Online Enquiries – 59% not answered

In these days of tighening economic conditions you would think that business owners would jump on every opportunity to develop relationships and respond to enquiries. However it seems that is not the case online. In a recent study it was found that 59%, yes that’s fifty-nine percent of Australian companies did not answer an enquiry within 7 days of it being sent.

Now at this point I have to say that as a user of those systems, I am not surprised at all, but on the other hand, even the successful criteria was a response within a week…a week!!! If I send a web enquiry I want it answering fast, or I’ll send it to someone else. A week is hardly fast in anyones reckoning.

As an example, I have recently had an experience where I have sent 2 web enquiries to Xerox Australia, neither of which was replied to. However in their defense, I also left a phone message and they didn’t reply to that either! What I don’t understand is that at best this is leaving our customers thinking we don’t value them, and at worst they just go elsewhere.

In the company I work for, we currently generate quite a few web enquiries, many of which I know don’t get followed up. The sales manager for one of the states has told me “I know those that are worth replying to, all the others are just looking for a price”… no shit Sherlock! In reality what he actually means is that if he doesn’t know them already he is not interested.

So having said how bad we are at handling web enquiries, what can we do to resolve the situation?

Well first thing is to make sure when you design your enquiry system, be prepared for the enquiries that result. Have a system prepared for how you are going to handle what is coming in. That might be a fully automated system, semi automation, a manual system with templates set up, or even having a follow up system with your sales team which they must feed back into within a given time.

If you want to get specific the following may be of some help: –

Customer service

Customer service, unlike an enquiry for a product should be something you are looking to reduce. If your customer service is right first time, there will be very little need for people to contact you. There is also a rule that says if they are not satisfied with the result of the first call, they will carry on and on, taking up more and more of your time. So have a system that feeds back into your process with problems to try to design them out. If you get repeated questions, either find a way to fix them, or put them in an FAQ section.

If your team is getting swamped in emails, which are backing up, enable clickcalling or even add in a text service. Clickcalling allows them to talk to an operator, which should reduce the amount of time spent with minor issues, texting on the other hand ensures that your answer have to be short and sweet, saving you time.

Lastly, if you are in a large organisation working in a help desk environment you may find another department is causing you misery. This could be a new product, or a marketing campaign or whatever. Well charge them for your services. If they see charges adding up, they will be much more inclined to fix the problem.

Enquiries

These are what every company wants more of, but most don’t handle when we do. Short of the designing automated systems mentioned above, I can recommend a few other actions which can help.

Firstly if you are going to change and improve your enquiry system, test the new one on a small section of your site first. As you can see from my previous posts I have done this and know that changes I am going to make will increase the enquiry rate by around 550%. If I know this, I can design a system to handle it, otherwise I might get totally caught out.

Another approach is to design two enquiry systems. One is designed to maximise the number of enquiries, so it might for instance have the simpliest form requiring little info from the user. The other is designed to produce the most qualified and committed enquirers. This may have a much more complex form to fill out, so that sales people get to know a lot of additional information about the client. You may for instance if you are a b2b supplier try to filter out companies interested in one off, low value items. So it could include questions that ask them to state how much they spend on your type of products a year. This means only the most committed enquirers will complete the form.

So why do this. Well if the sales team want more leads you can go with the first option, if they want more qualified leads you can switch to the second, and if you are really smart you can use A-B testing procedures to run both at once so that you only generate the number of enquiries a day you can handle.

I have to say that although this is a perfectly valid approach I would be careful that it doesn’t drive away potential long term customers. For the company I work for, my preference would be to have an automated system, but that really depends on your products, your pricing strategies and sadly often your internal politics.

One last thought is that you should not forget lead generation firms. These companies will follow up your enquiries for you, and the advantage of using them is that they are an infinite resource. If you get more enquiries, they put more people on it. You pay for it of coarse, so as always, it is a numbers game.

 

Hopefully if you are one of the 59%, this should give you some ideas on how to solve your problems and improve your situation. Lets get that number down, and lets work on that week response time so we are all replying the same day. That can only be good for our businesses.

 

New Window or Not – That is the Question

To the web design purists, this is a simple question. I no case should you open up a new window, because it breaks the back button functionality and may disorientate your viewers. However in my tests I have come up with a few rules that on our b2b business site ensure that our customers have the experience they want.

My first rule is with pdfs. Most pdf’s on most commercial sites are brochures or white papers that tend to be saved or printed for later consumption. If this is the case then open these up in a new window. That way it seems that our customers actually get less disoriented, and they can decide what to do with the pdf later. Personally I think that there are a few reasons this works. The first is mentioned above, the second is that pdf’s open up in a plug in that doesn’t have the traditional look of a web page and in fact has it’s own menu bar in most browsers. The last reason is that pdf’s aren’t web pages. Usually the only navigation open to you is the back button. So in that way it is easy to get disoriented if it is not isolated.

My second rule is a simple one, and to a large extent it is being superseded with newer technologies, but if you are not using ajax, and want to add in supplementary information, but still allow the main page to be viewed I would recommend a new window or a …wait for it…pop-up window. I know, I know, no one likes pop-ups, but is that really the case. If I ask for more information and it happens to be in a pop-up, I really don’t mind, and that has proven to be the case with our customers too.