The website is the nerve centre for every business. Yet many websites miss the vital elements that can strengthen and build trust. Even with the best aesthetics, navigation experiences and quality content, a website that does not provide a range of contact options can lead to a loss of business. And this is particularly so in professional and business-to-busines sectors.
Trust in brands, and the people behind a business, is critical. Transparency, confidence and availability are vital in engaging and converting prospects. And every prospect will have their preference for the way they like to communicate at the early stages.
But many business owners impose their personal communication preferences on their prospects. And this transferred mindset and bias can and will damage trust and website conversions.
A poll I ran recently across two major business groups on Facebook asked: “When you contact a business for the first time (as a potential buyer) what is your preferred method of contact?”
The options were: website forms, mobile/phone, email direct, social media and live chat.
Additional detailed comments were encouraged and respondents were asked if they were willing to share their age range (under 30, 40, 50, 60).
The results were tallied and were an eye opener:
Website form (35%), mobile/phone (24%), email direct (21%), social media (15%), and live chat (5%).
I was particularly interested to see if there was any correlation between preferences and age demographics. We are led to believe that Generation X, Millennials and Baby Boomers are wired into pre-set styles. Yet, this small poll squashed that perception, along with many others, from the 230 respondents.
A real surprise was how many admitted publicly (and privately) that they hated filling out website contact forms, but expected their prospects to do so on their websites. As sellers the contact expectations for their businesses were different to being a buyer.
What was also interesting was the age range of phone preference was far wider than expected. It appears that not all Gen X and Millennials dislike the phone and not all Baby Boomers prefer it. It was evenly spread, though with a slight leaning of under 45 embracing the phone. Observing customer service on the phone was a really important value for many and how they were treated built service confidence.
Many also had a distinct lack of trust in website contact forms (again a myth that they are the holy grail on a website). The common theme was a lack of response and follow-up. And without any proof of delivery this created uncertainty. Concerns were also expressed that filling in a website forms often results in unauthorised list building and spamming.
Some commented that despite a preference for website forms, email or social media communication they felt more comfort and trust when a phone number was provided.
Another finding was that direct emailing was preferable for many as it gives a communication trail. And while website forms were the highest subset, there still was a sense of distrust and reluctance to enquire if other contact methods were not offered.
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If phone numbers and direct email addresses were not available many just would not pursue making any contact at all. It was also the same response in situ if there were no contact names listed. Laziness and a lack of care was often perceived by not disclosing names, which didn’t bode well.
Several respondents volunteered they were massive introverts and hated the phone. They rarely used it as a buyer or seller and hence didn’t have a number on their website.
So what does this all mean for SMEs? It means that unless you are absolutely 100% certain that all your prospects share your exact communication preferences, you need to provide a wide range of contact options.
No sector or profession has all clients and prospects sharing identical communication preferences and personality styles. There is no one size fits all and SMEs must ensure they minimise apprehension and maximise trust and enquiries at every opportunity.
Don’t jeopardise your websites success. Share names and all main contact options to build and strengthen personal and business brand trust.
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