I’ve been involved with web development for nearly a decade so take this short article as a heads-up about something blatantly obvious – email addresses on small to medium enterprise (SME) websites are often thrown at customers without consideration. Worse. Customer enquiries are too often ignored by the business or chewed up in spam filters.
The problem is that hardly anybody designing web solutions is a business strategist.
Yes, everybody likes to imagine they know everything about everything but just like you don’t know your arse from your toenail without being a trained doctor there is a lot to be said for accepting professions like accounting, law, management and plumbing (don’t split hairs over this loose analogy) are in possession of specialised trained knowledge. The manager may not know HTML from a simple widget. Just as you may not know a professional marketing strategy from a television advertisement.
So, somewhere within the bounds of the web development process a client is casually informed the business website contact page will provide their business name, business number, email address and contact phone numbers. Perhaps even a Google Map so they can be located.
And the reason for including (or excluding) the email address isn’t thought out any further.
Let me ask you this question: How does it serve the business that doesn’t intend or has no capacity to effectively communicate with the customer via email? Not answering email or doing so rudely will incur far more damage to their brand and marketing objectives than not providing an email address.
If the business has no capacity or is, in all honesty, unwilling to provide that service to customers then the email – in all seriousness – does not belong.
OK, let’s look at it this way. If you have a website it should exist for a reason and it should have SMART Goals that can be used to assess it’s Return on Investment. If you’re in business you’re in business and you don’t just pay thousands of dollars towards the witchery of an Internet Beach Towel.
And that website should be a part of an integrated marketing strategy (ie. brochures point to website URL which supports the television advertisement). It’s integrated and all channels underpin and support the others. And in that marketing strategy there is a place where a manager would write EMAIL. Under that heading it would include something like:
- All customer emails will be responded to within twenty four hours
- All responses will be via email or telephone as elected by the customer
- All responders (by email or telephone) will be trained in customer service
- All responders will flag issues as resolved only when the customer is satisfied
- The spam filter will be reviewed by support staff every X hours to catch lost emails
Because email is a critical touch point between the business and its customers.
BAM… that is when you include an email on an SME website. When it will be answered professionally as an underpinning element of an integrated marketing strategy with goals and objectives that make sense and are measurable. It’s not a personal email address to check every other day – this is a business enterprise out to make money and customers are the most important element of that paradigm.
I like Tommy Wong’s analogy – think of the customer as someone who has your money in their pocket… and your job is to convince them to give it back to you!
As a web designer your job is to develop a web solution that facilitates the client’s business. So the inclusion (or exclusion) of the email address becomes your business, too. If you want to do it well. If you’re interested in selling more than Internet Beach Towels to unwitting SME saps.
Yes, of course you can just flick the SME’s email address onto a contact page and call yourself a web designer but I’m not convinced there is any design involved if the underlying functionality and reason for that element being included is totally ignored.
Every element of a web design, including the email address, needs a clear reason why it has been placed and what it is intended to achieve.