but pointed out that there is another equally frustrating problem with many web sites. He said that many sites use a “contact us” web page rather than providing an e-mail address. He went on to say, “I appreciate that a company wants to ensure they collect relevant information to help streamline their response (as opposed to fattening their marketing database) but I like to have a copy of my correspondence and many “contact us” pages do not make provision for this.” I could not agree more.

For a company to provide an email address for their customers to use is email 101, but most do not. When I wrote “Get Connected” back in 1993, I advocated that companies should use email more aggressively. Executives that I spoke to about this said they were concerned that they would not be able to handle all the emails they might get. I said that it would be a wonderful thing if you were overwhelmed by customers who wanted to tell you something, ask you something, or even buy something! Fast forward 18 years and we still find companies that set their number one priority to get information from you on their terms, in their format, so they can get and information (and you) into their database. They may or may not actually reply. When you click “contact us” you begin a data entry assignment to get you and your question pigeonholed and then after you enter your question–which usually doesn’t fit one of their predetermined questions and answers–you are asked to visit their wiki or blog or support site. They throw away the opportunity to have a human reply to the email and establish a relationship. The investment would be more effective than the wasted millions on yellow pages, print ads, and other old-fashioned forms of communication.

There is another important element of the “contact us” capability. Here is how I described it in Net Attitude nearly ten years ago:

If you use an email form on your web site instead of providing an email address, give the sender the option to receive a copy of their email message. People often don’t use the email form because they have no confidence it will get delivered and they have no record of having sent it. Allow them to attach a document that may contain more information about a situation at hand.