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My buddy was starting a new business and I told him I would help him out parttime for a couple of years. The secretary was adamant that we have a website. I agreed and she said she would take care of it. It was a very, very basic site that directed people to call our toll free number or email us for more explicit product info or custom quotes.
About a year and a half goes by and in passing I ask the secretary how many emails she gets from the website email address. She says, "I never check that email."
So I go and check it and sure enough there is a good 4 dozen very valid leads in the past 1 1/2 years.
Webmasters, its not enough that you design the sites; you also need to convince the companys to put in place a working system to check and respond to emails.
My wife is sure she would have bought some fabric from some of those websites she emailed, but after she didn't get an answer she went elsewhere.
Bottom line, websites are missing sales by not answering emails.
It is down to business management to ensure that the spec given to a developer is consistent with the business process that will be followed and also to ensure that staff follow that process.
In addition to what Matt said, we frequently get questions along the lines of "send me everything you have about Korea." We also get a lot of messages that over the years I have learned indicate a very high-maintenance customer (with the emphasis on the high maintenence and, in the end, the customer part often doesn't work out and even if it does, it is rarely worth the effort). So like Matt, I know we may be losing a few customers. But I prefer to focus on the better customers.
We also get messages that look like they were written by 4-year olds: no puctuation or capitalization and either attrocious spelling or SMS-style wording. These have a low priority for answering.
And we sometimes get extremely vague messages like "There's an error on your site" or "I can't log on." Over half the times that I have responded asking for more information to help them fix the problem, I never hear back. So these types also have a low priority for answering.
Lastly, I have replied to a number of messages sent through our contact form that came back because the person entered an incorrect e-mail address. Other replies never got delivered because of SPAM filters turned up way too many notches.
So if you want an answer when you contact a site, be professional, be specific, be clear, and be careful.