The Not So Subtle Shift From Email

I’ve been providing IT support for customers for two decades. In that time, I’ve realized that the method in which people prefer to obtain support has changed dramatically.

Unfortunately, some companies make it difficult to reach a support representative. The theory is that by being less approachable customers will try to resolve the issues themselves. Requiring customers to make a phone call to cancel their account is part of this scheme. I have always firmly rejected this notion and instead opted for being as easy to contact as possible. Doing so carries a bit more cost, but in the long run, its worth it. I have been lucky enough to meet some amazing people from all corners of the globe, and helping them with their issues has been a pleasure I wouldn’t have received if I hadn’t made sure our support staff was easy to contact.

In the late 90’s, customers wanted phone support. Amazingly, even some firms provided support by fax! Regardless, phone was the easiest and provided the most immediate and consistent response. During the first decade of the new millennium, customers warmed up to email and eventually preferred it because more technical information could be conveyed. Reliability and speed of email slowly increased to where it became the preferred method of contact. As email’s popularity grew, so did spam. Stronger anti-spam solutions were developed, and some were so effective that they rejected most legitimate mail as well. The frequency that people checked their email began to decline, and now, outside of business, email is often considered an afterthought – used primarily to register for services online.

Soon, more consistent and less noisy methods of communication were developed, including text messaging (SMS), social media messaging like Facebook’s Messenger, and Slack. Nearly everyone had access to text messaging, and many use Facebook Messenger every day to communicate with friends and family. Slack provides excellent communication for businesses. Along with phone and email support, we offer Slack-based support with our retainer customers, but something else was needed to help fill the gap between our corporate clients and our busy professionals on the go who weren’t usually in front of a computer screen.

That’s where text messaging came in. By offering a support text messaging system directly integrated into our help desk, any text message sent to our 256-973-9996 number is automatically converted into a support ticket. It shows as coming from a text message so that support technicians know to keep replies brief. Since we launched this service at the beginning of 2017 we’ve had many clients take advantage of it, and we’ve received tremendously positive feedback from it.  What’s more, in developing this system, we have the expertise to now add text messaging support (both incoming and outgoing) to your website or mobile application. We have clients using our text messaging integrations to deliver powerful marketing messages and reminders, and have highly reliable incoming text support code available to add superior interactivity to your business.

If trends continue, we expect alternative methods like text messaging support, Facebook messenger, and Slack to continue to overtake use of email in our support operations. Of course, the good old fashioned phone is always an option. Interestingly enough, I’ve had several great conversations with our clients on this exact subject via phone! Give me a call or text and we’ll talk about your project.

 

No Need to Hide Your Email

It’s very likely that spammers already have it!

This topic comes up from time to time while developing websites.  Oftentimes clients will ask to obfuscate their email address on their contact page.  While this was previously a very good piece of advise, it is no longer necessary for a multitude of reasons.

If you’re a business, you want people to contact you.  Of course you don’t want spammers but as I said they very likely have your e-mail address anyway.  While web scraping for email addresses is still done, the value of an email address to a spammer is a lot less than it used to be.

Comment and form spam is far more prevalent, so if you hide your email behind a form without taking a set of very specific precautions, you’re more likely to be spammed through the form than via a harvested email address.  Contact forms can break or be compromised, so unless you’re storing your comments in a database, you could lose important contacts.

Javascript obfuscation of an e-mail address might seem effective but a smart web bot can see right through it.  And even if it was completely effective, you run the risk of people who use ad and script blocking software visitors not able to retrieve your address. Additionally, some mobile browsers may have issues with this, especially if Adobe Flash is used in the process.

Of course you may want to omit your email address entirely if you are trying to stay anonymous on your site, but for business purposes this would be counter productive. You’re far more likely to be spammed via other means, so there is little reason to hide your email address on your website if you want people to contact you.