Providing contact options for customers is a pretty basic requirement for online retailers, yet often users are forced to hunt around on websites for contact details.

While email can be a useful contact method, responses are rarely instant, so a contact number should be provided for customer support. yet so many retailers don’t seem to want customers to call them.

Why should e-commerce sites list a phone number?

  • Customers may have a query with an order, or require some advice about the product they are thinking of purchasing. In this case, email is too slow, and FAQs may not answer the question, so a phone number or live chat option is the best solution. For these customers, not having a contact telephone number can mean losing potential sales.
  • Telephone numbers, especially when prominently displayed can reassure customers that they can trust a website. Users need to know that they can get in touch with someone if they have a problem with the product or delivery.
  • If customers want to chase an order, or have a problem that needs resolving, then many will want to speak to someone as quickly as possible. Making them wait for a response by email will make it less likely they will shop with you again.

Here are some examples…

Wal-mart seems to want to direct users to its email contact option, as it has tried to hide the contact numbers. In fact, there are no contact telephone numbers for queries about Walmart.com, which seems odd for such a large retailer.

In you hunt hard enough, there are contact telephone numbers on the site, but these are labelled as relating to store queries. If customers are about to make a purchase and have a query about an order, then providing the answer quickly can make the difference.

Wal-mart contact options

River Island, as well as still having an inaccessible Flash website (despite talk of a new version), also has no contact telephone number for customers. Email or post are the only contact options provided.

Toys R Us does provide a reasonably extensive FAQs section, but actually finding a contact telephone number is impossible. You can email, fax or write to the company though.

Sports Direct also goes out of its way to avoid customer contact by phone. After navigating through the links you may eventually find the ‘how can I contact you?’ question, but this only leads to an email address:

It’s one thing having just an email address and no contact telephone number, but making customers work so hard to find these details is likely to annoy them.

Here’s how to do it…

While most sites provide contact details at the foot of the page, it may be a better idea to place contact numbers, such as a general sales or customer service number, in a more prominent position.

Even if this is not constantly visibile, then at least showing a contact number during the checkout process can help the small percentage of visitors who will have a question as they are making a purpose. 

Even if the customer ends up ordering over the
telephone instead, at least the retailer has saved a potential lost sales
opportunity through an abandoned purchase.

Next does this during its checkout process, though it could be made to stand out more:

As in the two examples below, providing a contact number at the top of the page throughout the entire website leaves no room for doubt in customer’s minds, and with smaller retailers, can serve as a trustmark for new customers.

Naked Wines has provided a contact number just below the logo:

Firebox provides a contact number at the top of each page ( I also like the Royal Fail” banner, which reassures customers about deliveries):