What's reason behind having a contact form on a website, when a simple e-mail link is enough? Why do so many web sites have contact forms? Is it just a habit?
Top reasons that I'm aware of:
To "force" customer to provide specific details which otherwise most likely be omitted by customer (like, order/invoice number, contact telephone number).
To perform some basic validations on such data ensuring that the existing customer provides correct information (checking if such order does exist, validating input).
Convenience to the customers -- they can type message straight away without the need to use their email program/web-based email. Very useful when customer is accessing the site from some random location (someone's PC, public place) and does not want others to see his emails (in case if he uses web-based emails) ... or simply does not have his PC with him.
If a company is a bit "dodgy" (eg. selling "grey import" software -- software that is meant to be sold in USA but they sell in in UK) they may simply do not want customers to contact them directly (their email could be just
firstname.lastname@example.org.. which does not give much confidence to a customer these days if buying from online shops).
@LazyOne gives all good reasons. There are 3 additional ones that make sense.
- If a drop down exists in the contact form that gives a reason for the user contacting the company then the company can route the contact information to the correct group or person.
- The data can be entered into the companies CRM solution automatically. For instance, a company I worked for required you to enter country and if in the US your zip code as well as your email address and phone number. When the person completed the form it would send the email to the inside sales reps to review AND add the user into SalesForce so that we can send them emails, and give them a sales rep in their region right away.
- Some companies don't send emails they have a ticket queue created by the contact form. That way an entire team can efficiently manage communicating with customers.
Some answers that nobody has suggested:
A contact form submitted over SSL is more secure than email. Customers have a terrible habit of sending you sensitive data (credit card numbers etc) even if you didn't request it.
A webpage can capture more information about a user than an email. If the submitter is logged into your site, you can link the message accurately to an existing account. If they are not logged in, you may be able to detect relevant information and offer to pre-fill it for the user.
Some people's browsers will auto-complete certain fields for them which might save them some typing.
If the user seems to be submitting a FAQ, you could suggest relevant answers for them (like the StackExchange sites do).
All the other answers are very good. A few more, without repeating other answers:
A contact form practically guarantees the recipient will not lose your message to standard email spam filtering techniques. Those incoming messages can be automatically trusted, whereas email to the same address from random senders will generally have to follow standard spam filtering rules.
It simply looks more professional. Just like having a Google Map (or Bing Map, or Whatever Map) next to your address, having a contact form gives the appearance that the company on the other end is making a real effort to receive your information. The contact form is harder to implement (properly!) than slapping a
<a href="mailto:"/>tag in the markup.
It is much easier for the webmaster to database the replies versus having software to collect the data from an email box.
SPAM. This is a very real problem. CAPTCHAs are a helpful in reducing "noise" in the customer support process.
I guess it is caused by security issues. They don't want to expose their email to spammers(by this form, they can check if IP doesn't send to much messages and block it eventually). But there is a solution to this: http://www.google.com/recaptcha/mailhide/
I will give you my opinion why:
- Sometimes companies require certain information e.g. contact number, so that they can give you a call, take an insurance company for example they have a contact form that you submit e.g. request a quote, you give them relevant information and they phone you and have already your info so that they do not need to ask you the details.
- To hide there email address, to protection against spammers.
I'm pretty sure it is to simply ''hide their e-mail address from the public.''
Administrators have too little time these days to devote resources blocking spam, but even when you know that no spam will come, the form is a deterrent to people who would just post questions like "where are you really located" and other simple stuff. Support staff to field these questions is not readily available, and they prefer to have you either call them on their already public phone lines, or to filter out questions by putting rails on what kind of topics you can select in a web form.
There are several reasons, most mentioned by @LazyOne (+1). But one of the most important is for the collection of data. An e-mail from a client cannot easily be parsed and the information collected in a database. On the other-hand, data from form fields is easily entered into a company's DB. So, with a form, a company can simply and easily collect information such as name, address, phone #, email address, order #, messages, etc. AND the info will be easy to retrieve, collate, and compile stats on.
All previous answers are cover many reasons.
For tracking purpose: user IP address, location, time submitted (email may also have timestamp but it could be wrong as we rely on 3rd party application), user device etc.
To differentiate customer roles: for web hosting company, after logged in shared web hosting users have different contact forms than reseller. And also the message may also sent to different departments.