According to recent news reports, Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, will occasionally reply to emails from any old man in the street (or rather, at a keyboard). You have to admire that degree of accessibility from the top level of a company. It reminds me of when I’ve experienced quite the opposite.

Now, Apple may not be immediately comparable with a small holiday rental place in Weston Super Mare, but the truth of the matter is, when you make online contact, you do expect a reply. That holds true for a global corporation as much as it does for a small business.

Having identified a slick, attractive website promising everything we desired for our week by the beach, I submitted my inquiry. And then I waited, and I waited, and I waited. Eventually, I picked up the phone, spoke to someone immediately, and made my booking.

They were lucky I did – if I hadn’t liked the look of their place quite so much, I might have tried a few competitor websites and the first one to reply would have got my trade.

Fast forward to the day we turn up at the lodging, to be met by the friendly owner, who wants to know how we found out about her place. I tell her how impressed I was with the website, but that I was disappointed not to receive a reply to my online inquiry.

Oh yes, she beamed, my friend set up that website for me, including the inquiry form. I don’t know the first thing about the internet! Inquiries go to my email but I don’t know how to access them.

Let’s hope that she has plenty of word-of-mouth and brochure trade, because that website, no matter how impressive, is not doing its work, due to one fundamental (if quite incredible) oversight.

The moral of my story is, first, imitate Steve Jobs and make it easy for your customers to contact you… and second, make sure you prioritize replying to those customers.

Steve Jobs might be lauded for his willingness to engage like this – for you, it should be the first principle of running a website.