Spoiler alert: You can’t.
Well, maybe you can, if you’re the sort of “VIP” customer that knows the secret handshake. Try giving them a call (Hint: If you don’t want to wait 1:43 to hear “Because Google doesn’t offer live customer support at this time …”, press 5 and then 3). Meanwhile, Google is hugely successful without an easy-to-find phone number or phone support.
Many web companies take this approach, but “burying” a phone number on a site doesn’t bury their users’ frustration and confusion. In fact, it’s just plain annoying. At Poll Everywhere, we have had our phone number listed on every page of the site since the first page went live in 2007.
In the early days of Poll Everywhere, calling the phone number actually rang all of the co-founders’ phones at the same time. First to pick up got the call. All of you early, early adopters of Poll Everywhere had the fine pleasure of talking directly with the folks who slung all the code around. When things go wrong, there’s no way to get to a solution faster. We answered questions and solved issues for people who never paid us a dime. Why in the world would we do that?
The first answer people think of is, “Well, you wanted people to love you and tell their friends.” That’s only about 20% of the reason.
We took calls as a way to help us learn what was confusing, as well as to transfer to our guts the “doom & gloom” that comes with feeling a customer’s actual pain. When a web company doesn’t fix a bug, it’s because they aren’t feeling the same pain as the user. Answering calls from real users sharpened us as product managers. Answering repeated calls about a given issue annoyed us into fixing the damn thing! At our core, we wanted our product to stand out as a high-quality, reliable system. The fastest way to hear about problems is to open your company to whatever communication method the user wants to use. We even got a hand written note in the mail once.
Google, Facebook, and most sites who don’t have a phone number for support still learn about their users’ frustrations in other ways:
- Automated click tracking can hint at problems, but they are devoid of clear intention and the emotions of disappointment.
- Email, “Contact Us” forms, and blog comment forms help, but some people just won’t take the time. In fact, busy people with senior titles are much less likely to write an email. Email doesn’t convey frustration as well as an ailing voice, and it takes a lot more effort to write. Even worse, many issues need a back-and-forth rapid-fire exchange to clarify. Over email, that can take days.
- Discussion forums can help users help each other (as the company thinks, “Customer service cost savings! Trick them into doing our job!”). However, a majority of users aren’t interested in community channels, and the faster you’re improving things, the faster those discussions go out of date and become inaccurate.
- Twitter and Facebook let people air gripes with ease. Wasn’t it great when you discovered that bitching in public on Twitter got attention? Anyone who’s done this realizes 12 DMs later that 140 character envelopes are sucky parcels for tech support.
Today, we do all of these things in addition to answering customer calls. Call us and you will reach someone quickly during business hours (8AM – 8PM EST). A real human will answer. A real human who is a college-educated, fluent-English speaker and who is actually capable of fixing things. It’s a big part of our culture around here.
Call Poll Everywhere = Hooray, Real Person!
People use us in high pressure situations. If you have 30 minutes until your show with 1000 in the audience, filing a “support ticket” just doesn’t fly. You just need help and answers NOW.
Some of our competitors don’t get this. Even worse are the ones that aren’t web-based. Fixing a problem for them means everybody needs to install an update. Did you know that in hell, everyone installs software updates?
An ideal, usable product does not require people to call much at all. Reduce calls by taking calls! That’s what we’re shooting for. Until then, you’ve got our number.