Why your “Email us” link should give customers an actual email address

11Feb10

While going through some travel documents, I came across a few unused flight credits from Northwest Airlines. I actually tried to use them once, but there was some technical issue with the Northwest website. Rather than throwing them away, I decided to contact the airline and find out if they were still valid. As you probably know, Northwest merged with Delta, so I opened up the Delta website to research the issue. The Delta site wouldn’t understand the old Northwest voucher numbers, so I had to contact customer service.

My goal was to simply email the flight voucher numbers to Delta and have them email me back with the balance and expiration date of each one. I quickly located the link for “Email us”. But when I clicked that link, it took me to a gigantic form with about a dozen required fields. Undeterred, I finally found the customer service email address, but it took much longer than it should have.

Here’s the issue: when you call a link “Email us”, people expect that it’s going to take them to a page where the customer service email address is listed. Then, they can use that email address to get in touch with you, leveraging the same email program and interface that they use all the time. Email is easy, familiar, and predictable. However, if you make the “Email us” link point to something entirely different — like a big, ugly form — it conflicts with the customer’s expectations and makes them frustrated.

In short, buttons and links should fulfill the implicit promise that their text and appearance create. If a link says “Email us”, it should lead to an email address. If that same button takes customers to a form or a phone number — without any way to get to the email address — then the promise is never fulfilled and customer satisfaction will suffer.



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