If an Organization Only Publishes an Email Address, They Probably Don’t Want to Help You

We’ve all had this experience: you send an email message to an organization, and you never hear back from them. It’s a story as old as the Web. Why don’t organizations respond? They typically cite excuses like resourcing, workflow and so forth.

It’s 2007, and every organization on the planet understands the limitations of email. Yet, many still publish an email address as the exclusive means of contacting them online. The most recent culprits I’ve found are BC’s property tax office and British Jet (a nightmarish organization for the customer service, incidentally).

A web form is a slight improvement, but most of these exist solely to make life easier for the organization–they reduce spam. On the back end, form queries usually just get sent by email, so the result is the same.

There is a better way. It’s simple, proven and cheap. Most of all, it makes life easier for organizations and customers, and it demonstrates a commitment to service.

I’m speaking here of the lowly support ticket system. You submit a query via a web form, and you get assigned a virtual ‘support ticket’, a number which enables you to track your conversation with the company. In my experience, even the automated response is a huge reassurance. I suddenly have confidence that my issue’s in the support queue, and that it will be answered. And it usually is.

The organization gets more efficient, and can do useful things like add answers to the public knowledge base, reducing the number of future inquiries on the same topic.

World of Warcraft Europe has one. I’m sure they receive thousands of queries a day, but I got my obscure question answer in 48 hours.

There’s a zillion such systems out there, and they’re super cheap or free. They’re certainly not a panacea, but they will make your support staff more efficient. In my anecdotal experience, I’ve received far more reliable support from companies with support ticket systems than your bog-standard email address.

More importantly, they show that you actually care what your customers think. An email address, on the other hand, sends a very clear message: “bugger off, we can’t be arsed.”

I was looking for an appropriate photo to accompany this post, and happened upon this awesome one. “Help me, Obiwan, you’re my only hope!”


  1. Classmates does not even provide an email address. I have searched their site to no avail. Their “Help” leads only to a FAQ.

    I have given up on them completely.

  2. Cheryl: I could be wrong, but I’ll bet Facebook is eating Classmates.com’s breakfast, lunch and dinner.

  3. Ain’t it the truth? It’s a deliberate and predatory practice indulged in by the worst companies, determined to make the customer experience as unsatisfactory as possible.

    Rio company, manufacturers of the shoddy, crappy, Forge paperweight-disguised-as-a-media-player defeated even me (I once squoze $65 out of Telus–no pushover me) with their customer screwing skills.

    I restarted our complaint no fewer than eight times. Usually I’d exchange one or two messages with the @$$#0!3s before I got another message from an entirely different “customer satisfaction representative” or whatever they were called. The gist of said message would be:

    “Oh hi! So glad you could drop in. Uh, who are you and what was your problem again? Did you get a number? Ooooh … Uh, I don’t recognize that number. Maybe I could just give you another number?

    Now tell me what the problem is so I can do everything in my power to avoid actually helping you.”

    In a similar vein, I have sent messages to companies saying:
    “My god–service rep/manager/serf Joe Bloggs was friggin’ terrific! He deserves a raise and a free six-pack. I will deliberately drive two hundred miles out of my way to shop at your store and pay higher prices to get that kind of service again!”

    And nothing: no “Automat #35 has registered your feedback,” even.

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