We've always supported our clients most effectively via email. As a result, we've decided to embrace our status as an email company and ask all clients to contact us via email in the first instance.
Here are 10 reasons why we can provide a better service without instant phone support:
#1 - Quicker responses to ALL contact
Too many communication channels can cause customer service to suffer.
Without careful thought, companies can end up accepting queries through multiple email inboxes, landline calls, mobile calls, landline voicemail, mobile voicemail, SMS text messages, Skype, Twitter, Facebook, Whatsapp, etc. etc.
This makes it hard to prioritise. It either becomes a full-time job to stay on top of so many channels. Or some of them get forgotten and customers who contact you via Facebook (for example) wait longer than those who email directly. This isn't fair on customers, who need to know what to expect.
Phone is a major culprit because most companies only check their voicemail once or twice a day. We've always been guilty of this too. If you email us, you're likely to get a response within minutes. If you miss us and leave a voicemail, it will take longer- and I'm not comfortable with that.
Email is also great for responding to queries outside of working hours. As a modern web company, we work a lot but are not tied to set working hours. You're just as likely to get an email from us at 7am or in the evening as you are between 9-5. This causes problems with instant phone support, but is a real benefit for email.
#2 - Better quality work
Everyone knows that constant interruptions have a huge impact on productivity and quality of work. If we're working hard to design a fantastic website for a client, we need to be able to focus and get 'in the zone'.
By checking for new emails in between tasks, we can respond quickly without affecting our work. Unplanned phone calls demand instant attention and have a much bigger impact.
#3 - More informed responses
Lots of people like to pick up the phone with a question, as they know they can get an instant response. What they don't realise that the quality of response will be worse.
With an email query, we can spend the appropriate amount of time looking into the issue, doing any research and formulating a professional response. With a phone call, we're on the spot. We will either either try to answer straight away - even though we haven't had a chance to look into it properly yet. Or we will promise to get back to you later - which doesn't give you any useful information.
If you send us the same question via email, the response is likely to be higher quality - and almost as quick.
#4 - We're a distributed team
As a distributed team, Barn2 Media is run by Andy and myself, with support from our wider network of WordPress and SEO experts on specific projects. This makes phone support more complex as we don't have a single office that people can phone.
We used to use a virtual receptionist service. However we cancelled this 18 months ago after receiving constant complaints from existing clients. They knew that we're a small team and felt that it was dishonest to have someone answering the phone who wasn't part of our company. They were phoning because they wanted to speak with us. If we weren't available then it didn't help to have someone else take a message.
With a distributed team, support needs to be provided in a more modern way than traditional companies who have an office, receptionist etc. Email lets us direct enquiries to the appropriate person without having to make you wait.
#5 - Design is a visual process
Web design is a visual process. Email helps with this as we can share screenshots, screencasts, links etc. to make sure we're talking about the same thing.
#6 - New clients can make an informed decision
As I said, our email support has been superior to our phone support for a long time. But the fact that we advertised a phone number on our website implied that both are equal. By making things clearer from the outset, new clients can make an informed decision on whether to work with us.
I respect the fact that everyone has different communication styles. Some people love email whereas others hate it and prefer to talk.
If you want quick and frequent email support, plus pre-arranged phone calls for more in-depth discussions, then we're the right company for you.
If you want to be able to pick up the phone for every small query then it may not be a good fit.
#7 - Better records and accountability
Email communication gives us a clear written record of all our contact with clients. We can easily refer back to what was agreed and make sure nothing is overlooked. It also helps us to share information between team members.
Everything is already in writing and we don't need to spend time writing up each email. Phone calls often lead to written notes that need integrating into a CRM or other database, which is less efficient.
#8 - No more sales calls!
Like all companies, we receive many cold calls a day.
- Can we outsource any projects to an overseas web development company? Never!
- Do we need to discuss our toner requirements? No thanks, we're a (mostly) paperless company and hardly ever print anything.
- Do we meet our pension auto-enrollment obligations? Not applicable, we're a distributed team without employees.
- Are we interested in IT recruitment? Nope!
- Would we like to discuss our BT phone bill? We don't use BT, stop pretending you're from BT.
- Do we want to advertise in a (obviously fake) charity publication? Erm, no thanks.
- Would we like to take a 'quick' market research survey? Obviously not, we're busy designing websites for our clients!
I know everyone hates cold callers, but I have a particular passion against them. Even if someone phoned offering a service I actually wanted (which has never happened), I wouldn't use them on principle.
So a lovely side-effect of not offering instant phone support is NO MORE SALES CALLS!
#9 - We can respond quickly in an emergency
We take our clients' websites very seriously and would never leave anyone hanging in a genuine emergency. For this reason, we have an emergencies-only email address which will ping both of Barn2's directors on our personal mobiles. Our clients can use this to get instant support for any serious problems that affect their live website.
This is better than allowing clients to phone us in an emergency because it works outside of normal office hours. Most companies switch to voicemail when they leave the office for the day, which is no use in an emergency.
#10 - You can still speak to us on the phone!
There's no incoming phone number that people can use to instantly speak with someone from Barn2 Media. However phone calls will always be an important part of our work.
We still expect to speak with all our clients on the phone when this is the most appropriate method of communication. For example, this applies to:
- Website planning and requirements discussions to help us learn about a potential client's business and what they want to achieve from their website.
- Feedback discussions after the client sees their draft website.
- Problem-solving discussions to resolve any issues that arise during a project.
I believe that phone or Skype calls are best for these types of contact, if a face-to-face meeting isn't possible (e.g. due to geography). Speaking with someone helps build relationships and gain a greater understanding into each other. This is hard to replicate by email.
In-depth discussions work best when they happen at a pre-arranged time. This gives everyone the opportunity to prepare for the call beforehand and make it as productive as possible.
Over to you
What do you think of companies that only provide email support? Are you a client and how do email and phone support compare for you? Are you a company with a similar approach? Please leave your comments below.