Letting Customers Talk Back

Webster’s defines communication as “a giving or exchanging of information, messages, etc.” Meaning back and forth. Two-way. At least that’s the way it’s meant to be.

Unfortunately, we marketers are so focused on “getting the word out” that we often lose sight of the bigger picture. In other words, our communications leave little room for that all-important dialogue with our most valuable of assets – our customers.

Take a look at your latest email marketing efforts, where you have the perfect opportunity to gently solicit some powerful customer feedback. Do you give folks a chance to ask questions? Make comments?

Sure, maybe you give them the option to unsubscribe (a type of feedback, unwanted though it may be). But wouldn’t you rather discover what’s moved them to unsubscribe so you can attempt to keep them on your file?

There are several ways you can address this without losing any momentum in your sales process:

  • Provide customers and prospects with a place or a way to get their questions answered.
  • Implement a system in which you can demonstrate your concern for their overall satisfaction, while giving them a means for feedback.
  • Go back to that good old standby, the customer survey.

Best of all, you can provide all of the above online… beginning with your email messages.

Creating an effective customer dialogue can be as simple as offering a link toward the end of your promotion that follows a generic “Question? Click here” format. The link can then take the customers to a pre-addressed blank email in which they can pose their questions.

OR the link can direct folks to an FAQ page on your site, which could drastically reduce the number of email inquiries your company receives. This FAQ page can ask (and answer) the most popular questions immediately. And, for those tougher customers, it can pose a slew of question topics, each of which is linked to a trained customer service rep who is an expert on a particular topic.

In any event, just keep in mind that when you receive live emailed questions, you need to respond within 24 hours, at the most. IF you want ANY kind of customer exchange in the future, that is.

To help prepare for the onslaught (so you can respond promptly), test a small portion of your file beforehand to determine an approximate ratio of inquiries to emails… then staff accordingly.

Another method to open up a dialogue with your customers: Give them the opportunity to send you feedback.

Take a look at Amazon. For customers who make a purchase, Amazon sends out an email confirming the order, pricing, etc. Also within that initial email, the customer is given the opportunity to cancel or change the order… as well as the ability to send further questions to Amazon’s order department.

A day or so after the confirmation email goes out, Amazon sends out a “Your Order Has Been Shipped” message, alerting the customer that the package is on its way. At this point, once again Amazon gives the customer the chance to either call or email a specific question regarding his or her order.

A few dot-coms are even taking it a step further by emailing the customer after the order’s estimated arrival date and asking for feedback on the product and/or the ordering process.

Finally, if you don’t want to employ one of the methods above, you can always resort to the tried-and-true: a detailed (though not overly so) customer survey.

One way would be to simply send your existing house file an email message, which would link them to a web-based survey. This survey should give them plenty of opportunity to rave and vent. It goes without saying that these insights should shed some valuable light on how effective you are at creating a satisfactory customer experience – from the initial marketing effort to the final sale.

Word of caution: Just remember that there is a risk in creating too much dialogue. After all, you certainly don’t want to bombard your customers with unnecessary emails. You simply want to give them the podium, so to speak, to let you know what you’re doing right… and wrong. Only good things can come out of THAT type of communication. The trick is you have to LISTEN.

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