Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Apparent Anathema of Phone Numbers on the Web

I have spent the better part of today trying to find phone numbers on Web sites.

I fear they don't exist.

Don't get me wrong: I sympathize with those providing thorough information on the Internet. I do it myself, every day. The amount of time and energy it takes to post complete information should be rewarded by people using it.

However, there are plenty of people who do not have access to the Internet, or who have additional questions that are not covered (or not easily accessible) on the Web site.

Also, just because I think I've answered every question doesn't mean I have. Trust me, after answering thousands of phone calls about hundreds of subjects, I have a good idea of the kinds of questions people ask — and that I must answer with information I provide. However, there's always one — and for that reason alone, phone numbers are imperative both in publications and on Web sites.

I tried recently to find out the phone number for VitalChek. There literally was not a contact phone number on the Web site. I looked for 20 minutes on multiple pages. I also noted this Web site did not have a "contact us" link on any page. There were links on assorted pages for assorted services, but not a phone number on site (or in sight).

Granted, if I really wanted a phone number, I can call directory assistance (there are directories for both "local" calls and toll-free numbers). However, I found out about the service from a state Web site — which linked to VitalChek.

The same for utilities: if I want to set up cable service, or telephone service, finding a number on the Web is a challenge. Thankfully, though, these companies have "contact us" sections accessible from the home page. Now, every "contact us" page plugs the online service with great fervor — and that's fine with me. Just give me a phone number so I have choices.

By the way, the amount of information needed just to get a phone number for a "local" utility is phenomenal. What ever happened to the law against monopolies? Ask Ma Bell, who was divvied up — just to find new life a few decades later offering multiple services in numerous states: cable television, telephone (landline and cellular) and Internet service.

Next: human beings actually answering the phone — myth or reality?

No comments: