Feedback comes in lots of forms but what about email feedback? This guide will equip you with the knowledge and skills to command a comprehensive email-based feedback strategy. Let’s dive in!
What is email-based feedback?
Email feedback is both the product and the process of collecting feedback via email. It matters because email is such a ubiquitous communications channel that’s ideally suited to requesting and providing feedback. Here we’ll look at the email feedback process – i.e. ‘what you do’. Later we’ll look at email feedback as ‘what you get’.
Email feedback as a process
Organizations rely on feedback from customers, employees and other groups. Doing that at scale requires processes that are low cost, reliable, efficient and measurable.
You can run all that on email.
Sure, email isn’t the only vector for feedback and you should absolutely optimize your business to listen out via lots of others. But email should be front and center of your feedback process for reasons we’ll explain later.
The email feedback process is simply:
- Use email to reach individuals so you can ask their feedback
- Capture responses to the email via embedded code
- Facilitate email replies containing feedback
Why is email such an important vector for getting feedback?
Think of the last time you bought something or subscribed to a service. Think of the loyalty programs you’re a member of, or the new offers you occasionally take advantage of. Think of your growing digital footprint. Think of how you correspond with people, knowledge and opportunities at work.
For at least a significant minority of the time (for most people it’s practically all the time) the thing that identifies you as you, and that enables your transit through this increasingly digital world is your email.
Email is the dominant feedback vector because:
Email is ubiquitous
Email is (almost) real time
Speed is important in feedback processes because valuable feedback is always fresh. That means reaching recipients very soon after critical events or at specific times. It also means receiving responses with minimal latency.
Email addresses are an existing business asset
You operate email systems and you securely store as many customer, partner and employee email addresses as possible. In subscription-based models, organizations cannot onboard a customer without their email address to verify who they are. These assets exist and you are mutually committed to keeping them accurate and up to date.
Emails are going out all the time already
You already send emails in significant volumes. A company with 100 employees, each sending 50 emails a day, will issue 1.8m a year. And that’s before you count the automated notifications, marketing e-shots and other emails generated by CRMs, ERPs, service desk platforms and other enterprise software.
Emails are perfect canvasses for canvassing feedback
50+ years of email have made it the ultra-flexible vehicle for one-to-one communications. There’s a lot of scope for design, functionality and interactivity – not to mention back-end data analytics. Even the humble email signature has fantastic real estate potential for feedback buttons, meeting scheduling, promotional banners and more.
How do you get email-based feedback?
Earlier we introduced the concept of email feedback as a ‘product’. By product we mean ‘that which is produced’. So let’s talk about email feedback as ‘the stuff you get’ rather than ‘the thing you do’.
Email feedback you ask for
Most emails that ask for feedback don’t ask for an email reply. That’s because, when there’s lots of questions, the experience is crappy on email. Instead the email will invariably direct you to an online survey that looks like this:
In this setup, there is no email feedback as a product. You get no email replies (unless some Einstein literally wants to hit ‘reply’). The worthwhile aspect was asking for it (via email) and directing people to some web pages to deliver the feedback itself.
Email feedback you (kind of) ask for
Another way to the same end is by asking for feedback via emails you were going to send anyway. In other words, these aren’t emails sent for the expressed purpose of eliciting feedback. We can break these down into two main groups:
The kind that notify or confirm the completion of an event that is materially important to the relationship you have with that person. For example, if it’s a customer then this might include:
- Shipping confirmation email
- Service desk ticket email
- Your windows were washed today email
- You have successfully renewed your policy email
- Here are copies of the training presentations we went through today email
The feedback part comes as a natural, logical and directly relevant conclusion to the communication itself. As in, seeing as we’re telling you we walked your dog today, what’s your feedback on how happy/clean/fit he looked when you got home?
Here are a bunch of other examples:
A basic function of email is the email signature – a little piece of real estate at the end of every message for contact information, legal disclaimers and anything else you deem relevant. Well, email signatures have evolved to the point that you can do a whole lot more. Like slipping in some feedback buttons so recipients can ‘tell you how you did today’.
This opens up a massive opportunity to be asking for feedback all the time, without it being onerous to manage or intrusive to deal with.
Here’s a few cool email signature templates with the Customer Thermometer feedback payload going on.
For both event-driven emails and email signatures, email replies are not really envisaged. Now you could direct recipients off to a webpage to answer your question or questions, just like if you sent out a dedicated feedback request email. Or you could rely on some email tracking code to capture 1-click responses to the question/s you pose. We’ll explain how this works later in this guide.
Email feedback that just arrives
Like we said at the top, feedback comes in lots of forms and you’ve got to capture them all. You need to be ready when customers and employees feel like giving you their feedback. Probably the most important comms channel you need to facilitate is via email.
It really doesn’t get much more complicated than that, other than the following considerations:
- Are you doing enough to encourage people to give feedback on their terms? This can be a cultural problem for some organizations when employees and customers don’t feel heard. It is imperative that any complaints are flagged so that you can do something about them. Think in terms of “the more complaints we receive the better”. People won’t complain unless there’s something worth complaining about.
