Enhance your email experience with customer feedback

Leonie Jonker from Paula’s Choice Skincare Europe opened her talk with a message for marketers: Email metrics don’t say it all. Open rates only offer limited insight: How do your customers actually feel about your campaigns? Customer service feedback is a good way to check what customers say, but it’s usually not very structured feedback, and may not be regular. Certainly, some level of sentiment can be gained from unsubscribe rates and online surveys, but there is much more to be gained from direct and structured customer feedback. Jonker pointed out that she is not an official spokesperson for Paula’s Choice and the presentation was informed by on her own experience and interpretation. 

Developing customer experience through listening

According to Jonker, 70% of companies that deliver best in class customer experience use customer feedback. She is convinced that not only is collecting direct customer feedback critical for companies to execute their strategy: feedback is also the building block for creating the strategy to begin with.

Customer experience starts with listening to what your customers have to say. And here, the email marketer has a big influence in customer contact. Email marketing is the most responsive tool in the marketer’s toolkit, according to Jonker – the next best thing to being able to communicate face-to-face with a customer or a potential customer. One advantage that email has over other channels is that the message will still be there for the recipient, even if the recipient was offline at the time it was sent. Email is also highly suitable for feedback: It is immediate, trackable, testable, iterative, and personal. As a result, customer feedback through email gives companies a competitive advantage.

With a history in offline marketing, Leonie Jonker has a clear understanding of the benefits of the immediacy of feedback via email. She provided an example to illustrate the power of feedback for the success of a campaign. In one case, on receiving the email, a subscriber immediately contacted the company to say that none of the links were working. The problem could be fixed in the ESP and not only was the rest of the delivery was saved, but this specific conversion was also saved.

She reiterated that metrics don’t tell the whole story. A metric like an open rate may look good, but the experience of the customer may be different. She gave the example of a a birthday campaign, which had always had good open rates. When they added a feedback option, the feedback showed customer dissatisfaction, because the discount code expired too fast. As a consequence, the company gave people more time to redeem their gift, and customers almost never comment negatively on birthday campaigns anymore.

Why use feedback mechanisms?

Jonker explained that Paula’s Choice sends email across Europe to subscribers in over 20 different countries, and there are observable differences in behaviour and engagement. However, again, the metrics do not provide insight into the causes of these differences. Feedback provided more insights and qualitative data to dive deeper into understanding customer reactions and behavior.

She provided the following list of advantages of gaining customer feedback:

  • Understand needs of customers & subscribers
  • Improve communication & customer experience
  • Differences in engagement between countries
  • Understand what lies behind the metrics
  • Build trust & relationships, not only generate sales 
  • Easy feedback on Customer Care advice conversations    

She then went on to illustrate how a feedback flow works: The first question is in the email. The recipient clicks on their answer in the email and is taken through to the survey form, where they can leave an extra comment. The customer hits the send button and returns to the email or potentially to a specific landing page. She illustrated the four types of feedback mechanisms she uses:

Email satisfaction | Monitoring different campaigns

Getting a basic “sentiment score” through a simple pos/neg feedback mechanism (e.g. thumbs up/thumbs down); this can be used for all promotional and content emails, for example. It allows the company to compare content to sales metrics to segment customers and find the balance that works. Feedback can also be used to improve design – she gave an example of a VIP shopping night invitation, where the sentiment score rose from 2.0 to 9.0 as a result of implementing feedback into the design.

In-email content | Feedback about a specific part of the campaign

This enables feedback about a specific item in a larger email, also with simple pos/neg feedback option. It can include a question about content relevance, content clarity, or purchase intention.

Customer journeys | Feedback about a process or journey

Such feedback is an opportunity to work together with customer care, with questions like: Do you have a question for our experts? – Questions like this can lead to insights into how experienced the customers are with the topic and what kind of advice they need, and provides an easy way for the customer to get in touch with people who can help. Jonker explained that the company has seen strong conversion rates based on this message and the cooperation with customer care.

Customer relationships | Feedback about the brand/company

This provides insights into the relationship between customers and the brand. Combined with a referral program, such feedback makes it easy to see who your promoters are; these can then be offered the chance to join a rewards program. It is also an opportunity to get in contact with inactive customers: Is there anything preventing you from placing an order? Within 24 hours of activating this message, Paula’s Choice had received 200 responses – the insights are helping the company to work on reactivating these customers.

The feedback mechanism allows a brand to get to know its customers better. It can allow a brand to find out whether there are issues, and makes it possible to follow up. This leads to better customer care, and insights into the kind of content customers prefer. According to Jonker, it’s vital to work together with other teams within the company, starting with customer care. The results of implementing email customer feedback include:

  • Improving Sentiment scores for regular email campaigns
  • Improving email conversion rates and share of the total conversion rate
  • Measurable customer care
  • More guidance and information for customers
  • Converting negative experience to positive experience
  • Measurement of customer experience
  • Qualitative data  

Leoni Jonker concluded by saying that the secret – the real magic – is designing processes around feedback, and making the most of feedback. Feedback offers the chance to convert a negative customer experience into a positive one. Asking feedback shows you care. Following up with improvement shows you really care.