Customer Contact Forms: Reducing Complexity is Important for Everyone

I hate it when I’m on a company’s website looking for help or support and I reach the Contact Us form and it stretches for miles. It makes me suspect that they are raising the bar for engaging by making me write War and Peace to submit a question or begin an inquiry. Given the huge focus on customer engagement I doubt this is actually the case. I know from having been on the other side of the form is that what often happens is that in a misguided attempt to ensure proper routing of customer requests the organization’s asks for too much information and loses the ability to effectively engage with customers.

I have included a video above with my quick breakdown of Publix’s Contact Us form which I think is a pretty good example of hiding complexity from the end user.

They do it in two ways:

1. They reduce the amount of overall information they collect

2. They hide the complexity of certain customer paths unless the customer chooses to go down that route.

For example hiding they hide information that is required to complete certain menu options unless the user specifically chooses the option. This reduces complexity and presents an overall interface that is fairly easy to navigate and understand with a low bar to customer engagement.

Of course I’d like to see it even simpler but for every piece of information that you don’t ask for up front you risk pushing users down an improper internal organizational path or delaying the handling of the inquiry. So what do I suggest? Here are the rules I try to follow when gathering customer information:

1. Gather the least amount of information you can to support the requirement in your first engagement with a customer. This lowers the bar to engagement.

2. Remember that you need to gather enough information to accomplish the requirement. This is a balancing act.

3. Hide the complexity of multiple routes to customer objectives if possible. Remember that the customer likely doesn’t know how your business works.

4. Customer choice hierarchies are bad! How many times have you waded through three tiers of drop down menus to try to find the appropriate option? Just give me one big list, I don’t know how you think!

5. Speak their language. Unless your customers are all expected to be experts in your business they need to be spoken to in a way they can understand.

6. Engage! Don’t be afraid to reach out to customers and ask them how hard it is for them to contact you or to find the information they are looking for.

This is a pretty short list that covers the key points for starting to achieve better customer engagement from your contact forms. Engage, experiment and look around. The world is full of these forms and once you start paying attention you will start to recognize how much the way different companies engage with you even in simple ways like contact forms shapes your opinion of the overall interaction.

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