- Do your staff know what unsolicited email feedback looks like? Most companies have an email account like [email protected]. More enlightened ones will signpost others like [email protected] and [email protected]. Set up as many as you like, just don’t ever count on them funneling 100% of the email feedback you’re going to receive. When an employee emails their boss telling them something needs to change, does that even get treated as feedback? If a customer happens to mention, in an email about a bunch of different things, that they would like it if the product could do xyz, or that they were disappointed about something – how well is that detected?
- Who’s reading this stuff and what are they doing with it? Assuming feedback is being captured, where does it all go? Who reads it? To what extent is each piece being seen in isolation, or involved in wider feedback efforts? Can a bigger picture be created of what feedback is telling the organization as a whole?
What kinds of feedback can you generate from email?
Customer email feedback
Email feedback you get from current customers. The feedback would be generated throughout the customer lifecycle from initial commitment through to termination. These could be segmented in all kinds of ways, depending on your business. For example, repeat customers, regular customers, membership customers, lapsed customers.
Employee email feedback
Email feedback you get from current employees. This would stretch across the lifecycle of an employment, from initial offer and onboarding through to exit. Segmentations here could relate to their job role, location, tenure, skills, etc.
Partner email feedback
Email feedback you get from business partners. This would spread across the lifecycle from signup and certification through to contract end. These could be segmented by partner type/tier and form part of a partner communications program.
Prospect email feedback
This could be email feedback from prospective customers, employees or partners. This extends the feedback scope into those individuals not presently engaged in business processes. This is a more application of feedback concerned with better understanding market needs and preferences.
Negative to positive email feedback
Email feedback comprises the whole spectrum from vociferous praise to acidic complaint.
If customers are unhappy, you really need to know about it so that you can fix it, stop it happening again, and improve. Don’t just embrace complaints and negative feedback – you should encourage them!
Finding advocates and promoters
Email feedback from customers can uncover ‘fans’ who love your product, people, brand – you name it. These customers have the potential to become true advocates and promoters, literally doing sales and marketing work on your behalf.
Optimizing positive reviews
Positive email feedback could be the catalyst to getting a great customer review. Often all you need to do is ask or encourage the customer to convert their goodwill into a published write-up of their experience.
On the flipside, getting some negative feedback might indicate that the customer has left reviews about their experience elsewhere (social media, reviews site, etc.). Knowing this can help optimize your response to a) fixing their issue and b) giving a public response to their review, in a joined up way.
Quantitative to qualitative email feedback
Email feedback ranges from simple, structured, quantifiable findings to more complex, detailed, unstructured qualitative insights.
KPIs, scores and ratings
At the quantitative end of the spectrum, email feedback can take the form of very simple numeric scores and response selections that can be used to extrapolate metrics. For example:
In these cases, the respondent providing feedback simply selects a response which generates a corresponding value from a limited range (e.g. from 0–10, or 4 responses valued as ‘excellent’, ‘good’, ‘fair’ or ‘poor’)
Indicators and correlations
Moving towards richer, more qualitative data, email feedback can indicate trajectories and changes in trend. Rather than feedback being numeric score based, respondents would select or rank richer response options, or even provide free-text comments. This would cover things like:
- Customer sentiment toward certain products
- Communications channel preferences (e.g. phone vs. chat vs. self-service)
- Pricing sensitivity
- Quality of experience
- Brand experience
Data can also be correlated to deduce meaning. Some of this could be a case of comparing sets of email feedback data, or correlating email feedback with other data sets. For example, examining links between the wait times for checking in a hotel with the NPS scores collected.
Insights and rich intel
At the deeply qualitative end of the spectrum are the kinds of individual yet highly specific insights that could make a disproportionately great difference:
- The feedback from a customer CEO explaining what she’d like changed to keep her company’s business
- A thank-you email from a customer commending a star employee for going above and beyond in helping them.
Depending on where, how, when and to whom you ask – email feedback can be generated in very targeted ways. For example, some organizations have relatively complex customer onboarding processes with as many as 20–30 steps. By eliciting feedback at precise points during this customer journey, extremely specific feedback can be garnered to help reduce friction and effort, or to build a case for removing that step entirely.
Specific to representative email feedback
Continuing this theme of specific feedback, one of the other ways of narrowing down email feedback is on a spectrum of personalization.
Customer-centric, personalized email feedback
The most personalized email feedback naturally concerns individuals and their unique experience. This is most useful when acting on email feedback as it dictates both the action required and who you can check up with to see if the action was effective.
The classic example of personalized email feedback is the customer who threatens to leave (e.g. cancel their contract, stop being a customer, etc.). This feedback presents an opportunity to not only understand the customer’s intended course but also the reasons for taking it. This in turn enables the organization to use the feedback as the catalyst for winning the customer back and potentially renewing their faith and satisfaction to higher levels (the so-called service recovery paradox).
Cohorts, segments and categories
Email feedback can also be extrapolated as representative of a larger group. For example, it is common practice to apply the email feedback findings from a group of employees and treat them as if all employees had been consulted. The same is frequently true of customer email feedback and other kinds. It is the essence of using small-scale sampling to reflect wider truths.
However, this approach is fraught with potential survey bias, not least the various forms of sampling and questioning biases. It is not scientifically sound to deduce representative findings without extreme care in how email feedback is collected. Organizations must in particular pay close attention to email feedback response rates (the higher the better) to mitigate self-selecting and non-response bias.
