Tuesday, December 22, 2015

How I've come to hate Website Contact Forms

I recently took over managing my family's restaurant website. Along with managing the technical aspects and content, I now receive all the messages received through the website contact form.
(Note: I don't have any website development experience and have relied heavily on Wix and its add-ons to build the site. My experience with this may become another post in the future).

As a personal preference, and if I cannot meet face-to-face, I like to communicate via messaging since it becomes documented and I can then reference it later. Email/texting also makes it easier to respond when you have time and not be disrupted when you're in the middle of something, so I understand looking for a contact form over calling. However, I'm definitely seeing the ramifications of this move towards text-based communication and the annoyances that come with it.

I used to use Contact forms on websites all the time to get in touch with small businesses (larger corporations have entire Support departments to deal with online requests), but I now understand how annoying they are and apologize to the poor staff on the other side. From now on, if a number is provided, I will call.

Anyway, here are a few examples of why I now hate Website Contact Forms!:

1. People trying to make reservations when the site clearly say to call. 

I included a note on our site that says calling is the fastest way to get an immediate response, but at least once a day we get messages like this:

I wish we had an electronic reservation system, but we don't so everything is still physically written down in a reservation book.

Not the worst, but a bit annoying when the website clearly states that you should call to make a reservation.

2. Everyone wants a donation.

If you have to resources to give, I'm all for donating to charities and other good causes, but we're still a relatively small local business that can't donate to every single request.
We definitely help out when we can, but the paperwork involved with a corporation donating is not inconsequential and we usually need documentation from the charitable organization for it to be tax-deductible. The annoying cases involve people making a request, then not following up when we ask for the required documents.

Also, I find it very interesting that people are much more likely to ask a local restaurant for donations and gift certificates than most other businesses.
Restaurants often have some of the smallest margins of any industry. Why don't you go to your local hardware store, grocery store, car wash, or bank for donations?

More after the break...

3. People complaining, particularly about prices.

Again, small margins compounded by increasing food, utility, and labor costs makes for a tough industry to make money. (Why are we doing this again?) Obviously, one way to mitigate this is to raise prices.
This woman was particularly unhappy with our prices and the fact that we were "forcing" her to dine elsewhere:

We'd love to give food away for free if we could, but if actually did, we wouldn't be doing it for very long.
A large majority of our customers are middle-class, so we try to keep prices as affordable as possible. This is not only for their costs, but if prices too high it would place us out of our core market's range.

4. Awful Subject Lines

We read every email that we get, but sometimes it'd be nice to have an indicator of what we're going to read and to easily find and reference their message later on.

Highlights include:
- "Inquiry"
- "Touchless: A Bathroom Accessory"
- "<Name of the restaurant>"
- "<Incorrect name of the restaurant>"

5. Nonsense

Both annoying and extremely entertaining.
I have no idea what some people are saying...

I think he wants to know if it's expired. Or maybe how much value is left? OR maybe he's just pleased with himself that he has one and wanted to tell someone.
I really want to help Dave out, but I just don't know what he wants.

Finally, these aren't really all that annoying, but I think people who type in capslock are amusing; particularly if you assume they're yelling and/or cannot control the volume of their voice.

Mostly just another part of the job, but it's fun to poke fun of some fun aspects of it.
Sometimes good, sometimes...

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