Keeping in Touch

Posted: July 9, 2012 in CRM, Current Affairs
Tags: ,

I thought it was me.  The growing number of webside companies that don’t bother to publish their terrestrial contact information flummoxed me.  You know what I mean, the street address, phone number, email — all the things that make a company tangible.  That’s what business cards are for though increasingly companies are now only printing the information you can glean from a quick Google search.  But last week while you were at the beach, the New York Times published this article about that very thing, and no it’s not just me.

I know it’s trendy in our industry and even noble to eat your own dog food especially in a new market.  It helps to demonstrate to the market that your new fangled idea is not just some fever dream but that it has practical applicability.  But when an emerging company only publishes its cyber identity, it’s not eating its own dog food it’s trying to force feed you and me.  I don’t know about you but I am not impressed.

I once had a meeting in San Francisco and was running late and didn’t have a phone number of the person I was meeting with on my phone so I tried to find the switchboard number to call in that way.  I used my fancy phone to surf the web to find the information but it didn’t exist on the company’s site.  Just the cyber stuff.

No matter I thought, I’ll just rush over there and walk in apologizing for my tardiness.  But when I got there the building’s door was locked.  I wasn’t that late, it was before six PM but there you have it.  The best I could do from the front door — after I gave up on knocking — was to tweet my predicament and walk away.

In the time it took for me to walk to the nearest bar and order some fluid replenishment (it had been a warm day and with walking and all that, you know…) the tweet did its job and I got a call from my contact who had left work for some family time when I hadn’t showed up.  He was cool with it and we agreed to meet for breakfast so there was no loss on anyone’s part.

But let me point out the obvious.  The world isn’t San Francisco (would that it were!) and the people that we need to deal with and impress are predominantly not all persuaded yet that social connections are the second coming.  Moreover, there is a substantial investment in phones, websites and myriad other devices and processes by which we do business and they should be respected.

It’s expensive to hire people to do things like answer the phone and many emerging companies might understandably not wish to make those investments.  They have lean business models and wish to teach the rest of the world about them.  But the fact of the matter is that we are living in a transition state from one approach to another.  The transition is moving at a good pace but people, who will change their habits only so fast, mediate it.

At the beginning of the CRM era some of us criticized companies that didn’t put enough people on the phone or who used CRM primarily for call deflection.  We used terms like phone hell.  But so far we seem to be giving a free pass to companies that eschew the old reliable communication channels and look upon traditionalists as luddites.

To them I say, not so fast, dude.  It’s going to be your sandbox some day but that day isn’t here yet.

Comments
  1. Denis, terrific thoughts, and I appreciate your pointing us also to the New York Times article, “Tech Companies Leave Phone Calls Behind”, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/07/technology/tech-companies-leave-phone-calls-behind.html?_r=1&ref=technology.

    The fact is, I think that companies have some explaining to do if they are unwilling to provide an address and a phone number, and other means of easy access.

    If a business is unwilling to provide its phone number, one is really tempted to wonder what it is that they do not want to talk about, or want you to know.

    Too, if a company is unable to master the businesslike skill of answering a telephone and talking with their customers, prospects, and industry participants, one can only wonder how capable the business is to perform other expected business functions.

    These companies may think that dropping the phone line makes them more cutting edge, but too few companies have mastered the art of a good customer experience even with a phone line, much less without.

    Customers and prospects ought to liberally express their expectation that any company they do business with provide easy and ready access, and that any provided contact methods be easily accessible and readily responded to. This goes to the heart of the customer experience.

    SMB Research has written about this on the SMB Research blog: (1) “10 Best Practices For a Better Website”, http://smbresearch.net/betterwebsites/, and (2) “Vendors: Are You Trying to Hide from Prospects and Industry Influencers?”, http://smbresearch.net/vendoraccessibility/.

    Denis, I say that companies who are not able or willing to provide ready and easy access should perhaps get a pass by, not a free pass.

So, what did you think?

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