The picture above is a screen shot from my website. Well. . . what it used to looked like. I have since removed the contact form from my website. If I can talk it, then I must walk it.
I was surveying some nonprofit websites and I noticed that many of them incorporate a contact form on their contact page. Contact forms offer a handful of benefits to websites. They reduced spam, help control information, and provide consistency. However, these forms may do harm to non-profit organizations, especially membership organizations. Here are a few reasons why a contact form is a bad look for membership organizations.
Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You – is the underwritten message that a contact form sends to patrons. This is NOT the message we want to send to our members. This makes an organization’s leadership and staff seem distant, unapproachable, and unfriendly. It also makes an individual’s issue seem less important and less worthy of our upmost attention. An individual’s issue is the most important thing to them and they want it to be the most important thing for the organization. However, contact forms allow us to address issues. . .
On Our Time (Not Yours) – Members/potential members want and sometimes need their issues solved ASAP. Providing avenues to direct contact creates the chance that individuals can have their problems addressed immediately. Contact forms, on the other hand, send information to an email account that most times is monitored secondarily and allows for staff to take their time responding. This increases overall response times and virtually eliminates any chance for immediate responses. Phone numbers and direct emails to staff also creates opportunities for desired human interaction, while a contact form makes our customer service efforts. . .
Less Personable, Less Human – A contact form is the website equivalent to an answer machine, but the contact form dominates the contact page (especially if it is the only method of contact provided), making an answer machine the primary mode contact. An individual calls you to talk to you, not your answer machine. They will settle for the machine if they can’t get you (actually, they don’t even do this anymore – they just text you.) This dehumanizes the organization and in turn will make your patrons feel less human.
I strongly suggest that non-profits reconsider the use of contact forms on their website. The costs of using them simply outweigh the benefits, especially for member organizations. The negative effects to customer service are not mitigated by consistency. The disconnection from the members and potential members that you wish to serve is not offset by the reduction in spam. The control of information simply doesn’t make up for the dehumanization of the organization. Non-profits should instead provide contact information (phone and direct emails) to their staff and servicemen on their contact page. Pictures of the staff can also help!