On Being Accessible
Last night, I took my family to the local mall. My wife's stated goal was the children's clothing store, which meant that we had to pass by Bath & Body Works. As we passed through the perfumed atmosphere outside the entrance to the store, my sons and I continued our march toward the stated goal, only to realize that my wife and daughters were no longer with us. They had followed the siren smells into the girly-lotion store.
Since my sons and I had no interest in Bath & Body Works, it was decided that we would proceed with the baby to the children's play area and wait for the perfumed spell to break.
Of course, men are not immune to getting sidetracked in the mall. As we headed to the play area, I noticed a kiosk for language-learning software I have long considered buying. I walked over to look at the boxes, and when the salesman asked if he could give me a demo, I thought, "What the heck, I'll be on the receiving end of a software demo for a change." Besides, I really did want to see how the software worked.
As my hapless teenage sons milled about trying to keep the baby happy, the salesman gave me an intelligent and informative demo. He obviously knew the product well, and explained that he had been a user before he joined the company. At the end of the demo he asked for the sale, but when I explained that I wasn't ready to purchase just yet he told me of an upcoming sale and other purchase options—yet all in a way that did not come across as high pressure.
I left impressed with the salesman and with the company, and decided to email the company to give positive feedback about the salesman. Unfortunately, when I later visited the company's website, my positive sales experience was not reinforced.
The website was slick and well-designed, except for the fact that I could find no way to give my positive feedback. When I clicked the "Contact Us" link, I got a series of options for various kinds of users: homeschoolers, educational institutions, businesses, etc. None of those seemed quite appropriate, but I clicked one to see if I could get a company email address. I could not. Instead I was taken to some web-based ticketing system designed to receive sales questions or tech support requests, but little else. Here I was trying to give positive feedback and I was now wasting time trying to figure out how to do it! In the end, I left the website in frustration and found the company's twitter account. I expressed my frustration there, and am interested to see what kind of response I get.
The point of this story is twofold. First, always take a route through the mall which avoids the scented entrance to Bath & Body Works! Second, always make yourself as accessible as possible to your users.
My experience with this company's website left me feeling as if they had put up barriers to my communicating with them. It was the same feeling I get when I call a company and get a long frustrating list of menu options. At Accordance Bible Software, we do our best to be as accessible to our users as possible. If you visit our website, you'll find our toll-free number and contact link at the top of every page. There's now even a Live Chat option which lets you IM us during business hours. When you click the Contact link you get our various phone numbers, mailing address, a simple choice of three email addresses, and a web form for sending us a message. Beyond that, we have user forums that are monitored by most of the staff, and a presence on Facebook and Twitter. I can't promise that an email or phone message has never slipped through the cracks, but we do our best to make it difficult not to be able to get in touch with us.
In the time it has taken me to write this post, the company in question contacted me by Twitter, thanking me for wanting to give positive feedback and asking how they could help. They then asked me whom I was trying to contact. While I am impressed with the fast response, I'm afraid it still misses the point. I don't know whom I'm trying to contact. That's something they should be telling me.
At this point, the ball is back in my court and I'm tempted simply to drop it and hit the showers. When you contact Accordance, we'll do everything we can to spare you that feeling. Instead, we'll take the ball and pass it to the person who can run with it and make a customer service slam dunk.
By the way, I'm chuckling at my use of a basketball metaphor for customer service, since one of our customer service all-stars is the shortest person in the company. She makes me look tall, and that's saying something!