Surveying customers by email is undoubtedly one of the most popular ways to receive customer feedback.
When talking about Net Promoter Score survey, email is one of the preferred channels as well. That is because NPS usually portrays the perception of a brand as a whole, rather than transactional satisfaction (where CSAT is most widely used).
Often, companies ask their customers to provide feedback again and again, yet all their efforts end up ignored and the response rate stays below 5%. The average response rate of email survey is 24% according to Fluid Surveys. How does one get higher to the golden rate of 30-40%?
Sure, the relationship with the brand and customer experience itself plays a huge role in that. But it also very much depends on the survey design - from both operational and visual perspectives.
We have created a list of 15 tips that will make your NPS email survey response rate go up right away.
1. Keep up to the NPS formula
NPS consists of 2 questions which are: “How likely are you to recommend X to a friend or colleague?” on a scale from 0 to 10 and “Why did you give the score?”
Stick to the standard design, wording, and scale to get the results accurate and actionable.
2. Brand your surveys
It has become a widespread practice to customize the survey template to correspond to the brand assets: brand colors, logos, fonts.
Don’t forget to adjust the communication style to the brand style if needed.
Take a look at these two examples from Apple and Slack.
Both companies are using their logos, neutral colors and brand fonts.
Apple keeps to its brand values of simplicity and adds a product image on the side.
Slack, on the other hand, is known for close friendly relationships with customers and informal style of communication.
3. Personalize the email
Don’t underestimate the power of personalization and the first name. Which of the following questions are you more likely to respond?
Most people would prefer the upper message. No surprise that 74% of marketers say targeted personalization increases customer engagement.
My first advice is… don’t forget it! Surprisingly too many companies forget to ask text feedback from their customers by focusing on a score. Understanding why a customer gives you a particular score is vital for sustainable customer experience management.
“The number is useful, but I can’t act on a number. Somebody gives me a six. Then somebody gives me a two. Then somebody gives me a ten. I don’t know what to do with a number. All of the value in actually improving a given customer’s experience, or even understanding in aggregate, what customers think of our experience, is from the written feedback.“ - shared Michal Redbord, VP of Customer Service at Hubspot, in our recent interview.
5. Don’t add new questions
The more questions you ask - the less likely customers are to finish the survey.
Keep it short. The standard NPS survey consists of 2 questions: “How likely are you to recommend X to a friend or colleague?” and “Why did you give the score?”. These 2 questions are enough to give you a detailed picture of the whole customer experience without over-complicating and loosing on the response rate.
No matter how tempting it might be to add more questions, keep up to a standard when surveying your general audience.
6. Go Mobile-friendly
According to the customer experience statistics, 75% of people complete surveys on their mobile. Test and optimize your survey for mobile. Nothing could be more ironic than a customer that couldn’t leave feedback because of bad user experience.
7. Send from a person
Create a real connection with a customer by sending your NPS email survey from an email of a real employee of the company instead of sending the emails from a ghost mailbox like email@example.com or, even worse, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let’s get back to Slack once more. Their NPS surveys have been sent from an email of CMO, Bill Macaitis. We asked Bill what was his best finding to when sending out NPS emails. That’s what Bill shared:
“I found when you run really generic bad surveys, they sound like a canned robot wrote it. Who would want to answer “Flight 374 requests feedback”? I noticed that unsurprisingly people are not responding much to those. Also, if you write surveys that have 50 questions in it, people generally don't respond to those either.
I learned the best surveys that people respond to are those arriving from a unique person. When we wrote an NPS survey, we would actually say “Hey! This is Bill. I am the CMO from Slack. Your feedback is really important to us and I read every one of your comments.”
8. Schedule according to the customer journey
There are 2 types of NPS surveys:
Transactional NPS is triggered at a particular event (e.g. customer service interaction or use of a new feature) and is sent out immediately. This allows you to find out what people think of the process initially, get fresh and relevant feedback about their feelings after the interaction.
Relationship NPS measures the overall satisfaction and advocacy level of a customer. It is recommended to send the primary survey within 7 to 30 days after the customer subscribed or used your service or product. To track changes in the consumer’s fulfillment, survey them regularly, every 3, 6 or 12 months.
Scheduling times differ by industry and purchase model. The definite guide to survey scheduling by promoter.io goes deep into details on when to send a survey to the customers.
Here’re the basics of survey timing.
If you work in SaaS or have a subscription service model, your schedule might look like:
Initial survey: 15 to 20 days from initial conversion (or if you have a long onboarding process, 30-45 days may be more appropriate).
Second survey: 90 days from the initial survey (consider 180 days if your customers do not engage with your product frequently).
Ongoing survey: Depending on what you decided for your second survey, your ongoing surveying should align and recur every 90 or 180 days moving forward until they are no longer a customer.
If you work in e-commerce or retail:
Initial survey: 5-10 days from their first delivery.
Second survey: 90 days from the initial survey (This assumes there has been at least one purchase after their initial purchase in this time frame. You might also consider creating separate campaigns for ‘frequent’ customers and ‘casual’ customers, increasing the number of days between surveys for the latter).
