Most of us probably have a contact form and/or multiple contact forms on our websites. Personally I feel they are of great value and allow the visitor a convenient method of contacting you 24/7/365.
I've found that my clients contact forms receive a growing number of inquiries which is usually a natural result of the continued promotion of their websites. Many of these inquiries come in on weekends and after hours. I've always felt that after hours traffic is probably some of the more highly targeted traffic for many of my clients. These after hour visitors are those who are more than likely in a mangement and/or executive position and did not have the time during normal business hours to make contact. Also, much of their research may be done after hours while they are staying late at the corporate office or working from their home office.
Over the years I've developed hundreds of contact forms and custom confirmations. Working mostly with local clients, I've been able to refine those forms so that the client is able to acquire the information they need to qualify the lead and/or answer their questions efficiently and professionally.
Here is a typical layout of a contact form. Please, feel free to pick this apart. Keep in mind that we are targeting mostly local visitors (United States) with this type of contact form so there are no regionally specific fields for Towns, Provinces, Post Codes, etc. It would be nice to see how you guys/gals in other countries are laying out your forms and what the proper terminology is for labeling the fields.
Company Name: <input>
Contact First Name: <input>
Contact Last Name: <input>
Contact Title: <input>
Address 1: <input>
Address 2: <input>
How did you find us?: <select><optgroup>
For the Subject: we provide a dropdown with common topics that have been addressed from previous contact requests. We also have a general outline of the company structure so that the visitor can contact a certain department. This makes it easier to direct the incoming requests to the appropriate personnel. We'll use the
<optgroup> element to further refine the dropdown content.
We always break out first name/last name fields for obvious reasons. Another not so obvious reason to do this is for the custom confirmation page and also the email confirmation. We personalize the confirmation based on the users input on the contact form. We don't just give them a basic thank you page (I dislike those!). We take all of their entered data and give them a professional confirmation that thanks them, tells them what our next steps will be by showing their phone number and email as contact points and we give them confirmation of their entered data. We also include a Print this Page link along with a custom print style sheet so they have confirmation of their request.
Most if not all of our contact forms are set up to CC and BCC various recipients. This ensures that all requests are handled promptly. There is a little bit of training involved here to show the client how to effectively handle those requests so there are not multiple people working on the same one. On newer forms we have additional capabilities to CC the sender so they have a record of their contact.
P.S. The how did you find us dropdown has been one of the most enlightening additions to our forms over the years. Keep it simple for the visitor and they will take the second or two to select from a dropdown of choices. ;)
[edited by: pageoneresults at 5:42 pm (utc) on Jan. 23, 2005]
To further initiate discussion on this topic, I'd like to see members from different parts of the world give their equivalents to the above fields. For example, I know that Zip Code is referred to as Post Code in the UK and other countries. Stuff like that would be really helpful in refining contact forms for various regions.
One of the main ones above that I see not filled out correctly with those outside of the United States is the Contact Title. Many will put Mr., Mrs., etc. in this area. What is the equivalent to job title in your country?
I think part of the answer here depends on what happends with the contact form after you process it. If someone is going to call and follow up with them anyhow, a majority of the information can be taken at that point (TRAIN yourself or other staff to ALWAYS ask, "how did you find us"...it *is* always enlightening).
If a callback is part of the process, I tend to keep the form as simple as possible... Name E-mail Phone Comments
Make it real easy for them to make that intitial point of contact. Of course, if you are getting substantial volume of contacts, you may want to write directly to a database or something in which case you could get more information if you think that they will fill more out.
Point being...don't discourage someone by asking too much on the first date.