They don’t work for you: Why your customers aren’t filling out your contact form

Recently, a client came to me with a problem on his website: they were not getting much customer feedback or leads.  This client had been very careful in the construction and marketing of their website: they had selected a good design, had made sure there was on-page SEO and had also ensured there was enough CTA’s to point people to their contact form.  They were mystified as to what was keeping people from reaching out.

I took a look at their site and was able to decipher what the problem was almost immediately: their contact form had 28 fields. The form scrolled on forever, and asked too much personal information not relevant to their inquiry.  A quick check on the Google tags for their form confirmed this: their users were abandoning the form after filling out a few fields.

My recommendation to them was this: cut out the information and fields you do not need in order to help; keep it to what you feel is the bare minimum.  Once you have done that, make that version half as long.  Once you have completed that, you will begin getting more feedback.

They were skeptical to this request.  The fields they included came from their support group: they needed this information in order to better answer the requests that came through.  Without this information, it might take twice as long to accommodate their customers’ request.

I countered: The support group don’t need all this information, they want it.  It will make their jobs easier, and perhaps make the resolution quicker.  However, the burden of having to do all the work for resolution of the problem by filling out the form  is being put on your users; they don’t work for you and this is why they are not filling them out.

We agreed to a test: We would reduce the number of fields on their form from 28 to 5: First Name, Last Name, Type of Problem (Drop-down), Email and Comments.  In 2 weeks we would revisit the feedback and analytics and see if that helped their problem.

The results were spectacular: Their feedback through the forms had gone up over 130%, and their abandonment rate had dropped to 20%.  The time for resolution had gone up slightly as the support team had to do more leg work in contact with the customers, but that time was inconsequential to the stream of feedback and leads they were getting from their users.

It’s always amazing to me that we, as digital marketers, tout the sophisticated study of usability and the urgency for companies to apply it to their websites, yet many sites feature forms that are too long and ask for too much information, the antithesis of usability.

The data and studies are very clear: People do not like filling out forms or giving too much personal information no matter what the reason.

Marvin Russell writing on the website, echos this sentiment: “Have you ever left a store without purchasing anything because the checkout lines were too long? That’s because you are human and humans are impatient, especially on the internet. We use the internet to make our lives easier, not more complicated and definitely not more difficult. A long contact form can be very overwhelming to look at and scare your potential customer right off your website.”

Courtesy of Hubspot

So this begs the question: We know that long forms suck and customers hate them; why do we keep making them?

Much like the client I assisted, the idea that the “more information I get up front the better I can serve you” is old-school thinking, yet a common argument for putting many fields on a form to gather as much information as you can.  It’s only as our users rebel in the form of non-communication do we begin to understand how dysfunctional a practice this is.

And it’s not just the amount of information you are asking for, but also the type of information you might be asking for: according to Hubspot, users are less likely to fill out a form that has “phone” or “phone number” as a required field. While email filters may help against you getting spammed if you enter on a form, many users are wary of getting endless telemarketing calls on their phone, as well as the specter of identity theft, if they give out their phone number.

So what is the best rule of thumb when creating contact forms that users will want to fill out?  The team at QuickSprout have come up with an infographic that lays out some very simple, and useful tips:

  • Keep it simple and easy: 3-5 fields maximum
  • Don’t ask for stuff you don’t need (phone number!)
  • Don’t ask them to “Submit”. This is how Google defines “Submit”:Try something more action-oriented and positive such as “Go!” or “Send!”
  • A/B Test: Try moving the fields around and see what flow works best: let your users tell you how they want to communicate not the other way around.  Another clever test: try putting your (short) contact forms on pages other than the contact page.

All these things can be done very simply, in about a day.  You may have to do more of the work for your customers, but be honest: did you make the web site for your company or your customers?