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Online forms are part of your image

Yesterday, I wrote about an online form (on a major company’s website I will add) that only appeared to offer me any choices when filling it in.

It would be nice to say that was the only issue with their form but the whole thing looked unprofessional and inappropriate to me – not something they can be proud of and use to enhance their relationship with me. And let’s face it – if I am making a complaint, they really need to be impressing me to rebuild our relationship if they want me to continue as a customer.

Briefly, other issues with their form were:

  • it was in 2 sections and part 2 was only compulsory if I am their customer – but every question in part 2 was marked as compulsory so I have to wonder if the form will work for non-customers
  • of course, I also wonder why they can’t use a sophisticated form that only shows section 2 once you have ticked that you are in fact a customer…
  • they ask for a contact number and half under the field itself they mention ‘during business hours’ – it looks stupid over there by itself and would make more sense sitting with the request for a contact number
  • none of their usual web page headers and footers show, fonts and layout are basic, and a couple of images don’t work – it looks amateurish
  • some of the questions are clumsy. For example “My email relates to Feedback/Complaint/Compliment and specifically to {drop down menu}”
    • I’m filling in a form, not sending an email so perhaps ‘my comment’
    • how about some basic grammar? ‘My email relates to a complaint’
    • relates to means it is about so ‘my email is about feedback’ is what they are asking. Let’s be clear and write ‘my email is feedback’ or ‘my email is a complaint’
    • relates to is appropriate for the drop down menu just separate the two and leave this phrase where it belongs
    • this would also remove the silly looking numbers they have within this broken question
  • in the customer section it asks for my mobile number or my mobile account number. This form can be used for comments about various services (such as internet provision and pay TV) so why assume I have a mobile number let alone a mobile account with them?

How would you feel about this company if you had come across this form, especially if you had difficulty in completing it?

I gave up on it in disgust and it has tarnished my opinion of that company. Given I didn’t lodge my complaint and they don’t know I’ve seen their horrible form, it is unlikely they will make any effort to help me or improve my view of them. So they have damaged our relationship. How many others have also seen that form and been disappointed? How many of them have since moved to another provider?

An online form, especially a complaints or feedback form, may not seem significant but it is part of your business and part of your customer service. It forms part of your package and weakness damages your brand – and your customers are not likely to tell you this is the problem.

Put the same care into a complaints form and an online form as you would into a marketing email or your homepage as it is just as important for your long term success. If you are working to a budget (as would not be the case for my example above), online forms may be difficult to make beautiful but here are my tips to avoid a big error:

  • ensure the questions themselves are well written
  • ensure all questions are relevant and appropriate
  • add the form to your usual webpage template so at least your general branding is continued
  • pay a web graphics person to adjust the form for colours and fonts if you are using a basic form (this is usually cheaper than getting a custom made form but ask for a quote on both)
  • keep it simple – a general contact form will probably be enough with the appropriate introductory text. A form that asks if it is a complaint or compliment, for example, is of more use if those emails go to different departments

Your brand is such an important marketing tool, why would you want to dilute it with a poor online form?

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