Tom Austin

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Tom Austin
VP & Gartner Fellow
17 years at Gartner
41 years IT industry

Tom Austin, vice president, has been a Gartner fellow for a decade. He is chief of research for social software, collaboration, communications, information management, business intelligence and high-performance workplace (HPW) research. Read Full Bio

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Is this approach suitably people-centered or is it customer-insensitive?

by Tom Austin  |  February 29, 2012  |  4 Comments

Many of you will recall my earlier blog post “Do not reply to this email!” Here’s a new, related example:

This morning, I awoke to learn that a favorite company of mine has decided to stop taking requests from its customers via email. The only mediums that will be accepted are filling out a form on their web site or a phone call. No emails.

There are potentially lots of reasons for making this kind of change.

  • Filling out a form provides more structure for the request.
  • It makes it easier to handle (i.e., labor cost for handling the requests can be reduced).
  • Requests can be tracked (improving customer service) although it should be noted that there are email applications that will track disposition of incoming requests.

And, by leaving open the option to call for customer service, well, the firm is still trying to project a very positive, supportive, responsive image, right?

So, they shut off email service for their customers. No email service requests for anyone!

Is this a good move, or a bad one? Or, more precisely, when would this move be a good idea and when would it be a bad one?

What do you think?

4 Comments »

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4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Jeffrey Mann   February 29, 2012 at 1:32 pm

    How likely is it that the online form generates an email on the back end? Quite probable, I would think.

  • 2 Richard Fouts   February 29, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    Anytime you do anything like this, you need to start with the customer. Find out how they want to interact with you, or … at least pull them into your thinking, ge their input.

    Marketing is never about you and it never will be.

    Hence, you can’t spring something on customers because it’s better for you. It has to be about them. You have to show customers that the change ultimately has THEM in mind and that it will produce higher quality service for THEM.

    As in everything marketing (and business) it’s not what you say it’s how you say it. I’m not disagreeing with this approach but I fear this company is making it about them, not the customer .. and that often backfires. Some would call it spin .. but whatever you call it … it can’t be all about you.

  • 3 Craig Roth   February 29, 2012 at 4:48 pm

    It’s all how it’s implemented.

    I’ve had online customer service forms that forced me to open my PC and pull out a card to type in some long serial number in 4 point font for the form. And then they never responded. That’s bad!

    I’ve had others that simply wanted the product name and inquiry type chosen from simple pick lists and they responded quickly, as well has having a way to respond to their responses. That was fine.

    The devil is in the details.

  • 4 Liga Kreicberga   March 2, 2012 at 7:56 am

    I agree with previous comments. It really depends on type of customers you’re dealing with, as well as quality of a web form.
    As a customer I don’t mind filling out forms, if only they are understandable and easy to use. For me the web form has to follow two simple rules:
    1. Don’t ask me info which is not relevant;
    2. Give me the opportunity to enter all info that I have for you.
    If you can’t achieve the 1st rule, I get suspicious of what you really want to find out about me.
    If you can’t achieve the 2nd rule, your web form has missed the purpose completely.