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How to Create an Efficient Contact Page That Boosts Your Productivity

Posted By Paul Cunningham 3rd of November 2017 Be Productive 0 Comments

Boost productivityAs you know, most blogs have a contact page. It’s one of the first pages we create when we’re building a new blog. We want people to be able to shower us in praise, offer us lucrative advertising and book deals, and beg us to create wonderful products for them, right?

Okay, so that might be stretching things a little. But we do want people to be able to get in touch with us. Blogging is about connecting with people after all.

It’s easy to add a simple form to a contact page using a WordPress plugin such as Contact Form 7, Ninja Forms or Gravity Forms (my personal favourite). But what you might not realise is that a contact page can become a burden.

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A simple contact form

In the early days of a new blog, a contact page might generate a handful of emails each week that you can read and respond to in no time at all.

But as our blogs grow, those emails can become difficult to handle. When my blog took off several years ago, I found myself spending so much time dealing with contact form emails that it began to have an impact on my blogging.

The biggest problems I noticed at the time were:

  • Readers sending me urgent questions I felt pressured to respond to immediately.
  • Readers sending me the same questions over and over, which forced me to choose between writing the same response over and over or not responding at all.
  • Not being able to distinguish between important and unimportant emails. I had to click through every contact email to see what they were about, then go back and process them in order of most to least important. Each email got handled twice.
  • Customers asking me to do things they could do themselves through my ecommerce system. For example, asking for another copy of the eBook files they’d lost, not realizing they could log in to the store at any time and download them.

Today I can handle my contact page requests in a single ten-minute block each morning. For the rest of the day only the highest priority emails come to my attention.

But you don’t need an overflowing inbox to take the steps I’m about to recommend. You can turn your contact form into an efficient productivity right from the start.

Setting Expectations

No matter how big your blog is, the first step is to remove the expectation that you’ll respond immediately. I live in a time zone (the east coast of Australia) where most of my contact form submissions happen while I’m asleep and are waiting for me in the morning.

On my contact form I have a simple message:

“Thanks for contacting me! I’m located on the east coast of Australia, GMT+10, and check my contact form submissions once per day, so please be patient and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.”

That message immediately lets people know I won’t respond straight away. If their problem is super urgent, they’ll ask somewhere else to get a faster answer. And that’s fine. But they won’t just stare at their inbox, getting angry because I’m ignoring them.

Darren takes it a step further on the ProBlogger contact page. He makes it clear that not all emails will get a response. He also makes it clear which emails he won’t respond to.

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The ProBlogger contact page

By setting these expectations, Darren and his team can reduce the amount of email they receive, and give themselves more time to focus on the emails they do  handle.

Triaging Contact Emails

One of the first steps I took in dealing with my contact page emails was to set up an inbox rule that moved them all to a specific folder. That stopped them cluttering up my inbox, and meant I could process them in batches once or twice a day.

Unfortunately, having dozens of emails with a subject line of ‘New contact form submission’ wasn’t any more efficient.

Different emails have different priorities. An advertising request won’t have the same priority as a question from a reader. The challenge is to sort them by priority so you can deal with the important ones first – especially on those busy days when you can’t get to them all.

My solution was to add a drop-down list to my contact form that let the visitor choose a reason for contacting me. Here’s the list of ‘reasons for contact’ I’m using at Left Brain Blogging.

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Let visitors tell you why they’re contacting you

All of the WordPress plugins I mentioned earlier will let you create a drop-down list.

Another option is to use a “Subject” field for the visitor to tell you why they’re contacting you. But you may end up with too many generic subject lines (“I need help!”), which doesn’t help with your triage.

This simple change had an immediate impact on my efficiency. On busy days I could action the customer service requests first, and leave general questions for later in the day or even the following day. And while it could mean leaving an email unanswered, my next tip will help you avoid that problem.

