Monday, 7 October 2013

How to Make Your Customers Feel Like Meat in a Tube

Few things annoy me more than web-based forms for initiating customer contact. My experience of them ranges from poor to dismal, and even when I point out that I expect companies to fail in their response I am rarely surprised by brilliance (or even adequacy).

The first problem with these forms is actually the result: Your enquiry ends up not as an e-mail for a person, but a record in a database. Some forms are worse than others in betraying this, but if you even have to select your company size or decision-making company role you can be sure you're being slotted into a Customer Spamming Service machine.

From there, around four out of five responses make no reference to your original query. Unlike e-mail, where you can save your initial contact in your Sent folder, and typically hiting Reply generates a new mail on top of your original one, the first response you receive almost always has no history, so you're left scratching your head wondering if you really forgot to mention your product's model number, even when you remember having to look up the unicode for the unnecessarily accented é in the product name.Whether a human typed out your reply, selected a form response or some machine logic matched your keywords to information already available in the FAQ, I will offer odds, without knowing who the company is, that the original question is not included for reference.

It's a pain to fill in forms like these repeatedly for each individual question, so you might be tempted to put more than one question in your query. Beware traveller - the company will choose which answer most closely matches their prepared form responses and send that to you, regardless of the amount of prominence you try to give to the one you really need answered first.

Errors on the form? How about not residing in the US so skipping the "state" field, only to be told the field is mandatory. OK, I live in Wyoming, Netherlands. Ah, the form now tells me having a state filled in outside the US in an invalid choice? Check the dropdown - yep, only US states available and no way to not pick one. Don't bother complaining about the logic in your actual request - you see, the people choosing stock responses to send that don't adequately deal with your query, they're in no way connected with the end of the sausage maker that ruins your customer contact experience from the start. They just turn the handle.

While sending an enquiry to a prominent software vendor, I happened to have NoScript turned on and found the form broken beyond use. This is simply not justifiable. Oh well, I'll enable the site for JS, but lo! The form fails to complete again. This time it is because a piece of code from a marketing firm has not arrived. So prominent, it even has the name market in its' name - answering my question vs completing my digital profile for a third party: Which do you think they care about most?

All this from an IT Security company, that sells products to control mobile phone policies to stop users from doing things like installing untrusted software that sends their data to unknown parties, without telling you.

Why am I running a marketing company's JavaScript to collect my personal information to initiate an evaluation of your products?

I am just meat in a sausage to you people, aren't I?

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