Social media: Stop hiding your phone number online

by Nick Westergaard, columnist
Published: August 10 2014 | 12:02 am in Business Rotator, Column and advice,

I’m going to attempt to write one of those bold, opinionated columns that hopefully inspires you to take swift action. Ready? Here goes.

If you hide your phone number online, you are telling your customers that they don’t matter.

It’s so simple I’ll say it again. When you obscure the path to your phone number on your website — or worse yet, if you don’t include a phone number at all — you are sending a message that answering your customers’ questions and talking with them isn’t worth your time.

‘We Can’t Do that!’

And now it’s time for your opportunity to play “but I’m a big-or-small business.” That’s when a large organization nods emphatically, noting, “We’re so big we couldn’t possibly answer all of the calls. So we try to steer them to our online contact channels.”

First of all, if you’re that big, then you have the resources to address this. You’ve just chosen to spend them elsewhere. Second, I hate to break it to you, but today’s online consumers are savvier than ever. Hiding your support phone number in fine print at the bottom of your Web page, or stashing it several clicks away, are not nuanced moves. Your customers read you loud and clear.

A small business responds with wide eyes, frantically crying out that they can’t keep up with the volume either — it has a team that’s already spread too thin and wearing multiple hats. I know it’s hard, but try to protect some of your budget to support your customers on the phone.

Again, I’m not advocating a huge change in staffing and operations. If you have a phone number, you most certainly have some means of answering calls. I won’t even get preachy and implore you to ditch the robot and go with a real operator, but if you’re looking for a way to invest in customer satisfaction this seemingly unsexy expense will reap returns for years to come.

I’m not saying any of that. I’m simply asking you not to hide your phone number on your website. Many of you may not even think I’m talking to you. Most of us have a phone number somewhere online. However, many have either consciously or unconsciously minimized its role in the hopes of magically solving customers’ problems online only and avoiding customer contact all together. Or at least in as many situations as possible.

When you read that last passage, it’s amazing that we do this. Why would we want to avoid talking with our customers?

The Phone’s Place in the Digital Age

But what about social media? Isn’t that the “new telephone” for businesses and consumers alike? It is. And, as many have said, you have to answer that one as well. But that doesn’t mean that your customers don’t want to pick up the old phone, too. Sometimes, some issues are better discussed in real time, person to person.

But what about all of that content marketing? Those blog posts and videos we make to solve our customers’ problems? If we’re doing that correctly they shouldn’t need to call us, right? In some cases. But what if your blog post or video gets them so excited that they have to talk to you?

Of course, business is business. We’re all part of a big global economy, and it can get tricky. You may not be able to deliver this kind of service at all hours, every day. But please don’t misinterpret my point. You don’t have to handle your staffing any differently. Just bring your phone number up from the background of your online communications.

You aren’t fooling anyone and you may even be making a growing segment frustrated with the message you’re inadvertently sending.

Show them they matter. Make it easy for them to call you and just a few of them will. And that’s not a bad thing.

Nick Westergaard is founder of Brand Driven Digital, nick@westergaard.com. Twitter handle: @NickWestergaard


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