In offering fixed price commodity based services aimed at the professional web designer, how far can one go with limiting service overheads?
I do not list phone numbers or even postal addresses on business cards, and I have fixed emails which can cover most situations and requests for advice, and try not to involve ourselves in long discussions or consultations over email.
The question is what to do when a customer or potential customer requests either a phone number, or a face to face discussion? Within this low-overhead approach I do not wish to spend time answering phones or going to speak to people - how do you advise dealing with such a situation? Is the web-development market ready for such an approach?
To an extent, it depends on the service. If it involves user customisation, then a certain amount of human contact is unavoidable. If it's "one size fits all", then an online FAQ, automated emails and voicemail can cut down on a lot of fuss.
The best way if to present the user with a number of FAQs. If none of them fix their problem, present them with a friendly contact form where they can leave their query, name and number. If you can't figure out what they're on about, you call them.
Customers - we could be so efficient if it weren't for those buggers mucking it all up. :)
Some people just want to know that they are talking to a genuine person, and its not a scam. Your low-contact service may work fine for a lot of people, but if you want to stick with it you will need to accept that some people wont want to business with you.
You could also hire an answering service that could read the answers to all the common questions to the customer. It might sound stupid, but I have found in a lot of tech support cases that I have just read the manual to the customer and they were happy with that. Just outsource it to India like all the big companies are doing these days....