Communication always takes the path of least resistance…
Ever walked into a Government office? There are a lot of angry people over there. May be it is the lousy pay, maybe it is the lousy jobs, maybe the angry face just grows on you once you get employed there but whatever the case, these faces are scary. So in one of those unfortunate circumstances where you find yourself needing government services, you take the path of least resistance. That requires a knack in reading faces, sensing moods and a bit of luck. You usually approach that lady or man with a hint of a smile in his face because you figure if she is smiling, then she must be approachable. You pass the hard faces and wait in line for her because you understand that waiting for her is better than the insults, the nonchalance, and attitude issues of the rest of them.
Companies in Kenya are better the Government offices in terms of their etiquette towards clients and potential customers. When you call, you will be met by a friendly voice on the other end asking you how they can help you. And most of the time, the will aid you in one way or another. When you visit the offices, they may even be better. They will ask you how they can help, point you to the person you need to speak to, offer you a cup of tea as you wait, or kindly apologize if they cannot help you at that moment. Every time that I have been to a company but did not get to accomplish my objectives there, I always leave happy if the way I was received and talked to made me feel at home. And I usually come back either as a client, a customer, or refer someone there when the chance arises.
That said; most of our companies fail miserably on one front, their online activities.
A brochure is something every company has or has budgeted on having. It tells you briefly about the company, gives you a sneak preview of the services offered, and provides you with directions to their offices, a number to call, an email address, and a website address to visit. Then they print hundreds if not thousands of copies and hand them over to all and sundry. This is all good but it becomes a crime when companies make websites extensions of their brochures. To be able to hand over a brochure to someone means you already have some level of interaction with them. They can ask questions, inquire on the services, and seek further knowledge on something. Websites however are for those people who do not have that kind of in-person interaction with you. And for that reason, it is your prerogative to ensure that your website is as interactive as possible to give similar real-time responses to your online visitors. But what we have now is some faceless email address on the contacts page as the sole means of communication.
People are always searching for something online and that’s the reason they land on your page. And if you might be that company they are looking for but they are not quite sure, they want to contact you and inquire a bit before making their decisions. Calling your company is out of the question because of cost, geography, and a myriad of other issues. Sending you an email is yet another issue because you never reply in time if at all. And because of the real-time technological age that we are in, if you do have any other means for people to reach you and for you to get back to them just as quickly, then you lose because they move on to the site that offers them that. And they become clients there. But most websites in Kenya, even the most beautifully designed ones have been lacking on this one front – interactivity. They sit pretty thinking just because they cute, admirers will flock. But like every relationship, we all need a person we can talk to, communicate with, and that’s not your website.
You may have a thousand excuses for avoiding social media but the opportunity costs for not using it are soaring. Social Media has become the only front that gives people the real time access to companies that they need. From your website, an easy way for them to ask what they need before deciding on their next move would be the comment section of your blog. They could also each you through you Facebook group, your Twitter account, your friendfeed account, or any other social media channel available. And the reason we as customers prefer these methods is because we see who we are talking to. And if you do not get back to us, we know that your CRM sucks because it’s not that the comment did not go through.
Is your company website a brochure online?