When I called my health insurance company the other day, to my delight, I had no trouble getting through to a human being right away. But when I told the guy what I wanted, he said, “That information is on the website.”

“Can’t you just tell me what I want to know?” I asked.

“Well, I can. But there’s so much more information on the website.”

“I don’t want all that information. I just want to know what dental insurance you offer.”

“It’s all on the website,” he repeated.

“Can’t you please tell me?” I pleaded.

And, finally, he did .

This wasn’t the first time someone told me to “go to the website.” But not all websites are “user friendly.” And I really don’t have time to browse through sites like that on the off chance that I will find what I’m looking for. I’ve also run into problems when I needed some quick information.

For example, I called a property-management company with a specific question about one of their services. I left a message with “Vinnie,” and didn’t hear back. When I called a week later, Vinnie recognized me and said, “Oh, yes. I’m sending you some information.”

“I don’t want to receive information,” I replied. “I just want you to tell me about your ABC service.”

“It’s in the information,” he insisted.

“Can’t you just tell me?” I asked again.

Then, instead of telling me what I wanted to know, he started going into the history of the company and their business hours.

I interrupted him. “That’s not what I want to know. I want to know about the ABC service.”

“I’m getting to that,” he said, obviously annoyed.

Vinnie eventually told me what I wanted to know. But my experiences with him and the insurance company got me thinking about how some businesses seem to be using their websites primarily to avoid having conversations with their best prospects.

It doesn’t make sense.

Instead of being annoyed, Vinnie should have been thrilled that I called. Just as you should be thrilled when a potential customer for your product or service calls.

Why?

Because from a marketing point of view, it doesn’t get any better than this: the chance to have a dialogue with a prospect in his moment of need. The person who takes the time to call is more urgently in need of whatever it is that you’re selling than the person who’s simply meandering through your site.

On the phone, you have an opportunity to gather so much essential information in so little time. You have a chance to find out who your prospect is, how he found you, and – most important – what his particular questions and concerns are. Armed with that information, you can directly address his problem, and explain exactly how your product/service can solve it.

If he is nervous, you can allay his fears. If he is confused, you can set him straight. If he’s misunderstood something on your website, you can correct that.

Shortly after my call with Vinnie, I got a call from a man interested in my services. He liked what I had to say, and asked me to send him some information that he could share with his business partner.

I started to say, “It’s all on the website.”

But I stopped myself and said, “Absolutely. It will be in the mail today.”

“One customer, well taken care of, could be more valuable than $10,000 worth of advertising.”– Jim Rohn

[Ed. Note: Ilise Benun is the author of several books, including the forthcoming Stop Pushing Me Around: A Workplace Guide for the Timid, Shy, and Less Assertive. Watch for her new program, Effective Networking: The Fastest Way to Win Clients and Grow Your Business. And sign up for her e-mail tips from Marketing Mentor here: www.marketing-mentortips.com.]