Answer Questions Before They’re Asked

At some point you’ll run out of time to process every contact email you receive. The obvious solution is to reduce the email load. The fewer emails you receive, the fewer emails you’ll potentially ignore.

Any question you can answer before a person even submits the contact form is a win-win situation. They get a fast answer, and you save time not having to write an individual answer. But to do that, you need to apply several steps together.

The first step is to identify patterns in the requests you’re getting. By processing your emails in batches you’ll quickly recognize questions that get asked again and again..

The second step is to answer those questions right there on your contact page. By adding a frequently asked questions (FAQ) section, you’ll be able to provide answers to them all. At Smart Passive Income, Pat Flynn has built up an extensive FAQ on his contact page because he receives so many similar requests.

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Pat Flynn’s contact page FAQ

If a question needs a more detailed answer, take a few minutes to write a blog post and then link to it from your FAQ. The extra content on your blog could even help with search engine traffic.

If you’ve set up a “reason for contact” drop-down list in your form, you can use conditional logic to display different FAQs based on whatever reason the person selected. Ninja Forms and Gravity Forms both have this capability as a paid feature.

The final step is to add a note to your contact page encouraging visitors to search your site’s search function. They might not realize you already have blog posts that answer their questions. (You may also need to make your search box easier to find.)

Outsource

No matter how efficient you get at handling contact emails, there will come a day when you won’t want to deal with them yourself any more. You may decide your time is too valuable to be answering basic requests. Or you might just be sick of dealing with all those emails.

There’s no shame in this. Most blog-based businesses hit a natural ceiling at some point, unable to scale beyond what a single blogger can achieve each day.

At this point you’ll probably start look at outsourcing it to a staff member or virtual assistant. But unless you’re already doing what I’ve suggested in this post, your outsourcing could end up being messy and inefficient.

To give it the best chance of success, get your systems in place before you outsource. For example:

  • Set expectations about response times so you can hire someone to perform the job at a specific time of day. Having your VA process all contact emails at 7am means you’ll only have a few leftover exceptions to deal with you sit down at 8am.
  • Set up a “reason for contact” drop-down so you can route each request according to its subject line. If a customer has a support request for the product they purchased, route it to your customer service ticketing system for your team to handle. And have requests for information about your sponsored post rates routed directly to you so you can follow up on it personally.
  • Use FAQs to defer requests and reduce the amount of emails you receive. It will reduce the number of hours your VA or staff member spends handling those emails.

Where to Start

In this post I’ve given you tips and strategies for turning your contact page into a productive tool so you can run your blog and your business more efficiently.

But what’s the best way to implement them all? Here’s what I suggest.

  1. Add a note to your contact page that you’ll be processing your emails only once a day (to set expectations).
  2. Create an email rule that automatically moves all your contact emails to a folder, and then set time aside each day to batch process them. Start keeping notes on the requests that keep cropping up, along with those you’d rather not receive at all.
  3. Add a “reason for contact” list to your contact form so you can prioritize emails when you’re batch processing them.
  4. Start adding FAQs that answer the most common questions to reduce your email load.
  5. Review your “reason for contact” list and FAQs regularly to control the amount of email you’re receiving. Whenever it feels like you’re answering the same question again and again, add it to your FAQ.
  6. If you’ve made things as efficient as possible but you’re still handling too much email, look at outsourcing.

Hopefully these tips will help you save time and improve your productivity. But if you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll answer them as soon as I can.

Do you have a contact page on your blog? How are you handling the enquiries? Any tips you’d like to share?

About Paul Cunningham

Paul Cunningham is a blogger, author, and online trainer living in Brisbane, Australia. He’s launching Left Brain Blogging to share his experience of over 10 years building successful blogs. Paul also runs the popular technical blog Practical 365, which serves millions of IT professionals each year.

  • Jon Stewart

    Really enjoyed the tips in this article. Do you know of a specific way to route these emails to your inbox such that the “Reasons for Contact” category becomes the email header?