With these aspects considered, the way is clear to segment and categorize audiences in order to measure and analyze representative findings. For example, in terms of customers:
- Customers of less than 6 months tenure
- Customers who have never referred a friend
- Customers opted-in to receive marketing communications
- Customers consistently awarding an NPS score of 9 or above (so-called ‘promoters’)
Real-time to long term
The last spectrum of email feedback we’ll cover relates to age and timing. This is directly relevant to how feedback is used, as well as how it is collected.
Immediate, actionable email feedback
Email feedback can – like most other forms of feedback – produce insights that are directly relevant to something that just happened. Done right, it’s possible to truncate the period between something happening (i.e. a service interaction) and receiving email feedback about the customer’s experience of that thing – making the finding far more relevant, accurate and useful. What’s quite different about email is being able to launch that request for feedback at very precise intervals or off the back of automatic triggers.
Speed is very important in customer feedback and this is where email feedback excels. Not just in being able to rapidly request feedback at very short notice (particularly if a one-question survey), but doing so the instant the customer may be about to form or change their opinion. Email feedback systems also allow the real-time collection of customer feedback.
All this equips organizations to take fast, decisive action. So fast in fact that it necessitates planning ahead so that you don’t become the bottleneck for responding to feedback in the optimum way.
At the opposite end are the kinds of strategic insights and decisions that demand more data and operate on much longer timescales. For example, email feedback can be integral to product development, influencing what a product or service looks like and how it works, and when it can be released. These are not snap judgements but they do rely at least in part on email feedback to inspire, inform or validate the decision.
How does email feedback fit into a wider customer feedback strategy?
There are many different sources and catalysts for customer feedback. Here are just 12:
- Social media
- Physical ‘smile screens’
- Conversations with customers
- Store receipts
- Focus groups
- SMS / IM
- Bumper stickers
- Forms and maildrops
- Point of sale terminals
- E-commerce baskets
- Review sites
All of these are valid and warrant attention. However, there is nothing to say that all cannot coexist quite happily.
The decision about where email feedback fits lies in understanding the value of proactivity in customer feedback, and how well suited email is to orchestrating around. Conversations with customers can be proactive, right? But it doesn’t scale (which is why you email customers a lot of the time rather than call them up about absolutely everything).
Many of the examples listed above are somewhat opportunistic. That’s great because every opportunity should be taken advantage of. And if you’ve got the customer’s attention plus the real estate to ask for feedback (e.g. on the POS terminal screen asking how your meal was as you pay at the restaurant) then you should go for it.
Some also lend themselves better to some sectors than to others. Bumper stickers asking “How’s my driving?” along with a phone number you can call are a common feature on truck tailgates. But that has fairly narrow applications for most companies (the exception being a trucking, distribution or transportation business).
In the vast majority of cases, email feedback is going to occupy a key position in your proactive strategy and in how feedback arrives into your business. The other big daddy is of course social media. But again there’s no reason why both shouldn’t exist side-by-side, both in the measures you take to cultivate feedback and in how you receive, analyze and act on it.
What are the drivers behind email feedback strategies?
If you’re considering putting time and effort into an email feedback plan, here are some of the reasons for doing so. Organizations typically target one or more of the following objectives when setting out an email feedback strategy.
Improving customer service levels
Using feedback from customers to identify failures and successes in your present approach. Set benchmarks and improve over time. Using feedback can also help you test out new initiatives and identify if any employees need extra support in how they interact with customers.
Reducing customer churn
Using feedback to detect if customers look like they’re ready to churn, and intervening before they do. You can also identify the kinds of things that provoke churn events and remove them from customer-related processes.
Improving staff performance and retention
Using feedback from both employees and customers to inspire a happier, more productive workforce. Customer feedback can indicate your best performing customer-facing personnel, who you can then reward and incentivize to optimized results. Regular employee feedback can help surface any issues that you can address; removing obstacles to development and preventing unwanted staff churn.
Training staff better
Using feedback from real-world customer engagements to inform training content and supplement knowledge bases. Feedback can be a rich source for optimizing processes and refining a customer-centric culture too. You can also ask, and check up on, training requirements from employees.
Generating ideas for product/service improvement
Using feedback to continually improve product quality and relevance in step with market need. You built your products and services for customers, so it makes sense to listen to their feedback during the whole product lifecycle.
Mitigating feedback research bias
Using feedback to ensure that market research is representative and reliable. Not all feedback will give you an accurate picture, but using email to access larger segments and achieve optimum response rates gives you a shot at mitigating research bias.
Optimizing accuracy of KPIs
Using feedback to generate operational and management KPIs to the highest possible accuracy. Many feedback methods can deliver data metrics, but – done right – email enables consistently accurate results.
What are the benefits of email feedback?
Now’s a good point to summarize what’s so great about email feedback and understand the 9 key benefits to businesses that embrace it.
Email feedback shows what you’re doing right so you can do more of it
It could be for any group – customers, employees, partners – and subsets thereof. Email feedback will tell you if customers are happy or not, plus – crucially – what exactly is making them feel that way. This is your opportunity to learn, iterate and learn some more. It should be a continual feedback loop that aids customer retention and attracts new customers too.
