Survey Says, Think Before You Send Just Another Email

It's the age of the customer survey, or so you would think given the sheer volume of them cropping up in my email lately. The need for feedback and customer validation in this customer-centric era of marketing seems to have resulted in a rash of surveys, every time I turn around. Surveys follow purchase, hotel stays, air travel, customer service calls -- you name it. If a customer had an experience, there is likely a survey to follow. But in the attempt to solicit feedback, are we turning the customer off -- or worse, creating an annoyance?

Look, I am not saying that we shouldn't ask the questions. The responses provide valuable insight and give the customer a direct avenue to voice concerns or share praise, and could possibly (emphasis on possibly) preempt negative social posts -- but does it have to be a standalone email, does it have to be one big long questionnaire?

Clearly I have an opinion (shocking, I know), but I would love to open the discussion in this venue. There are three ways I can suggest to minimize the need for "just another email survey" and start getting the answers you seek in a more effective manner. At the end, feel free to share your opinion in a brief survey... kidding, but I do welcome feedback.



Three Tips for Making Customer Surveys Better for Everyone

1. Include the link and value proposition for the survey in a previously scheduled email. It is just amazing what we can do with dynamic content these days (yes, I am being sarcastic, but it is true). As email marketers, we have the ability to serve up content based on recency and type of customer engagement, so why not leverage a module of your email template to encourage customers with recent transactions to share their feedback, including this encouragement in an email they they're already going to get? Not only does this demonstrate that you are paying attention to them as  customers, but it minimizes the need to send them another message in near proximity that could result in a negative perception. How awful would it be if your surveys were actually causing the frustration?

2. Use progressive enquiry to gather feedback via a series. Depending on the tone and voice of your brand, you may be able to incorporate some engaging and quirky methods for getting feedback. Include imagery that depicts satisfaction and ask recently engaged subscribers to rate their most recent experience by clicking the image associated with the emotion. The followup experience could vary based on the emotional response and could potentially diffuse an otherwise unpleasant response

3. Consider the customer's exposure. There are certainly situations that warrant a survey -- but getting one from the airline, one from the hotel, one from the restaurant and one from the taxi service, all following a single business trip, is excessive. Chances are, if your survey is the third in a row, you may not get a response -- or at least not a thoughtful one. I’m not saying that you should forgo sending a survey because someone else may be sending one, but you do need to take it into consideration. What are the circumstances under which the customer is getting the survey, who else could be sending one in a similar time proximity, and how may that affect the consumer’s response to you? Are  customers considering the experience they had with your brand independent of other factors? It's hard to know, but it is possible to recognize the other factors that may not directly rate to their experience with you. This can help put things in perspective.

There are certainly a number of other ways to skin this survey cat. What do you think?


4 comments about "Survey Says, Think Before You Send Just Another Email".
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  1. Jason Klein from Selligent, March 1, 2012 at 12:16 p.m.

    I totally agree that marketers need to be judicious with their survey strategy. If the process become onerous for the consumer, it could negatively affect your brand. And it's not just email, it seems like half the website I go to these days have a pop-up survey - not to mention their inclusion in voicemail trees..."You've been selected to participate in a survey. Press "1" if you want to take the survey at the end of your call."

  2. Greg Russak from Just Between Friends, Inc., March 1, 2012 at 12:45 p.m.

    I was in Florida recently and received a "courtesy survey call" to my cell phone from the car rental company before I had even returned the car! The tightrope being walked between asking for and getting information brands want/need to better serve their markets and those markets responding unfavorably due to survey fatigue seems to get higher and trickier all the time. I do like the suggestions you've made, Kara, and have already begun talking about them here.

  3. Monica Sims from iContact, March 1, 2012 at 2:22 p.m.

    I think that these are all great ways to gather feedback, Kara, but businesses could also look at off-line ways to gather feedback. Send a handwritten thank you note to the customer and ask them to fill out a survey by going online; leave a short questionnaire on their pillow at the hotel asking about their check-in experience. These are just a couple of ideas.

    My ideas are more manual, but I bet the payoff will be better since it won't feel as automated.

  4. Ruth Presslaff from Presslaff Interactive Revenue, March 1, 2012 at 2:55 p.m.

    Good article and particularly agree with your sentiment: " How awful would it be if your surveys were actually causing the frustration?" A recent survey from Continental starts with a request for the 13 digit frequent flyer # OR ticket #. Two impossibly long, unmemorable forms of ID. Likely to frustrate a fan or further aggravate perceived failures.

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