When our research team saw the email from Costco, we wondered whether we were inhabiting an alternate reality — and why it isn’t the norm.
Not only did Costco notify us of a personnel change that required a contact update, but it supplied us with the correct information for the new contact, including the person’s full name, email address and telephone number.
Hell must have frozen over — because our experience has been that corporations do not like to provide this information to the public, let alone us. They go out of their way to hide it. And sometimes when we publish it, we receive negative responses from executives, including a recent request through our help request form to take down a corporate contact.
Costco seems to understand that transparency in business communications helps facilitate problem-solving and accountability for company personnel, which in turn leads to good customer relations for businesses. When companies go to so much trouble to hide their contact information, we wonder what that says about their corporate missions and how much they value their customers — not to mention their willingness to be open and honest with the public about their activities.
And that raises questions about the quality of their goods and services.
This corporate secrecy exists not only at the executive level, but also farther down the ladder at the sales team and customer service level. Company agents often use only their first names in telephone calls, chats and emails, forcing customers to devote extensive time and effort to figure out whom to contact, to whom they have previously spoken and how to reach them.
Our company contacts section, regularly updated by our research team, exists to shortcut the process for consumers who need to reach a business and help them to self-advocate. We update it by searching company websites, search engines, social media and online public databases such as Data.com, Hoovers, LexisNexis and other public websites for this information and adding it to our contacts section. At no time do we use data from private sources to update the comments section.
As a research team member, I can assure you that it takes several hours and a great deal of perseverance to look at so many websites, determine which persons are currently the appropriate ones to contact and compile their specific information. That’s because many company sites don’t contain even the most basic contact information beyond a toll-free number or an email address for general contacts — which may not reach the persons who are empowered to assist customers.
It’s been suggested that if direct contact information for company personnel were made publicly available, they would have to handle such a high volume of communications that they wouldn’t be able to focus on their work.
That’s understandable — but not an acceptable reason to hide — for upper-level contacts.
But it makes no sense for sales and customer service agents, whose jobs require them to be accessible — unless their specific purpose is to act as gatekeepers and prevent customers from actually communicating with anyone at the company. And because negative publicity about companies spreads as quickly as a social media post can go viral, it’s counterproductive in terms of profitability for company employees to be inaccessible.
Hiding contact information is counterproductive in another way: It prevents consumers from personally thanking the persons at companies who provide them with excellent customer service and giving testimonials on their behalf, which can generate additional goodwill between companies and the public.
So everyone benefits when company contact information is made public — the companies, their employees and their customers. We thank Costco for realizing this and for making our jobs easier — and more importantly, for helping its customers.