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A phone number.

Customer service is expensive, and as Amy O’Leary recently pointed out in the NYTimes, most Internet companies just don’t want to hear from you.  She starts the piece with an amusing anecdote:  Quora, the site that will give you an answer to (ostensibly) anything, can’t answer the question “what is the phone number for Quora.”

Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn have foregone personal assistance and replaced it with wormholes of numbers and forum pages that only lead back to square one:  frustration.  Their communities are large enough that they can afford to turn off personal service.

We can’t, nor do we want to.  That number in our header, believe it or not, gets used more by contest entrants than by clients, even though it appears nowhere on our contest sites.  That attests to the fact that people entering contests are often desperate for help, often just hours before the deadline.  We understand…people procrastinate.  We’re humans.  And what could be worse in a brand promotion than a line of people, frustrated and mad, throwing up their hands because they can’t get their movie project exported and they just don’t know what to do.  That’s not why our clients got into this.

We offer every client the option of a unique customer service number, and recommed it strongly in cases where the demo is likely to be a little older and slightly less technically sophisticated.  Education is a great example.  Teachers are busy people, typically saddled with aging computers, cameras, and software.  They have limited internal assistance, might be facing firewalls they don’t know about, and a myriad of other hurdles that have nothing to do with actually entering a contest (turns out that’s the easy part!).

Branding doesn’t begin at the front door to the contest site…it begins the moment a person hears about your promotion.  From then on, it’s your responsibility – and ours – to make every interaction positive…brand accretive.

And that reflects Shycast’s approach to customer service.  Most of our clients aren’t set up to handle the influx of requests, via phone, fax, email, and carrier pigion, that come in after hours, on the weekend, and in droves at critical times during their contest; so we provide that service, because it’s critical to the overall, long term success of the program.  And in many cases, it starts and ends with a phone call.