How Not to Ask Customers to Take Your Survey

by Diana Ecker on August 6, 2014

How Not to Ask Your Customers to Take Your SurveySo my insurance company sent me an email today, requesting my participation in their customer survey.

Here’s what it said:

Recently you received an e-mail inviting you to participate in a Web-based survey regarding your experience with [Company]. [Company] greatly appreciates your business, and is interested in capturing your feedback to better understand your experiences and to see how we can service you better. This is not a sales outreach, it is a customer service survey and should take less than 15 minutes to complete. Your opinions are very valuable to us. If you have not already taken the opportunity to access the survey, we again invite you to share your opinions.

Please click the link below to take the survey regarding your experiences.

So what’s wrong with this? A whole lot. Let’s look at exactly where they slipped up.

8 mistakes they made (and that you can avoid)

Here are 8 mistakes that this company made — mistakes that you can avoid making the next time you ask your customers to take a survey:

1. Leading with a wall of text: Who wants to open an email and be faced by a block of words?

2. Staying vague about the topic: What does “your experiences” mean? If I do take the survey, what are they going to ask about? Is it something that even relates to me?

3. Taking a negative tone: When they say, “This is not a sales outreach, it is a customer service survey,” I hear the voice of a frustrated, defensive company rep. Following it up with the word “should” compounds the effect.

4. Asking for too much time: Less than 15 minutes? So like 14? Still too much.

5. Focusing on the company’s self-interest: They want to “capture” a customer’s feedback because it is “very valuable” to them. But where does that leave the customer?

6. Not having an incentive: Certainly every survey doesn’t have to come with the chance to win a Starbucks gift card. But there is zero incentive here — including the chance to actually have an impact. There’s not even an indication that they’re looking to improve anything. They just want to “see” how they can service customers better.

7. Writing in a stilted style: “Web-based” in the first sentence? A call to action that ends on the phrase “regarding your experiences”? Correct grammar is important, but the medium should factor in, and in this case the medium (email) calls for a less stilted style.

8. Attempting to induce guilt: “Recently you received” and “we again invite you” are attempts to guilt the customer into participating. That’s just absurd, not to mention passive-aggressive.

Whew! So — if those are the mistakes to avoid, how could you go about crafting a better message?

Taking a more customer-friendly approach

It’s okay for a company to ask for help. It’s just a lot better to do it a way that is friendly and shows respect. (For the purpose of this example, I’m also going to imagine that they’re seeking feedback about a particular topic.)

First, affirm right up front:

Thank you for choosing [Company] as your insurance provider! We’re glad to have you as a customer.

Second, state a specific need for feedback:

We are actively working to improve the way that we communicate with our customers after they visit their healthcare providers.

Give the reader a way to qualify as a relevant participant:

If you’ve had an appointment with your healthcare provider in the last year, we would like to hear from you.

Next, address the impact that the feedback will potentially have (this is a great incentive as well):

Your feedback will help us create a better post-appointment experience for you and for the 300,000 other people in the state of California who use this service.

Express appreciation, and offer a time estimate that is reasonable:

We estimate that it will take 5 minutes to answer a few questions. If you could make the time to help us out, we would greatly appreciate it.

Then offer a call to action, reiterating the painless nature of it and ending on an action note:

To take part in our quick survey, click this link:

You might notice that there were no attempts (“we again invite you”) to find a nicer way to state that this was the second email the reader had received. That’s because it’s not needed.

If this were a different type of message — perhaps a reminder for something where there are consequences for delays — it might be important to emphasize that it was indeed the second message. But for a request to take an optional survey, it’s not necessary (or even appropriate) to take that tone.

The next time you send out a survey, keep in mind that it matters how you phrase the request to take it. It’s a potentially important touchpoint for how you interact with your customers or potential customers.

The message it sends will affect their survey participation rates — and potentially the relationship they have with your company as well.

Photo by Rayi Christian W via unsplash.

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