How Should You Contact A Business?
One of my favorite tasks to complete for my clients is researching answers to their questions. I will research almost any topic, which often involves contacting businesses to find an answer if it can't be found online. For example, I had a client who wanted to book a suite at the Florida-Georgia game. This answer was not online, so I had to contact the home team manager directly to receive the cost and details about what was all included.
Sometimes, the answer about whether to call, text, or email is not clear, so I created this blog post to go over how I decide which method of contact to use.
When deciding to call or e-mail, I ask three questions:
1. Is it after business hours?
Check the company's business hours. Now, I've found the Google business hours are not always correct, so it's important to check their website if they have one to confirm the hours. Most businesses either put their business hours at the bottom of the page or in the "Contact Us" section.
If it's after business hours, do not call.
It's best to send an e-mail in this situation. Think about it like this: Your e-mail will be at the top of the business's inbox the following day. If you leave a voicemail in the evening, it could easily be missed in the chaos of opening a business and phone calls coming in. Also, what's great about sending an e-mail, even if you don't receive a response the next business morning and end up having to call anyway, the person who checked the e-mail already has some background on the situation when you call the next day.
2. What is the business's preferred method of contact?
Many businesses state the easiest way to get in touch with them on their website. It might be e-mail, it might be phone, or it might be something else, such as chat or text. Personally, I find chat or text not ideal for getting concise responses, but I also follow instructions.
If a business says text message is how they like to communicate, I will follow their instructions. When a business tells you how to contact them, it takes away the guesswork, and it's best to contact them the way they want to be contacted. I've also had several clients want to receive quotes for services such as plumbing or lawn service. Many of these service-based businesses will prefer you fill out their form on their website.
It's easier than playing phone tag with a business if you pay attention to their preferred contact method.
3. When did I last contact them and what was the method of contact?
I find it's best to alternate communication methods. If you sent an e-mail last night, then make a phone call in the morning and leave a voicemail in the morning. If I haven't heard back by afternoon, I'll call again but I won't leave a voicemail. Most businesses have a 24-48 hour voicemail/e-mail response return policy (check for this on their website also).
If they don't respond back then, and assuming the request isn't urgent (most research tasks aren't), I'll let it sit for a couple of days before sending a follow-up e-mail or voicemail. I'll update the client during this time frame, of course, as well. I recognize businesses have other priorities, and research tasks are often time-consuming and very low on the priority list. I worked in a cemetery office for five years, so I know how time-consuming research can be!
Ultimately, it's common courtesy not to flood a business's inbox or voicemail box, because you don't want to be mistaken as spam (or annoying). Use your best judgment when reaching out to businesses via phone or e-mail, and treat the businesses you're contacting the way you would want to be treated.