Are you keeping prospective customers out of your castle?

You have a number of ways to reach out to customers and communicate what you can do for them.

But how do those potential customers communicate with you? Do you make it easy or hard to get in touch with someone at your company?

Is the gangplank firmly closed?

You may be making it harder than you think for customers to reach you.

A lot of the FDM 300 work is still done over the phone, so I have plenty of experience contacting companies. I actually had better luck reaching people this year than in recent years.

But companies do erect barriers to communication by concocting complicated telephone menus that almost shout “please go away” to anyone trying to penetrate their castle.

Have you ever left a voice mail message in the “general voice mailbox”? I have, but I feel that opening the window and shouting the message outside would bring the same likelihood of a reply.

Speaking of shouting out the window, how likely are you to get a reply from a website that offers only “info@” emails as a means of communication?

I feel that this is another “please go away” message and I wonder if your customers feel the same way.

Recently, I saw one web site that invited an info@ email inquiry, but underneath gave a phone number, “in case no reply is received within five days.”

First contact

As Jim Lewis wrote in his Lean Journeys column last month, examine the process from the first contact of a potential client to the final official visit from a sales or service person.

Many clients have personally seen a company’s product in a friend’s house, and that prompts a call, Lewis wrote. But increasingly, clients are discovering companies through the internet and by browsing a website. Often if a website is not user friendly, or out of date, a potential client will surmise that is likely the condition of the entire company.

Also, Lewis wrote that when the first call comes in, they should be greeted by a friendly voice that seems genuinely interested in helping. Each potential phone greeter should be educated in the use of the potential client interview sheet a company should have, not just the receptionist.

I’m not a big Facebook fan. I don’t “like” it for a number of reasons I won’t go into here. (Well, I will go into it. I like to use the internet rather than have the internet use me.)

It seemed to me that there were fewer companies with active Facebook content that they actually created than a year earlier. Some like it, some don’t.

One good thing about Facebook: It’s a good way to keep running updates on what your company is doing, and show that your company is active and alive. Birthday parties, special sales, open houses and charity functions are all great Facebook fare.

Of course, you could put all of this on your own web site, but few companies do. I’ve complained about this in the past. Companies have a news or “what’s new” tab, but often there’s nothing in it. Or, more noticeably, the most recent story is three years old.

There’s really been nothing new at your company since 2009?

How much of an effort would a prospective customer make to reach you? How much of an effort would you make?

Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.