The entire purpose of a Contact Us page is to help people contact your business, in a variety of different ways if possible. You can also use the Contact Us page to tell visitors why they might want to contact your business. For example, if your company produces content and you’re always looking for freelancers, your Contact Us page can include the email address for an automatic mailer that replies with special instructions (send resume, writing clips, information about your background, etc.).
There are certain pages that visitors expect to be able to reach in one click from any page of a web site, such as the home page. The Contact Us page is one of these kinds of pages. It’s not enough that you put contact information on the bottom of your pages; many visitors aren’t going to bother scrolling down. If they don’t scroll down and find your information, it’s every bit as bad as if you didn’t put it there in the first place. So make it obvious and easy to find by giving your contact information its own page and a prominent link, either in your left-side navigation or across-the-top navigation (or both!).
Despite the fact that many large companies, such as Amazon, make it hard to find their contact information, it’s generally true that if you don’t make your contact information easy to find, visitors will trust you less. Trust is everything on the Internet, especially when you’re trying to run a business. In general, people won’t buy from those they don’t trust. Your Contact Us page doesn’t need to have a lot of information; indeed, it’s likely to be the smallest page on your web site. And it should not contain any advertising. What should it contain? I’m glad you asked.
This may sound a little outdated, but you should always include a physical address or at least a postal mail address. Even if all of your business is conducted online, a postal address gives you a greater air of legitimacy in the eyes of many visitors. Besides, it won’t just be customers that need a physical address; you probably have contractors, suppliers, vendors, service providers, and others who need to know where your business is located.
Along with your physical address, you should list a phone number. In fact, you should list more than one. The bare minimum is a business phone number and a fax number. List the hours during which those numbers are answered, and stick to them! You might also want to include phone numbers for reaching particular departments (such as customer service or editorial). If you’re comfortable with including a cell phone number, do so. You might even want to look into getting a separate cell phone that you use exclusively for your business, whose fees might be tax deductible, but that is beyond the scope of this article.
Not everyone will be in a position to call you during your normal business hours. That’s simply a fact of life if you’re doing business globally – which you are, technically, if you’re doing business on the Internet. So along with all of those phone numbers, you should include instructions for leaving voicemail. If you can, note how quickly voicemail messages will be answered.
Some of you will dislike this, but you should also include an email address that is checked regularly. Yes, you may get spam. So what? Most people use email these days, if they surf the Internet at all. They expect businesses to do the same. It’s the norm in communication between businesses, and it gives your customers an easy way to contact you after hours. Using email means everyone gets a solid record of the communication, too, providing an extra layer of protection in case things go awry.
If you really want to make things easy for your customers, you can set up your email address so that it is a “hot link,” meaning that they can click on it and see their own email program opened instantly, ready for them to start typing a message. Setting this up is just like setting up a hyperlink on your web site, only instead of typing “http://www.yoursite.com/” you’re putting in “mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org,” or whatever email address you’ve chosen to use. Just make sure you DO check this address regularly! Check the spam filters too; speaking from experience, you’d be surprised at what can get lost in them.
Depending on the kind of business you do and the volume of email you receive, you may want to include an email form. You might be able to keep things very simple, as we do here at the Shed. Here’s a screen shot of our form:
As you can see, we don’t ask for a lot of information. I clicked the drop-down menu to show you that we’ve specifically set it up so that all email will be routed to the appropriate department. You may or may not be able to get by with something this simple. If you collect subscriber information for newsletters or white papers, for example, you may need a more detailed form.
Do you have a bricks-and-mortar site which customers can visit? Then it’s a good idea to include a picture of the business, and a map with directions. You might even want to set up this page so that it links to Mapquest or some other service that will allow your visitor to input his or her address and get door-to-directions. Personally, I’d advise you to include both: a good set of directions and a link that lets users get a custom set. Be aware that users may be coming from both the north and south (to say nothing of the east and west) when you write your directions.
Okay, so your visitors can reach you via postal mail, email, visiting you in person, and filling out a form that is routed to the right department. Are there any ways of contact that we’re forgetting? Yes, as a matter of fact.
There’s live chat. That may or may not be appropriate for your business, but some companies have used it to good effect. I’ve used live chat from time to time when I’m working on a story about particular firms. It seems to have caught on more with web hosters than with other kinds of businesses. But if your company uses live chat, visitors should be able to access this capability from your Contact Us page at a minimum (the firms I’ve seen that use it display that fact prominently on their home page, and let visitors access it from there).
There’s also your blog and/or your social networking site page. While this might not be the easiest way to contact you, it’s always wisest to include as many options as possible. You never know which ones will click. Use this with caution, however. You might want to include a link to your LinkedIn profile – but not your OKCupid profile. Or, to give a less explicit example, if your business sells flowers, but your blog is about personal investments, you might not want to include the blog link; that would probably confuse potential customers.
Does your company exhibit at conferences and events? Then you might want to include information on which events you’ll be showing at next. This is a double-edged sword however. Since this is dynamic information, if you include it you’re going to have to allot the resources to keep it updated. You might be better off including that information on another section of your site that you expect to update regularly.
Here’s one last tip to help you hone your Contact Us page and make your life (and the lives of your customers) a little easier: be sure to include some simple text that tells customers why and how they should contact you. “For placing an order, dial this toll-free number or click on the link for our order form…” “Visit our office for a free consultation…” “Use our Live Chat line if you have questions about your software…”
Polish your Contact Us page, and your customers will appreciate it. Good luck!