No info=no sale. Why Berlitz’s site lost me as a customer

The question came up yet again just a few days ago.  “I’m afraid of having too much information on our site – I want leads to call us instead.”

And to that, I always answer, “Well, what if they don’t want to call you? Or what if they need more information before they feel comfortable picking up the phone? Are you willing to lose a conversion because you were afraid of “giving the lead too much information?”

When it comes to the sales process, the Web is a weird and wonderful place.  Doing in-depth vendor research is as simple as a few Google searches – and researching a consumer product is easier than ever. Like it or not, people are conditioned to start their research online – and then move it offline if (and only if) it suits them. If your Website doesn’t immediately answer their questions, you can’t assume that people will call you for information. In fact, a non-informational site runs the risk of making the prospect so frustrated that they choose to walk away rather than contact you.

Last night, I came across a perfect example.

So, I figured it was time to learn another language.  I’ve been jonesing to learn Dutch for a couple years.  I travel to Amsterdam at least once a year – and I’m constantly embarrassed at my inability to speak the language (International travel hint: gesturing wildly does not make up for an inability to speak Dutch. It just makes you [OK…me]) look like a chicken.)  After doing some searches for Dutch language instruction in Portland, OR, I came across this well-known, corporate site:

All I wanted to know is how much it would cost and how many classes a week they’d recommend. That’s it;.  Since it was 11pm, there was no-one to call – and I didn’t want to talk to anyone at that moment anyway.  All I wanted to do was figure out cost and the time commitment.

Here’s where the site completely failed me:

  • There was no FAQ section – or much online content at all. The questions I had were probably pretty common.  Why wasn’t there a place where I could quickly get the information I needed?  OK, so they mention that I could download a brochure. But how can I when the…
  • …”download a brochure” line isn’t hyperlinked?  Suddenly, I’m hunting around for a download link.  Nope, not on the right hand side of the page.  Nope, not in the navigation bar.  It took me about three minutes to read “download a brochure” (it’s below the navigation bar and above the “Contact a Berlitz Consultant” button.”)  OK, I was tired and it was late. That could have contributed to the time spent. But still.
  • When I did download the brochure – guess what?  It didn’t answer my questions.  The brochure’s main focus was to get me to contact a Berlitz Consultant…which I didn’t quite want to do yet.  Even so, I clicked to the “contact us” and found this:

Uh, “corporate sales representative?”  I didn’t want to be “sold to.”  I wanted to figure out the cost and the time commitment. Didn’t they call these folks “Berlitz Consultants” earlier? That seems much more palatable than “corporate sales representative.”  Hmm, I have a business – but maybe since I’d want individual lessons, that site section would give me more information? Let’s see:

Uh, ok.  The page devotes 19 words to telling me more about their program for individuals.  That’s it.  No class schedules.  No fee structures.  Nothing.  And look – apparently, individual customers aren’t as desirable as businesses. The individual page is a contact form only – no friendly representative contact numbers.

I gave up after that. And don’t even get me started about their SEO copywriting…let’s just say that it could be vastly improved upon.

This was a clear example of a company wanting me to get information about their service their way – not the way I’d prefer – and because of that, they lost a conversion.  If they only provided a bit more information – possible class schedules, an idea of pricing, anything that would help me move along the conversion cycle, I would have happily converted.  I looked for it.  I wanted to read something.  But, no.

Instead, the site was like one big, unsuccessful tease.  And for Berlitz, there will be no happy ending.

In the meantime, if you know of anyone who provides Dutch lessons in Portland, OR – have them contact me. You can contact (and follow me) on Twitter at @heatherlloyd.

4 replies
  1. Jill Whalen
    Jill Whalen says:

    Yep, huge, big sigh!

    Isn’t it amazing how so many companies still just don’t “get” online yet?

    Most of us are looking for stuff online exactly because we don’t want to call anyone. We’re just looking for info. If your website can’t even provide the most basic info, why bother having one at all?

    Good stuff, Heather, and good on you for going to learn Dutch! (Especially since when you’re in Amsterdam, they always seem to assume you are from around there and can already speak it!)

    Reply
  2. Diane Aull
    Diane Aull says:

    This is so true! I get terribly frustrated when I visit a company website but can’t find the information I’m looking for about their products or services.

    So when I wrote the product descriptions for my employer’s website, I tried to include in the copy the kinds of information I thought our customers might want. As a result, our product descriptions range from around 800 to over 1,100 words each. And they convert like gangbusters!

    I don’t know that I’d advise writing that much for *every* product (in our case, our stuff is fairly expensive and complex, so the product requires a more complete explanation), but definitely many sites could do a much better job than they do now of including relevant facts and figures.

    Excellent article, Heather!

    Reply
  3. Heather
    Heather says:

    Jill!-

    I love your point about “If your website can’t even provide the most basic info, why bother having one at all?” That’s so true. In the case of Berlitz, I wrote the blog post over a month ago…and I still haven’t called them for more information. If I was able to get my questions answered online (and even better – sign up online,) I’m sure they would have me as a paying customer by now.

    As a side note, I’m heading back to Amsterdam soon. I wonder how you’d say, “Heather, will you please zip up your coat” in Dutch. ;)

    (Jill and I spoke in Amsterdam together back in January 2001…and she could never understand how I could walk around in the freezing cold with my coat unzipped.) ;)

    Reply
  4. Heather
    Heather says:

    Diane,

    Wow, a product description over 1,000 words that’s “converting like gangbusters?” That’s great! To your point, not every product would benefit from that much copy. At the same time, you’ve clearly shown that people appreciate “meaty,” informative product descriptions – and longer text really does convert.

    Fantastic feedback. Thank you! :)

    Reply

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