It’s 2020, you operate a business, and that business has a website. Your website conveniently has a page with contact information with the relevant details such as your physical address, phone number, and email address. What follows is how not to respond to a potential customer reaching out to you for information.

Here is a condensed version of a recent email exchange I had while trying to find a local source of filter media for my well water acid neutralizer:

  • me: Can you please provide pricing for calcite and Corosex media?
  • business: If you could please call our office at ### we will be happy to assist you.
  • me: I would prefer if you could send pricing via email instead of requiring a phone call.
  • business: Ok. I will need a little more information. What kind of system do you have? Could you send me pictures of it?
  • me: This is the acid neutralizer we currently have (link to product page).
  • business: Would you like us to come to your house and change the media? Are you looking for the media to change it yourself?
  • me: I am only wanting to buy the media and change it myself.
  • business: Ok. My service manager said the price is $375.00. You would pay us and pick it up from our office.
  • me: $375 for what exactly? How much of each media does that include? What is the price for them individually?
  • business: silence …

This entire exchange went off the rails in a couple of ways. First, when a customer emails you with a question, your first response should not be to ignore the question completely and ask that they call you. In this case, I have already looked at the options you presented and chosen email as my preferred way of communicating with you. If I wanted to discuss my problem over the phone, I would have called instead.

Next, we get into asking about details on my system, which is fine (and probably should have been included in their original reply). It makes sense they would want to confirm that what they sell is compatible with my filter.

From this point forward, everything goes downhill. Do I want them to change the media? Did anything in my email convey I wanted anything but just a price on two specific items? No, I just want to come buy the media.

Finally I get my price: $375. I have no idea what this $375 gets me. Is that for both products I asked for? Is it for half a pound of media or forty pounds? Nobody knows …

Everyone has different preferences when it comes to how they communicate with others, and those preferences may change depending on their daily schedule. If I already have several hours of calls and meetings scheduled for the day, I probably don’t want to add another phone call to my plate. I generally prefer the asynchronous nature of email for something that isn’t urgent anyway.

How could this have gone smoother? Start off by providing the price for the specific things I asked for. Ask a clarifying question if necessary, but don’t waste time trying to shift the communication medium if it isn’t necessary. If you want to offer the service to install the media, mention that after you’ve provided the information I asked for. Something along the lines of, “If you are interested, we are able to come and install the media for you. Please let us know if you’d like a price for this option.” That’s an easy way to offer that upsell for a customer who might want that convenience, but also gives someone who plans on doing the work themselves a graceful way to decline the offer.