Published On: Tue, Jul 26th, 2016

The Proper Way to Ask for Customer Feedback,,,


Seth Godin issued a challenge in his blog recently as he questioned how businesses are still collecting user feedback.

“If you live in the US, you might try calling 800-398-0242. That’s the number Fedex Print lists on all their receipts, hoping for customer feedback. It’s hard to imagine a happy customer working her way through all of these menus and buttons and clicks, and harder still to imagine an annoyed customer being happy to do all of this data processing for them.

The alternative is pretty simple: if you’re about to lose a $10,000 customer, put the cell phone number of the regional manager on the receipt. That’s what you and I would do if we owned the place, wouldn’t we?”

Why don’t customers leave feedback?

Honestly, why would they?

This FedEx receipt is roughly the equivalent of saying “Feel free to ______.”

“Feel free to” is a phrase we use to start a sentence with when we’re not really invested in the outcome of the matter at hand. It’s a phrase used by the apathetic.

“Feel free to let me know what you think” doesn’t inspire people to respond. If you’ve been taking this “feel free” approach, the message you’ve really been sending across is “Eh, we could do with or without.”

When you’re essentially mining for free data and insights from your customers, this is actually a pretty rude way to do it. Is it really any wonder response rates are low when they’re asked with such indifference?

You must prove that their feedback – should they choose to give it – will not be thrown into a shoebox and forgotten.

If you really want something as precious as honest customer feedback, you must be proper and intentional. Which brings us to the first point:

1. Know why you’re asking

Repeat after me: asking just “one more” question can hurt. You must know why you’re asking what you’re asking.

Ask only the questions that you’re planning to use.

“If you don’t use the information you’re asking for, you’re wasting your customer’s time. You’re also wasting yours. You’ll have a whole batch of responses to look through and none of them will make a difference. Instead, save time and get better responses, by including only the essential questions,” says Kissmetrics’ Lars Lorgren.

Ask fewer questions. Or even just one.

Delta Airlines administers a one-question customer satisfaction survey at the end of its customer service calls. The question is this: “Based on your interaction, how likely would you be to hire our agent as a customer service representative for your business?” You give an answer on a scale of 1–5.

If all you want to do is measure the overall experience, that one question hits the nail on the head. How many more questions do you really need?

2. Open a conversation

In other words, ask questions that encourage a free flowing response rather than simply a YES/NO or a 3.5 out of 5.

Ask open questions.

“Ask what, not why,” says Claire Lew at Know Your Company. “For example, when you ask, “Do you have any frustrations?” it’s very easy for the person to default and say “no.” But when you ask, “What could be better in the company?” that question assumes that there are things that could be better. It opens the opportunity for someone to provide a more honest answer.”

The Ultimate Guide to Communicating Product Feedback comes with a free feedback template. All the tools you need to get customer feedback heard by your Product team.Download it now.

Ask how often the problem occurs — frequently? not very often? When was the last time it happened? Keep prompting and digging until you hit on a conversation. I end many of my emails with a simple “What do you think?” to invite a response. It’s not only the polite thing to do at the end of what’s essentially a monologue, but it’s a simple and assertive way to request a dialogue.

Squarespace takes a similar approach in its initial request for feedback:


3. Ask the right person the right questions.

But even something as simple as “What do you think?” can be too big a question. Stefano Bernardi at Betable offers the following advice:

Ask about parts, not just the whole.

“If you end your email with: “Can you give me some feedback?” I can guarantee you won’t be getting a ton of responses. Instead, you need to think about the strengths and skills of that person and ask for feedback on something specific, related to those skills.”

Different customers might use your product or service differently and your line of questioning should account for that. Think about the way a journalist interviews people when reporting on a big conference. There might be only one event, but an individual’s experience varies greatly depending on whether they’re handling ticketing, giving a keynote speech or simply attending.

This is how Quora surveys its customers:Quora surveyThis email’s a winner for a couple of reasons:

  • Sent from a real person, not “Quora Customer Service”
  • Narrows the line of questioning to my experience as a writer (not just “how do you like Quora?)
  • Includes why they chose to contact me specifically (“We noticed you recently wrote answers”)

If you don’t have a template of your own, borrow this one!

how to ask for customer feedback

4. Send a personal note of thanks + follow up  (not optional)

What happens when the feedback you received from a customer ends up being incorporated in a product update or a policy change? If the answer is “nothing,” then you’re leaving brownie points on the table. Customers love to know that they were heard.

The simplest, most underutilized engagement opportunity is the personal follow up note.

What a powerful way to make your customers feel closer to you, perhaps even part of your company’s growth story. There should be a B2B jail for those who squander this golden engagement opportunity. Especially because you can follow up easily, no matter the size of your business.

If you’re a small company: shoot a personal email to you every customer who took the time to respond. If their feedback helped you develop or improve something, tell them how instrumental their feedback was to you.

If you’re a bigger company with mass feedback: create a set of tags or labels to categorize feedback from each customer. You can then devise multiple emails – one as a general thank you and the others to announce that their feedback was used to build a new product feature, improve their user experience, etc.

email template to ask for customer feedback

Once, a customer’s feedback proved so valuable that I continued to follow up with her as we developed our new Getting Started Guide:

Hi XXXXXX, I just wanted to drop a quick note to see how you’re doing with Kayako. Meanwhile, we’re finishing up a brand new “Getting Started Guide” that took a lot of inspiration from our chat. I’d love to send it your way and see what you think. Would that be something you’d be interested in? I’m interested to understand whether this guide (or something like it) would save you time while training your new reps. Let me know! Cheers, Nandini

It’s not unlike the short note you’d drop after attending a job interview or a coffee date. Whenever possible, give your customer’s feedback on their feedback. After all, they’re taking time out of their day to tell you why they’re doing business with you (or not).

None of this is earth shatteringly new. Talk to your customers would treat your clients at a small agency. You’d reply to a client’s feedback, wouldn’t you?


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