Email Marketing: Customer Survey Tips -- April, 2011
Customer Survey Guidelines for Email Marketing
Email customer surveys are an important part of online
marketing, and great way to get feedback from customers about your products,
services and customer satisfaction.
In addition, a well-designed email marketing survey can generate ideas
for new products/services or improved operational methods, as well as providing
opportunities for increased sales.
Email marketing is not as interactive as offline or online
marketing methods like social marketing, focus groups or face-to-face customer
discussions. You only get one
chance to ask the questions, and the respondents only get one chance to
answer. So it’s essential to design
the email marketing survey to anticipate potential difficulties customers might
have interpreting and responding to the questions.
To make it easier for customers to provide the desired information
-- and get results that are actionable, unambiguous and statistically
significant – employ these email marketing tips when designing your customer
1. Set expectations
Survey participants have an implicit expectation that the
survey is being conducted in preparation for improvements to the topics being
discussed. It‘s de-motivating for
customers to expend the effort to complete a survey if you’re not going to make
changes based on the results. Your
email marketing survey should arrive with a short cover letter explaining the
motivation for the survey, importance of customer participation, and the
prospective actions that may be taken as a consequence of the survey results.
2. Choose effective Sender Name and
As with any email, the Sender and Subject Line of your
customer survey will be the primary determinants of your open rate and response
rate. The Sender Name should be in
the form ‘Joe Smith [a recognizable name]/XYZ Corporation’ or ‘XYZ
Corporation’; this is more productive than ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’, and much more
effective than using mass market email domains like gmail, hotmail, msn or
yahoo. The Subject Line should be
appealing and encourage the recipient to open the email and complete the
survey. It’s best to use the word
‘survey’, along an encouragement to open the email. Example: ‘Customer Survey: We
Need Your Input’. It's also important to avoid words in the Subject Line that will trigger spam filters. LocalNews.biz offers an excellent online Subject Line checking tool.
3. Keep it short; ask
the most interesting and important questions first.
Only the most loyal and conscientious customer will complete
a 100 question survey; and asking irrelevant or low-impact questions at the
beginning will cause customers to lose interest. The first few questions in the survey should engage readers
with the opportunity to provide meaningful feedback on issues that affect their
customer experience. Every
additional question increases the likelihood that the survey participant will
abandon the survey; so avoid the temptation to ask everything you’d like to
4. Use simple
language, avoiding jargon and unusual terms.
One of the biggest mistakes we make in marketing is assuming
our audience knows what we know, thinks like we think, and uses the same language
we use. Every industry has its own
jargon, acronyms and arcane terminology we use every day to communicate with
colleagues. But in most cases,
customers are not industry insiders, and may not be familiar with these terms. Keep it simple -- so your customers
don’t get confused or discouraged and give up on the survey.
5. Group related
We’ve all seen email marketing surveys that look like they
were created by committee, with the questions presented in random order and
different styles. You’ll get
better responses from customers if you organize the questions to keep related
questions together. In addition to
getting better responses, this will show your customers you took the time to
organize the survey to make it easier for them.
6. Use single answer
A customer survey is not a logic test; and you don’t want
readers struggling to decide if the answer is A, B, B and D, or All Of The
Above. When you analyze survey
results, it’s difficult to draw much distinction between ‘A and B’ and ‘A, B
and C’ response. Multiple-answer
questions don’t provide as much information or statistical significance as
single answer questions, and are irritating to the reader.
7. Offer a Don’t
Know/Don’t Care/None Of The Above/Other option
Even with the most careful email survey design, you may not
anticipate all potential customer responses. The reader may not know the answer, or may not like any of
the choices you have provided.
Give your customer a way to provide an answer; and provide an input
field to expand on the ‘Other’ response.
8. Avoid leading or
Political surveys and polls are notorious for asking loaded
questions to achieve a desired result -- but that’s not your purpose in a
customer survey. Customers resent
being asked to agree with a statement that is oversimplified, overstated or ambiguous. This is especially true for
‘forced-response’ questions (i.e., must choose among A, B, etc.) – another reason to include a Don’t Know/Don’t
Care/Other or None Of The Above option.
9. Avoid complex or
Ask one question at a time, and avoid double negatives or multiple
qualifiers in a single question.
“How likely are you to buy a red sedan or a black pickup truck for less
than $30,000?” is an awful question, as is “If you purchased from us last
quarter, did you take advantage of our special online discounts or in-store
10. Use open-ended
Open-ended questions are a great way to obtain unknown or
unexpected answers, get new ideas from customers (or just let them vent). But, since open-ended questions require
more effort by the reader, your customer survey should only include a few of
these. Open-ended questions should
not be used in cases where a multiple choice or fill-in-the-blank question
11. Test your survey
on colleagues and a subset of customers.
Begin by testing your draft survey on colleagues and
friends, and revise the survey based on their comments. Then send the survey out to 5% of your
target email list. This will
surface any questions that were ambiguous or difficult to understand – and may
suggest additional questions customers would like you to ask. Revise the survey and distribute to the
remaining customers on your target email list.
12. Provide feedback
In general, you should provide a copy of the survey results
to all survey participants. Individual
customer responses to a survey – especially open-ended responses with
permission to contact – can be the beginning of a productive discussion and
closer relationship. Contact these
survey participants promptly while questions and answers are fresh in their
Following these recommendations will make your customer
surveys easier and more comprehensible to customers, and produce informative
responses that can help you improve your products, services, business practices
and customer satisfaction.