(reprinted with permission from Your Virtual Insurance by SellingWithTechnology.com
Feb 22 2002 issue)
Don’t allow people to e-mail your company if
their messages will neither be read nor answered. Try testing addresses on your site, like
firstname.lastname@example.org, to see if they actually reach a real human being and garner a
response. “Contact us” e-mail forms are also worthy of investigation; it only
ticks off customers when they fill them out and never receive a relevant response.
Allow customers to establish more direct
contact when they need it. That is, when someone visits your website, they should be able
to talk to a real person, either through online chat or by having someone from your
customer service or sales departments call them on the phone. This is often a prelude to a
sale or a deeper relationship with the customer. Companies such as LivePerson, eGain
Communications and GlobalPhone (which offers a WebCallback service) can help.
If you sell products directly from your
site, look to eliminate as many unnecessary steps as you can. Give buyers an overview of
the process, and the number of steps, before they start. At the bottom of each page, tell
them what they need to do next, and where they are in the process (“Step 3 of
5,” for example). If you don’t sell products, but instead point people to a network
of distributors, partners or resellers, you should track how many leads go to each one and
offer incentives to them based on how quickly and effectively they respond.
Find out how long it takes for your Web
server to reboot after it crashes. Does it happen automatically, or is human intervention
sometimes required? How long does recovery take in the latter case? If your Web server
dies completely, how long will your site be offline before it can be returned to life on
another server? Decide whether you’re happy with the answers you get?and if you’re not, take action.
Stop taxing your customers’ patience. If
your homepage includes a zoomy 974K Flash movie that visitors are forced to watch every
time they come to your site, ask your designers why people who already are interested in
your company must be required to watch an ad for your company before they can get
information from your company. The same goes for music that automatically plays when
visitors arrive at your homepage and pop-up windows too.
Don’t prevent users from grabbing text from
your site. Many websites use special HTML code on their pages that makes it impossible for
site visitors to highlight and copy your text to another application. The ostensible
reason for using such code is to protect your precious intellectual property, but it’s
more of an annoyance than anything else. Potential customers who are making a case within
their companies for buying something from you may need some information to back them up,
and may want to insert it into an e-mail or a Word document. Why make them retype the text
they want to use?
Give people the straight scoop when you ask
for their e-mail address. E-mail lists are a wonderful and inexpensive way to stay in
touch with customers and prospects. But asking someone for their e-mail address without
telling them what they’re going to get in return is like asking the stranger in the train
seat next to you for her Social Security number. You’ll get a lot more e-mail sign-ups if
you explain how often you send out your newsletter or update, make it easy for people to
unsubscribe at any time and link them to a sample of what they’ll be receiving.
List actual job titles, salary ranges and
descriptions on your “Careers” page. You’ll get more r�sum�s of higher quality
that way than you will if you just say, “We’re always hiring, so send in your r�sum�!”
Make sure your homepage includes a list of the three (or five or 10) most-recently
added documents or pages. This reinforces the idea that you’re constantly working on the site and that
it’s the best source for current information on your products or services. And you’ll condition people
to check your site more regularly.
Try a dozen searches on your site’s search
page. Some should be for topics you know are covered somewhere on the site; others should
be for topics that may or may not be there. Are you happy with the results you get? Search
engines can often be fine-tuned to yield better results; but many sites use ineffective
search technology that’s cheap (or free) and it shows.