how we treat different ways of contacting us differently

It is an obvious thing to say: we place differing levels of protection on the various ways of allowing communication. Over recent weeks I have been watching how people protected their various ways of being contacted.

For example:

Borders has been looking to build out its ability to communicate with its customerbase via email. They ask you at the point of purchase for your email address and in exchange they will give you 20% off their next purchase. It has been hugely successful from what I could see just in the shop alone. People were more than willing to hand over their email address – it took 30 seconds tops and Borders had a way to start a conversation with their customers. (Unfortunately they screwed up the start of the conversation by sending me an email which said this voucher doesnt last very long and only applied to certain things – I deleted the email – but that is a post for another time).

Now imagine if they had asked for my address instead? I am not so sure I’d willingly give it out – I would certainly pause before doing so.

What about a telephone number? No way..

How about SMS? Today not a chance. I wonder if this might change in the future..

Overall though, getting a user’s email address strikes me as being the lowest barrier to starting a conversation with a customer.

Another example over at Kiruba. Here they have taken a screenshot of a business card and blurred out just the telephone number, leaving the address visible. Obviously protecting the phone number is much more important. (The business card is actually a wedding invite (!) but you can read more about that here).

Wedding Invite as a business card

The reason for why we protect some types of communication is down to how interruptive the medium is. The more interruptive the medium the less likely you want to give someone the ability to use it.