Online Response Forms – A Modern-Day Necessary Evil
by Lynn Tall, Rug Advocate
Online-response forms. I hate them. In my mind, there’s no customer greater than the one who has already taken the time to pick up the phone to call you with questions that they may have. Those customers, however, are a dying breed. In today’s society, there seems to be a constant feeling of…unease…when you must speak to someone over the phone.
My own kids honestly believe that if it can’t be done online, then it can’t be done at all. They rarely pick up the phone to get something done. When they do, it’s only because my husband or I talked them into it. It makes them anxious. This makes online-response forms a modern-day necessary evil.
Use the online-response form as a way to put you in contact with potential new customers – nothing more. The focus is to schedule an in-person inspection and quote. There are simply too many variables in rug cleaning to volunteer a quote prior to inspecting the rugs. Even with photos and descriptions, you may be dealing with odors, rot, or some other kind of issue that isn’t easily visible in a photo.
Because the end-goal is to directly contact the prospective customer, you must try to get as much information as you can up front. Fields like phone number, email, and city/town should be mandatory ones. Include a place for photo attachments and some text asking for photos of any labels, damage, and areas of concern. At the very least, you will need a photo of the face and a close-up of the back of one of the corners for each rug they inquire about. Maybe even show examples of the kinds of photos you need. If you’re uncomfortable about requiring their personal information, add a disclaimer like “Your personal information is never shared. We require it so that we may contact you in case we have any additional questions.” This information provided will result in a direct phone call from you to the customer, which should then result in a scheduled inspection.
Forms that do not require a phone number force the responder to volley the ball back to the customer and hope that they reply to your reply, and so on. This is what that typically looks like:
“Thanks for reaching out to us! Please reply with your phone number or give us a call at (phone number) so that we may schedule your free inspection and quote.”
“I prefer email correspondence only.”
“Because no two rugs are the same, we really do need to put eyes on them before offering a quote. When would you like us to come? Or you can bring them in to the shop here for a quote.”
“I really don’t have time to sit on the phone. Can’t you just give me a quote with the information I sent you?”
“Ma’am/Sir, please understand that we’re not like every other cleaner out there, we specialize in caring for rugs from around the world. Our process requires an in-person inspection. Perhaps we’re more specialized than you’re looking for. I’m sorry we can’t help you at this time.”
It seems like you’ve lost the customer here, but the truth is that they will likely shop around and contact you again eventually. There’s power in saying “No.” This approach also helps weed out price shoppers, fraudulent customers, and scammers.