How businesses can focus their efforts to drive customer feedback

Consumers receive more than the odd request for feedback; how can brands stand out?

Illustration by Isaac Claramunt.

Consider how many times you’ve had an email pop up in your inbox with the subject line: “Your feedback means a lot to us.” Probably more than just a few. And how often has it driven you to action? Probably not that many. Just five years ago, all that was required for effective customer feedback email communication was a little bit of personality and a conversational tone to convince customers they were being addressed by an actual human being. Companies could set it, forget it, and watch the reviews pour in. Today, however, most marketers are faced with a much more saturated landscape and a customer base that’s just plain tired of getting formulaic emails every time they buy a new product. So, how is one to stand out? And what are the key principles of a well-rounded customer feedback strategy?

80 percent of reviews still originate from post-purchase emails.

“It has to be an ongoing, iterative process,” explains Zahra Young, Chief Marketing Officer at Skymount, a global provider of drones and satellite communications. She believes that, whether the communication is done through a phone call to the call centre, an email communication, an online chat or instant messenger, companies “need to be able to have a system in place to capture all that great feedback so that it helps the product, sales and marketing teams react quickly to changes that are required.” Half the battle today consists of reeling those reviews, ratings and feedback in.

Consider customer feedback a sound investment

Young believes that if companies don’t invest in customer experience, it can hurt them in the long run. “When it comes to email marketing, the cost is time you’re spending. We’re not talking about a huge investment,” Young says. “If you’re looking at more traditional ways of gathering customer feedback, like telephone calls and focus groups, those are larger investments, but fewer and fewer companies are going that route today.”

Chat platforms are another avenue open to businesses looking to increase their flow of customer feedback. They require a bit more of an investment—a tech platform and customer service resources to manage them—but, as Young points out, those investments can be measured and are most likely worth the spend. “If you don’t get your customer experience right, you’re hurting your brand,” says Young.

Lean on a foundation of email communication

Just because customers turn to other online avenues like Yelp or Google to share their satisfaction—or lack thereof—with products, that doesn’t make the tried-and-true method of asking (kindly) for a rating or review obsolete. According to a study carried out by Northwestern University’s Spiegel Digital Database and Research Center, 80 percent of reviews still originate from post-purchase emails. “We can’t forget about email,” Young confirms. “We get emails [at Skymount] all the time from customers and, right now, it’s still the most important method of gaining feedback on what our customers are thinking and saying.”

If you don’t get your customer experience right, you’re hurting your brand.

 

Still, Young cautions companies to beware of overdoing it. In an increasingly populated marketing environment, customers aren’t just getting the odd email from companies on occasion. “The frequency of sending a communication to a customer has to be monitored so that we’re not bombarding them all the time,” she explains.

Timing is everything

Like most things in life, the timing of an event is almost as crucial as the event itself. Customer feedback requests are no exception. “The most seamless way of getting a customer review is when they’ve just completed an action,” advises Young. “If [they] receive an email a week after [they’ve] finished reading an eBook, for example, and it’s out of [their] mind, [they] might tend to procrastinate or delete it altogether.”

With automated email scheduling platforms now at our disposal, it’s never been easier to get that timing perfect, planning emails that can go out as soon as they’re triggered—by a purchase from a new customer, for example. Young also encourages companies to stay in touch with customers on available modes of communication. “Not everyone is tech-savvy, so you have to encourage customers to contact you right away if they hit a snag,” says Young. “Repeat, at every customer touchpoint, how they can get in touch. The easier you make it for your customers, with different ways to communicate with you, the more you’ll be able to get valuable feedback.”

Tread lightly with incentives

One method businesses can explore as they pursue gathering customer feedback is incentivization, which can be effective at increasing response rates. However, Young advises that businesses

The goal should be genuine, honest feedback, and those waters can get murky when incentives enter into the mix.

be careful with asking for reviews and ratings in exchange for rewards. The goal should be genuine, honest feedback, and those waters can get murky when incentives enter into the mix. “We may be skewing the results if we’re sort of forcing a product review,” says Young. “Where I have seen it work time and time again is in online research, where it’s not necessarily a product review but more of a general research initiative.”

Test email subject lines

Today, with the sheer number of requests people receive from companies asking for ratings and reviews, businesses have to work that much harder to grab users’ attention in an often crowded inbox. “Believe it or not, subject-line testing when we send the emails out makes a difference as well. It’s really [about] how to stand out in an inbox,” says Young. With tools like Test Subject by Zurb, Headline Analyzer by Coschedule and Spam Check by Postmark, there’s no excuse to ship off your email communications without first verifying their effectiveness. Tools like these will help make your copy more effective while steering your email clear of the dreaded spam folder.

Sure, it looks great when a seller has a never-ending stream of positive reviews but do you know what looks even better, in the grand scheme of things? Genuinely satisfied customers.

At the end of the day, customer feedback is more about quality than quantity and is about continually improving customer experience. Sure, it looks great when a seller on Amazon or Google has a never-ending stream of positive reviews—and those reviews do count. But do you know what looks even better, in the grand scheme of things? Genuinely satisfied customers.

Often, marketers can miss the most valuable thing about requesting feedback in an effort to nail the perfect email strategy: the feedback itself. Once businesses have perfected their customer feedback retrieval strategies, AI tools can help make sense of all the chatter and give businesses a clear read on what consumers are thinking, feeling and saying—analyzing everything from open-source data to social media commentary to survey results.

This also allows businesses who haven’t yet dipped a toe into the ocean of customer sentiment analysis to form a baseline and begin to track from that foundation. From there, all the peaks, valleys and modulations of customer sentiment will be easy to catch and address where needed. With these tools in hand, massive amounts of data can be read and synthesized before you can even utter “your feedback means a lot to us.”

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