Ongoing survey: Similar to the survey lifecycle for a SaaS model, your ongoing surveys should automatically recur at the same interval as your second survey as long as the customer remains active in some form.
The timing is different as it reflects the customer journey. Think well before deciding on the final schedules for NPS email survey. If you send surveys too frequently - customers will likely get annoyed and that will hugely impact your response rate. If you send not enough surveys - you will lose data and might not be fast enough to react to a major issue.
9. Understand the Time of the day / Weekday
Knowing the times when your customers are the most active is crucial for effective communication. Find out when your customers are the most likely to open and read your email, test different times and weekdays.
At the same time, the studies say that the best time of the week to send emails is Tuesday at 10 am. Other popular days are Thursday and Wednesday, and most popular times include 8 pm, 2 pm, and 6 am. Note, the time zone should correspond to the majority of your customers’ timezone, or ideally, modern technologies allow scheduling communications based on each person’s timezone individually.
10. Send a Reminder
The lifespan of email is terribly short, which makes following up incredibly useful tool. Follow-up emails are worth the effort. Most emails get lost after 24 hours and if you didn’t hear back then, the best practice is to follow up. If you do, you have a 21% chance of getting a reply to your second email if the first goes unanswered. At Lumoa, we send one reminder in 3 days after the initial survey which has doubles the response rate of our NPS campaign.
11. A/B Test
A/B tests are not only for your marketing or product design team. Use A/B testing wisely to find out the right approach to your customers.
A/B testing can be valuable because different audiences behave, well, differently. Something that works for one company may not necessarily work for another. In fact, conversion rate optimization experts hate the term "best practices" because it may not actually be the best practice for you.
What is A/B test itself? A/B testing or split testing is an experiment where you split the audience into two and more groups and test variables (titles, call-to-action, description, pictures, so on) to see which performs better.
What can you test when sending NPS survey?
Here’re some ideas:
Email subject line
Email sender (account manager vs. marketing manager)
Frequency of survey
Style of message
Incentive / no incentive
Note, before you start testing, you should think through the goals of the test campaign. Determine your sample size and split your groups randomly and equally. Once you have prepared the basics, test the campaign simultaneously. Day of the week or even time of the day can heavily influence the results. Remember you can test only one variable at a time.
Only one thing is constant - testing itself.
12. Don’t ask more than you can process
There is nothing more upsetting than neglected and ignored customer feedback. When a customer leaves feedback, they expect it to be read.
Some companies go through each customer comment, others randomly select a patch of comments and read only through them. I’ve seen companies that even collect feedback, but then just store it in the database without ever touching it. Feedback for the sake of feedback.
Don’t ask for feedback if you know you won’t be able to pay enough attention to the results.
“What should I do if I get 10.000+ customer comments each month? Should I read it all?” - you might ask. Here’s where text analytics technologies utilizing natural language processing (NLP) come into help.
With software, like Lumoa, you can analyze a massive amount of customer feedback in minutes. The software will give you an extensive overview of all the factors that influenced the feedback and will help you to create an action plan including all your customers.
13. Say thank you (individual follow-up)
Say thank you to each customer that has shared their opinion. If you get 20 comments, make sure to reach back to every person individually. If you get 10000 comments, schedule an official follow-up.
Some survey tools allow you to customize the end message depending on the users’ input. If the feedback was positive, then a customer is redirected to a “review us”-page and if it’s negative, the customer is directed to customer service.
Make sure to tag critical feedback and reach out to the unhappiest customers. If they left negative feedback, you should be able to reach out right away.
14. Offer incentive
One of the biggest problems you may face is the low response rate of your survey. Offering an incentive sounds like a win-win, it can be too good to be true. If you’re not careful, your incentive could attract the wrong type of responders who’re there only for the incentive instead of giving you honest feedback.
Check this Guide on Using Survey Incentives to find out the best practice for your company.
15. Follow up (strategic follow-up)
Individual follow up is important to prevent individual churn, but what is even more crucial for business development is to catch the customer churn and encourage customer advocacy on a scale.
Following up on the scale might be an issue if you’re getting thousands of replies. If you can manage to calculate the NPS score by yourself armed with excel, things get tricky when you try to assess all the text feedback. Some companies go through it all manually, translating, reading through and tagging all the comments themselves, some read a random selection of those, and some even ignore the comments completely (we highly recommend not to do that).
If you wonder how modern technologies can help, take a look at text analytics. Text analytics can analyze your feedback and give an overview of the topics that require attention and things most loved by customers.
Bonus: Template for your NPS email
As a bonus, I wanted to share the email that we send to our users.
Here is how we implemented the tips above into our message:
The email starts with the first name greeting
We personalized the text based on the time the user has been with Lumoa (in this case, 30 days)
We use a very friendly voice and communication style
The sender is the account manager of the company, in this case, Carlos, Co-founder of the company, who has been onboarding the users earlier
There’s a reminder follow up email in 3 business days to catch those, who missed our first message
Depending on the reply of the person, the user is directed to “review us” or “contact us” page
If the feedback is very negative, we reach out to the user
Finally, we take all the customer feedback into account when developing our product further.