Email feedback shows what doing wrong so you can do less of it
The mirror image of the same argument – but do you execute it effectively? Sometimes organizations can be reticent to alter business processes and may disbelieve that people don’t like measures put in place to benefit them. Don’t be afraid of negative feedback! For example, identifying the customer-facing staff who need retraining in order to do a better job. Or changing your standard approach to cater for certain customers in a particular way.
Email feedback allows you to set expectations just right
Your whole approach and posture to customers and other key audiences should be informed by regular email feedback. Knowing what expectations they have for your business and your industry sector will support marketing efforts to hone the right message and go after the optimum target segments. You’ll want to keep the promises you give, so this is your chance to set the right promises to keep!
Email feedback helps prioritize internal resources
Some customers deserve more focus than others, and email feedback can help get that balance right. Also, not every customer is worthy of undying attention. Gartner has forecasted that organizations are accumulating so much customer data – including email feedback data – that they can more confidently decide to drop those that are a ‘bad fit’. It stands to reason that by optimizing your resources you can be more productive, attentive and profitable – and truer to your business purpose.
Email feedback helps you improve your product or service
Email feedback can act as guide rails for your product improvement program. It’s great for finding bugs and feature enhancements, and the changing nature of email feedback over time will ensure you never lose market relevance and your offerings remain robust and competitive. A superb boost for long-term customer retention and loyalty.
Email feedback makes you easier to do business with
Use email feedback right and you’ll pinpoint the parts of your business processes and workflows that cause friction and unnecessary effort. Go for ‘effortless’ and customers will come back for more. You could use email feedback to measure CES or draw up a customer journey map to see which touchpoints are the best to request customer feedback about.
Email feedback makes you transparently customer-centric
What better way to show that you value what your customers think? Not just collecting email feedback but acting on it too. Remember that nobody likes the feeling of not being listened to – so take your responsibilities seriously. Giving feedback takes time and effort (even if just a little) and is strictly optional, so treat every piece like your customer is doing you a favor!
Email feedback retains customers who would otherwise churn
Imagine an old style, red ‘hotline’ phone that rings whenever a customer is about to leave. That’s email feedback! It’s like an early warning system for imminent customer departures that gives you just enough time to turn things around and make it right.
Email feedback maximizes omnichannel opportunities for word of mouth
Using email feedback to funnel positive comments and customer experience stories is a springboard to generating word of mouth. Think omnichannel and you can easily supplement your social media output and third-party validation strategy with what you uncover via the email feedback route.
What are the challenges of email feedback and how to overcome them?
You can get email feedback down to a fine art with some practical guidance we outline later in this post. Set in your way are a series of challenges and opportunities that you need to confront to achieve email feedback nirvana. Each makes the difference between a genuinely valuable business asset and just going through the motions.
Maximize email feedback volume and quality
First up, getting as much good email feedback as possible. Look at it proportionally and set some goals. Assuming customers are your audience (this could just as easily apply to employees, for example) target a percentage of them that you’re going to proactively request feedback from. Then look at ‘response rate’ (i.e. the proportion of those you ask who actually give you feedback in response) as a key KPI for your email feedback program.
The two main levers you can pull to generate more feedback are:
- Making the email feedback experience easier, faster and more engaging.
- Sending out email feedback requests more frequently to more respondents.
Both are effective but the second of these can risk irritating or fatiguing customers.
Avert survey fatigue
So this is kind of the elephant in the room with email feedback – doing it in such a way that you don’t contribute to the more wide-ranging phenomenon of ‘survey fatigue’.
Let’s face it, we all get a lot of email requests for feedback. Some you’ll respond to, while others you won’t. Some of the things that make a vital difference in this regard include:
- Timing your approach so it’s relevant to their recent experience
- Using an appealing and relevant email subject line
- Strictly minimizing the time and effort it will take them, and making this clear at the outset (as well as actually living up to that promise too)
- Within the email, making the design and UX consistent with your whole digital brand experience
- When they do give feedback, demonstrating that you listen (i.e. by saying so or, better, taking action) and are grateful to them
Make the email feedback process as instant as possible
Email feedback gives you a rapid, up-to-date take on trending sentiment and emerging issues with individual customers. But that’s only truly valuable when it’s working at high speed, giving you reliable insights that you can act on in real-time.
A lot of this is about having the right technical solution in place. Also, getting properly organized ahead of time, with workflows, escalations and response time SLAs.
The other main factor is analysis and reporting, so the right people in the organization can see what’s going on, what it means and how to react.
Ensure that email feedback is acted on
Trust us, this isn’t stating the obvious. It’s possible – and surprisingly common – for organizations to run well-oiled email feedback systems that produce data which is never acted upon, only monitored. This hands-off approach to email feedback is typically geared to measuring KPIs as a first priority, with occasional strategic insights as a by-product.
This is one heck of a missed opportunity. A much more progressive school of thought positions feedback as a principal change agent. Both provoking decisions at a micro level and influencing strategic moves at a macro level.
The other dimension to this is ‘closing the loop’; a structured process by which certain kinds of email feedback (it may in fact be all email feedback) is followed up, acted upon and ‘closed out’ by the business. For example, responding to people giving very good or very bad feedback and keeping the case open until contact is made and an appropriate conclusion is achieved.
