Apr 21, 2015 • Jessica Jones
Many websites are built with contact forms - easy ways for a potential customer to reach out to the business and request more information without even having to send an email. Some forms on websites are built for specific purposes - a contractor may offer a free estimate, for example, if the potential client gives certain basic information about the job that they’d like to have completed. Forms of this nature may have more fields to gather specific information, but basic contact forms are generally very simple - name, email address, and a space to type a message. They may ask for a phone number, or ask the client how they heard about the business that they’re contacting.
<figcaption id="caption-attachment-3286" class="wp-caption-text">When people hit a button, they expect something to happen. The same goes for the “Submit” button on your contact form!</figcaption></figure>
Contact forms are generally just used to capture leads - you want to keep them short and to the point so that an interested client isn’t put off by having to spend too long filling out fields that may or may not be relevant to their question or interest. The user fills out the form with their basic contact information, which is sent to you in the form of an email notification, and you promptly reach back out to that person to talk to them more about their needs and the services you offer. Hopefully all goes well, and you’ve got a new client!
But what if the user fills out your form and then never hears back? Maybe they’re interested enough in your services that they’ll try another method and give your business a call, but maybe not - maybe they’ll be put off by the lack of response, or maybe they contacted several businesses at the same time and will choose the one that is responsive to their inquiry rather than hunting down the one that isn’t. What if the email notifications on that form aren’t set to go to you, but to someone else? Or, worst of all, to an email address monitored by no one?
Here is a statement that some of you will think is simply common sense: if you have a contact form on your website, you need to know where the submissions go and who is responsible for responding to them. If you’re thinking “of course I know that, do you think I want to lose business??” - Congratulations, you can stop reading if you choose and move on to the next portion of your day. If, however, you’re thinking that you aren’t sure where responses to your form go, or whether anyone sees them, or whether they ever get answered - do you want to lose business??
Even if for some reason you really aren’t seeking new customers or clients and don’t actually need new business, leaving contact form responses unanswered is a good way to turn opinions against you. A user who receives a pleasant “I’m sorry, but I’m not taking on new clients at this time” message will move on with a far more positive impression than one who is simply ignored. If you would rather not have to send these responses, most website form software will allow you to set up an auto-responder message - you could craft a generic email that would be sent to the user’s email address when they fill out your form. Even with this solution, however, you should still monitor the submissions - if someone has a specific question or concern that isn’t addressed by your automated email you may still need to send a personalized response.
If you’d rather not worry about it at all, then it might be best just to take the form down altogether. There is no rule that says you have to have a contact form on a website - we usually recommend them, because they are good lead capture tools, but if you have no interest in capturing or following up with those leads then the benefit turns into a drawback.
The same goes for any email addresses that you may choose to post on your website - if you’re directing users to email a certain address with questions, make sure you know where those emails are going, and if you simply don’t want to have to field emails from website users, then take the address down altogether.
Simply put, only post contact information that the user can actually use to contact you. If you only want to be contacted by phone, just post the phone number. If you only want customers to be able to visit your physical location, just post your address. Be aware that having more options for contacting you is a better option - some users hate using the phone, some hate using email. Some won’t want to visit your location until they’re sure you have what they need. Giving them fewer options, however, is better than giving them options that will only waste their time.