Semantic Advantage, Inc.
SEO, SEM/PPC and Social Media Marketing

  Email Marketing: Customer Survey Tips -- April, 2011

email=marketing-surveyCustomer 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 survey.  

1. Set expectations appropriately.
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 Subject Line.

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 ‘jsmith@xyzcorp.com’, 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 know.

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 questions together.
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 multiple-choice questions.
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 loaded questions.

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 compound questions.
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 returns process?”

10. Use open-ended questions carefully.
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 would work.

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 and follow-up.
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 minds.


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.


Home   Online Marketing   SEO Services   SEM Services   Social Marketing   Clients   Articles

 Austin SEO Company   
SEO Terms    Privacy Statement    Contact Semantic Advantage    

Semantic Advantage, Inc. | 5035 McIntyre Circle | Austin, TX  78734 | (512) 799-7350