Getting top-level buy-in is incredibly important for putting the right mindset into action and building from there.
Execute optimal technical integration
Email feedback relies on close-coupled technical integration for both outbound and inbound.
All organizations will run on one of the common email platforms like MS Outlook or Gmail. But these aren’t the only platforms that are germane to email feedback. Automated email notifications to customers are frequently instigated by CRMs, ERPs, service desk / help desk / PSA platforms and collaboration suites. Other important integrations include with email signature management platforms like Exclaimer.
Getting this right is crucially important to being able to operate reliably at scale. The whole enterprise could be compromised by technical bugs and failures, so your chosen email survey engine needs excellent pre-built integrations and APIs. The ultimate nightmare scenario is the unedifying prospect of using email feedback to optimize customer experience, but in the course of doing so offering a poor experience that reflects badly on your brand.
When should email be used for generating feedback?
Email feedback is a 24/7 operation and it may be appropriate to request or receive at any time of the day or night. What we’ll focus on here are 4 different types of email surveys and how they operate from a timing perspective.
- Perpetual surveys: email feedback surveys that have no (or minimal) limits or guidelines on when they are issued.
- Periodic surveys: email feedback surveys that are issued at set intervals.
- Operational surveys: email feedback surveys that are issued in response to service interactions
- Transactional surveys: email feedback surveys that are issued at stages of the customer lifecycle
It is extremely important to note at this stage that ‘email surveys’ are very portable, flexible and shape-shifting beasts. As we’ll see throughout these examples, only some need take the form of distinct email messages in their own right. The majority can be envisaged as ‘payloads’ injected into email that are being sent already.
Perpetual email feedback surveys
The main application for perpetual surveys is within email signatures. It’s best that these are one-question surveys that allow respondents to simply click the response option they agree with. This is super easy if you use a signature management solution like Exclaimer, which has Customer Thermometer built in. For smaller scale implementations, it’s simply a case of adding some Customer Thermometer code to Outlook/Gmail settings.
The effect is to have feedback surveys embedded into every email you send. This could be tailored with different surveys for each internal department. For example, every customer service team agent’s signature includes a survey asking “How did I do today?”. Others might be oriented more to market insights or even ‘fun’ survey questions. You can even tailor questions by individual.
Periodic email feedback surveys
This is where email feedback surveys happen at regular intervals (monthly, quarterly, annually) or as one-off events. Periodic surveys are unique in being the only kind that demands its own dedicated email message. Basically, the purpose for the email message is to communicate the existence of a feedback survey, and to provide links and content inside. That’s quite different to the other 3 kinds of survey.
Periodic surveys are relatively old-school and fit the calendarized cadence of business planning – not how customers experience you. It’s a legitimate approach but not a very customer-centric one. It’s plainly all about the organization’s efforts to extract regular data.
Operational email feedback surveys
These surveys are far more relevant to customers’ experiences than the ‘periodic’ approach. Timing is everything. The funny thing is that – whether you ask for feedback or not – you probably already send emails to customers in relation to service interactions. For example:
- E-commerce order confirmation email
- Tech support ticket closure email
- Hotel check-out notification email
Assuming you do, you’re already halfway to issuing operational email feedback surveys. The only thing left is to add a pertinent survey question into these emails that you’re already sending. Taking the examples listed above:
“Were you able to find everything you were looking for today?”
“How do you rate our service?”
“Please rate your stay with us from 0–10.”
Taking this approach gives you license to ask for feedback far more often without it feeling intrusive. If anything it feels like a courtesy! It also generates extremely specific, contextual, real-time insights that you can act upon.
“No, I didn’t find what I needed.”
- We’re very sorry, what was it you were looking for? And thanks for pointing this out – we’re working to make items easier to locate.
“Your service was worse than I expected.”
- Thank you for letting us know. We’d like to understand more so we can improve our processes. Can we make it up to you with a $20 service credit?
“10/10 – excellent.”
- Whoa, we’re overjoyed! We’re also curious to know what made your stay so enjoyable. Perhaps you’d like to leave a short review?
Lifecycle email feedback surveys
These surveys are similar to their transactional survey cousins; they share the attributes of contextual timing and hitching a ride on emails already going out. But whereas transactional surveys look at service interactions, lifecycle surveys are focused instead at points in the contractual or customer lifecycle. Events such as:
- The end of product/service trial period
- When the initial sales process concludes
- When the customer onboarding phase concludes
- At upgrade time
- At renewal time
- At termination
The objective here is also similar to transactional surveys – to understand critical processes from the customer’s perspective and then act on them accordingly.
It’s a great idea to run both lifecycle and transactional surveys for an optimized approach. In B2B set-ups, these will likely involve different contacts at the same customer organization for each respective survey. This gives you a 360-degree view so you aren’t – for example – only looking at service users and ignoring the CFO.
Best practice for email feedback surveys
There are consistent themes in everything we’ve covered email feedback-wise which, together, add up to best practice. Below we’ve explained each through the lens of what an optimized approach should look like:
Email feedback surveys that people want to engage with
You’re doing this primarily to maximize customer feedback volume and response rate. That’s going to take a proactive approach to requesting feedback rather than simply waiting for it to magically show up.