    • Paul Cunningham

      Yes. It depends on the plugin you use. Contact Form 7 let’s you craft the notification email and specify which field you want to use for the email subject, as well as any text, for example a subject of “Left Brain Blogging – [menu 520]”, where “menu-520” is the ID of the drop down list in the form (this will vary for each form but there’s help text in the CF7 UI to help you work out the exact field name). Gravity Forms has a similar functionality, so you can configure your email notifications to have a subject of “Left Brain Blogging – {Reason for contact:3}” for example. Hope that helps.

      • Thanks for such a nice post! i really liked the part where you showed the info-graphic of the pro-blogger contact page and specified all the contents there it self. You say that Outsourcing is a good option.My doubt is being a blogger i am afraid that if i hire a guy to respond to the mails that i am getting the quality of mails that are sending might be affected which i don’t want, so is there any other alternative of this.

        • Paul Cunningham

          It’s difficult to hire someone to respond to every email pretending to be you, and that’s not what I would recommend. Outsourcing works well for specific, repetitive tasks like customer service.

          • Then for mails, I should be the taking care of it right? if i want to keep that personal touch.

          • Paul Cunningham

            Correct. Keep the personal touch, but if you start to get repeat questions then that is an opportunity to write more answers in your FAQ so that people don’t need to send an email to you for a simple question.

          • Thanks for the info.

            -Shivangi, Marketing Head, RankWatch

  • The more convenience and simple you will keep contact form there is higher chance of conversion.

  • thanks for help
    regards: trickygeeker

  • Hello Everyone
    Great Blog.Thanks for sharing such a useful information.I really enjoy the tips in this article.

  • Good advice Paul. I get requests through all types of channels since I spend so much time on Twitter and Facebook and other sites. So I field a decent volume of requests through email and my Contact page and a higher volume through other streams.

    Good advice on answering questions before they are asked. I have a few pet posts on my blog ready for referring when people email or contact me through my form. A quick copy and paste and I answer the question thoroughly in about 10 seconds.

    Ryan

    • Paul Cunningham

      I had a lot of those 10 second repeat answers too. I even had some text snippets set up to shortcut the process. They are great candidates to go in an FAQ. Even if you only save 5 minutes of your own day, you also speed up the time it takes for the other person to get the answer they’re looking for, because they don’t need to wait all day (or night on my side of the world) for a response.

  • I loved these tips is an article that really brings value to us in the Problogger reader.
    The Contact form a form of power is in contact with the permanent visitor when he needs to ask a question, make contact to take a question, to say a simple hello.

  • Very useful article for me as I am getting all new contact form mails with the same subject. Now I will prioritize all those emails so I can handle very urgent and important emails at starting of day.

  • That’s a Perfect advise, Paul

  • Nice well written post…thank you problogger….

  • I see you analyze pretty well, you can apply and follow.

  • I never thought that contact page will play such huge role in increasing the interested conversations.
    Also i believe that in-order give the replies to the queries, its better to have ready made text for repeated queries, so that it will save our time,effort and act as quick response for the visitors.

  • Thanks for this great tips, it’s so helpful but how do I go about this contact form codes?

  • Thanks Paul – some great points here.

    What’s your view on the optimum number fo fields in a contact form? We are a SaaS and obviously want to gather as much information as possible on the person sending us a message but at the same time dont want to turn them off. Would it be better to have more fields but not all mandatory?

    I do like the idea of the dropdown list, which i think we will implement!

    • Paul Cunningham

      The fewer the better. Name and email, basically. But, if you only want leads that demonstrate genuine interest by being willing to provide more details, then you should ask for more. I’ve seen forms that request *a lot* of details as a deliberate technique for turning away “tire-kickers”.

  • Ajcorp Rohit

    Very Informative ..keep writing ..thank you

  • Watch Me Shouting

    I read post and see you analyze very well. i like it and do follow this.

  • Ernest Guy

    oohhh well, i will find some one who can do this stuff. Thanks for sharing

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