When creating email feedback surveys, you need to aim for:
- Surveys that are simple to understand
- Direct, simple questions that don’t introduce bias. Straightforward language that customers can relate to rather than your own internal jargon. No room for ambiguity.
- Surveys that take virtually no time to complete
- The fewer the questions, the better. One-question surveys, ideally. This minimizes the time customers have to spend. It means you’re literally asking for as little as possible. Make each one count.
- Surveys that are engaging and even enjoyable
- As we’ll see from some of the examples below, there’s tremendous scope to make surveys that stand out, feel fun and echo your whole brand experience. Explore gamification, apply creative response icons and customize your so it’s distinctive and memorable.
- Surveys that are effortless
- Don’t forget asking for feedback is like asking a favor. They have to stop what they’re doing to apply cognitive effort reading, thinking and interacting. Embrace the concept of a “one click and you’re done” survey. No typing, no menus. You can even remove the ‘effort’ of reading words by using emoji-driven icons as survey response options.
- Surveys that are right here, right now
- Isolate insights into very specific parts of the customer journey – and the customer relationship experience – by eliciting feedback within pinpoint precision. It’s about timing and context. This will make your feedback as valuable and actionable as possible.
Email feedback surveys that facilitate meaningful action
There’s really no point collecting email feedback unless you intend to act on it. Things like NPS are extremely important but too many focus solely on measuring KPIs when they could be using it to:
- Understand what customers want and giving to them
- Inform more competitive and market-relevant product/service development
- Help recruit and train employees with the right skills
- Tweak onboarding processes and customer-related workflows
- Reset expectations created by marketing
Best practice for making this happen includes:
- Email feedback surveys that give a decisive picture
- Often the simplest, fastest and most engaged with email feedback surveys relate to a single question that generates a score. There’s a reason why NPS and CSAT are so popular – they work. These bring clarity to decision making about the present and trending state of customer satisfaction and loyalty. Plus they are widely benchmarked and externally communicated, allowing customers to distinguish between the relative performance of competitors.
- Email feedback surveys that fuel real-time intelligence
- We’ve already covered the idea of contextual, in-the-moment feedback collection. The remaining process also needs to be built for speed, to capitalize on the freshness of feedback you’ve generated. That starts with using automation to instantly categorize feedback. For example, according to which individual response or group of responses they selected. This can go straight into a pre-planned action-taking system, such as one that’s geared to have a manager respond to a customer who gave a ‘poor’ rating within 1 hour, for example.
- Email feedback surveys that allow deep analysis
- Speed is very important, especially at the analysis stage when you want to go beyond ‘action-reaction’ responses and begin crunching what the data means more strategically. Ideally you’ll want to surface raw data to management stakeholders in a dashboard view, or use widget plugins to relay trending data onto shared internal workspaces or even public webpages. In any case, having the data in a manageable, logical form, quickly, with logs of historic data to compare and track trends, is invaluable.
- Email feedback surveys that operate at scale
- Operating email surveys at scale shouldn’t be too challenging from a technical standpoint, though it’s worth understanding the cost implications of running a sophisticated polling or customer feedback system as packages are often based on emails sent or surveys completed. The major issue is often having the focus and resources internally to cope with a massive influx of customer feedback. Automated workflows, alerting and so forth should help alleviate manual burden by someone – particularly in respect of more qualitative feedback – needs to read it all, and that responsibility may need to be shared on a rota.
- Email surveys that enable a closed feedback loop to improve performance
- This idea of closing the loop (covered briefly above) is really all about being certain that feedback responses are followed up to an appropriate conclusion. That demands an auditable process where managers can see that relevant customers were contacted, and what the effect of this was. But why do it? The objective with closing the loop is to make the customer’s opinion more favorable. This in turn can nudge CSAT and NPS scores higher. This ties in with best practise strategies you can deploy for ‘NPS detractors’, for example – turning them into passives or promoters, which increases NPS score. There’s also the matter of the service recovery paradox – where intervening to remedy a negative customer experience results in a ‘bounce’ that places satisfaction and loyalty levels higher than if the negative experience never happened.
Email feedback survey examples
Here are just a few examples of the kinds of email feedback surveys you can use to get great results. In each of these, we’ve focused on maximizing the one-question survey format for maximum response rate.
Yes/no CSAT survey
First up, a simple example of the simplest form of question. CSAT (customer satisfaction) is a common metric you can get from email feedback. Short and sweet..
Were you satisfied with your experience today?
NPS scale question survey
Another very common email feedback survey is the NPS survey. NPS is based on the customer giving a scale rating between 0–10. Grouping responses into those scoring 9 or 10 (promoters), 7 or 8 (passives), and 0–6 (detractors) is the crucial step necessary to calculating NPS score.
Periodic multiple-choice survey
This is a rare example of an email whose sole purpose is to elicit feedback. It’s necessary in such circumstances to explain the context of the exercise when doing these kinds of periodic surveys.
Customer service agent performance survey
This example shows how email feedback can give valuable insights into very specific things. Here, the finding is pertinent to a single agent’s performance but can also contribute to a picture of team performance and customer service standards in general. This is the kind of transactional survey that might be embedded in a standard email notification alerting a customer that their support query/ticket has been closed.
Service recovery survey
An important customer touchpoint is responding to negative feedback and acting upon service failures to put them right. Don’t overlook this as a great opportunity to collect more feedback! This example goes another step further and utilizes some really creative, engaging and on-brand response icons. It’s memorable and extends the brand experience. Not also the little explanation for what happens to feedback after it’s been given – which is always good practice.
Pulse survey for employees
A reminder that email feedback surveys aren’t just for customers. Here, we’re showing a pulse survey question that may be asked periodically to detect emerging issues and track trends. The subject is sensitive yet extremely important. Again the response options are very clear.
Best practice for getting feedback via email signatures
Email signatures are like real estate; prime locations you can build on! This is an important concept because often the whole idea of email signature strategy is limited by a lack of imagination regarding email signature content and functionality.
Email signatures are more than just contact info
The humble email signature has some foundational uses that are really just the beginning of their potential. Most common are personal details and contact information about the sender, in case the recipient wants to pick up the phone, view their profile picture or connect on social.
Following shortly behind is the ubiquitous legal disclaimer that protects corporations and institutions from liability should messages by misdirected, fraudulent, defamatory or worse.
But these are just table stakes. At the next level beyond this are more possibilities, though still fairly rudimentary, including graphics and photos, maps and promotional banners. This latter group opens up a whole world of possibilities around email signature marketing.
Where it gets really interesting is the capacity to link to a whole bunch of underlying applications and web resources that power greater interactions. Among these are
- Appointment calendars
- Chat and video conferencing platforms
- Payment systems
- Hosted webinars and events
- Reviews sites
- Support ticketing systems
- …and email feedback systems!
Where email signature management platforms come in
Getting this many super-powers into your email signatures might feel daunting, particularly given the complexity of mid to large-sized organizations. As organizations seek to optimize capabilities that exceed those that come ‘out-of-the-box’ with standard email platforms, dedicated email signature platforms like Exclaimer have emerged to serve this need.
Exclaimer operates natively with Customer Thermometer (we’re effectively the same company!) so all that feedback functionality can be easily pulled through into a signature orchestration layer.
Email signature feedback survey examples
There’s so much you can do with email signatures, it feels like a crime simply providing contact details and a logo. And it’s so much easier to organize and dynamically orchestrate now, thanks to email signature management. The following examples focus purely on utilizing the email signature ‘real estate’ for feedback gathering.
Feedback related to the email sender
It’s perfectly logical when embedding feedback surveys into signatures that – contextually – you make the survey question all about the sender.
Customer experience feedback
Every email interaction your business (and its staff) engage in contributes to the customer experience. That’s the beauty of getting feedback via email signatures – you’re collecting it all the time. Here’s a simple question and response set-up, this time the signature uses a real photo!
Customer feedback with industry relevance
Even in a tiny spot like an email signature, you can still flex your creativity and make people want to click. This is a great example of what we mean by fun and engaging. And it’s very relevant to the industry at hand too.
Switching up how you ask for mission-critical feedback
Imagine a designer or architect. Or practically any business sector where suppliers produce proofs, concepts, proposals and ideas that they need customer feedback on in order to finalize and complete. That’s what we mean by mission-critical feedback and it’s something you can use email signatures for too. In this example, it’s hopefully what you’d expect from a creative designer!
Internal feedback from colleagues and subordinates
We’re finishing up with an example that shows how email signatures can be used to garner employee feedback, not just feedback from customers. In this example, the manager’s email signature is set to display this question only when emails are sent to colleagues in his team. Emails that go externally (say, to customers) display a different feedback survey question.
5 steps to creating a superb email feedback strategy
Step 1: Get the team together
Begin by assembling your team. You might start small – perhaps relating to a single department – but sooner or later you’ll see the value across your whole organization. Once you start asking for feedback, the ramifications for all parts of your business will start spreading out. At the very least bear in mind that every part of the organization is going to need to be a stakeholder in this, and be accountable to the feedback customers provide.
Another aspect is gaining management buy-in – a crucial step in any strategic endeavor. Maybe you already have some form of feedback program, but now you’re branching out. Notify the board of your intentions and research budgetary impact. Build a business case showing the massive revenue advantages associated with being customer feedback-oriented.
At this early stage you can also scope how you’ll report, provide visibility into your activities and communicate progress. What will the reporting lines be?
As well as that, you’ll be assigning some roles and responsibilities for when email feedback surveys start being generated and feedback comes flooding in. Escalation paths will be particularly important – knowing who needs to be alerted to certain types of feedback and having a plan for what to do next.
Step 2: Map your email assets and customer journeys
Alongside your team and resources setup should be an upfront research project to map data sources, systems and customer-related processes. All will be vital to knowing who to get feedback from, how to get that feedback and when (and in relation to what). Let’s break this down a little:
Understand your audience
Look at the existing feedback you already have in your business and any processes that currently exist – what conclusions can you draw as to a starting point for customer expectations? Look also at how you might need to segment your customer data and how easy it is to do that. For example, sorting customers according to their total spend, tenure, location or preferences.
Assess systems and platforms
This is chiefly the technology dimension – the part where you must create a high-level view of the data sources, email systems and related enterprise software platforms that need to be leveraged. You’d need a market-leading customer feedback platform like Customer Thermometer, so begin trialing now so you’re happy with your choice and understand how it works. CT integrates with more enterprise systems than any other customer feedback platform, by the way, just in case you were wondering :-)
Map customer journeys
Collect or draw up from scratch your customer journey maps. These should be created from the perspective of what the customer experiences when completing tasks and fulfilling a typical customer lifecycle. Critical to this exercise is noting which customer touchpoints are utilized at each point on the journey. Each of these is an opportunity to ask for and collect feedback. Furthermore, each point in the journey can harness customer feedback to build a picture of what customers think of it, enabling you to make (often minor) changes to improve.
Step 3: Set objectives
You’ll need to give your email feedback strategy some measurable goals to aim at. Here are a few kinds of objectives to consider.
Volume and response rate
At the most fundamental level, you’ll want to generate as much feedback as possible. Benchmark where you’re currently at and target improvements in both overall volume and in the proportion of feedback requests that elicit feedback (response rate). We’ve listed a bunch of tips on how to go about achieving this.
Customer feedback KPIs
Throughout this guide we’ve touched on popular customer feedback-driven metrics like NPS, CSAT and CES. A clear objective therefore is going to be on benchmarking these early on and targeting improvements by listening to what customers want, need and expect. You can also look at metrics like resolution rate, mean time to resolution and first response time.
Now we’re talking about the objectives that really matter to the business – the things that matter to the bottom line. These are mainly related to the two granddaddies of customer feedback: customer retention and customer loyalty.
By gathering and acting on feedback, you can reduce customer churn and increase satisfaction and loyalty. There’s a whole Customer Retention hub filled with tips and ideas for you to find out more.
Step 4: Create, test and iterate
Now you’re getting down to brass tacks; developing the actual email surveys, questions and content you’ll need to power your email feedback strategy.
More speed, less haste
Remember you want your feedback process to be a well-oiled, high performance machine. Look for opportunities to make it a fast experience for respondents, as well as ensuring rapid turnarounds on collating and interpreting findings – and acting on them. The process should do all the work rather than people rushing around, because that’s when mistakes happen.
Mitigate survey bias
Pulling your email feedback surveys together and phrasing questions is often when survey biases are created. You can mitigate this by taking extreme care in how you word questions and what responses you provide. Check out this guide to all the survey biases you need to know about, and how to avoid them.
Email feedback as extensions of the brand experience
From a design standpoint, your email feedback surveys have to represent your brand. That makes them a logical extension of your brand experience. This is partly to capitalize on customers’ attention but also partly to ensure the experience is not disjointed or incoherent. Does it feel like your brand when they give feedback? Colors, icons, logos, language — it all matters and needs to be consistent. Your choice of platform should support this.
Test, test and test again
When you’re ready to start firing out email feedback surveys, or embedding them into existing email communications, you should start small to validate your approach, then move on to the wider audience group. Your choice of platform should negate having to test on different browsers and devices, though you can do this anyway to see how it comes across. The other major avenue is A/B testing, where you select a couple of alternative approaches and see the differences in response rate.
Step 5: Commit to continuous improvement
Once you’re up and running, avoid complacency creeping in by committing to a process of continuous improvement across the board. Customer preferences and expectations are always evolving!
Continuous improvement of customer-facing business processes
Every customer touchpoint in your customer journey map is under your control and can be continually tweaked and improved to optimize customer sentiment.
There’s two ways to look at how you can improve customer-facing touchpoints and the processes and workflows that surround them: removing unnecessary friction, and adding thoughtful details that customers will appreciate.
Friction-wise, the idea is to make the experience effortless for the customer. You can also begin to identify the appropriate points where it might make sense to add greater value to the customer; possibly even surprise and delight them with extra touches.
At the end of the day, you’re trying to be better at customer service, shipping, accounts payable, product reliability – every aspect of your business that customers touch.
Continuous improvement of email feedback process
The other piece of the continuous improvement pie is the email feedback process itself. This relates to the ‘test and iterate’ aspect in step 4, but also explores other avenues of best practice. Are you leveraging email signatures, for example? Is your email feedback experience part of your brand story, or separate to it? And what about transactional and operational email feedback surveys?
Take an interest in what competitors are doing regarding email feedback surveys too. Look further afield at bright ideas and innovations that let you change things up and keep it fresh.
Continuous improvement of KPIs
The third and final category here contains the KPIs you’ll be targeting as strategic objectives. Assuming you’ll reach your initially achievable and proportionate targets soon enough, it’s a good idea to keep moving the goalposts to spur you on toward excellence. Look to benchmark yourself against others in your sector (NPS is particularly good for industry-specific benchmarks). Last but not least, explore the opportunities of a structured approach to ‘closing the loop’, as this is proven to increase KPI performance.
Start sending feedback emails today
Set up a beautiful one question survey in your email today. Our free trial should give you plenty of opportunities to experiment with fast, effective feedback surveys within emails. We integrate with practically every platform and generate some of the best response rates in the business. Set up your one question survey and start sending feedback emails with a free account. Start your trial today.