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Fostering a dialogue with customers, in 3 steps

E-mailing customers post-purchase with a receipt is part and parcel of running an online business. But many businesses miss golden opportunities for both repeat custom and new customers by not following up thereafter. With the right communication and clever timing, a business can start to create a kind of dialogue with customers and see engagement with them increase. How? Here are 3 steps you can follow:

1. Follow up an email receipt two weeks later with a feedback form             

There is very little advantage in adding a feedback form to the initial e-mail receipt, as the customer would not have received the goods, and is very unlikely to go back to it when they do. Waiting until the goods have arrived means that the customer is much more likely to leave feedback. Companies like Trust Pilot, Reevoo, Feefo and Reviews all offer the chance to gain simple feedback to varying degrees of structure. While these solutions certainly help a company's online appearance and give companies an overall feel for their performance, they aren't a substitute for gaining more structured feedback, which digs into specific aspects of the shopping experience.

Sending customers a structured but short feedback survey two weeks later has advantages for both the customer and the business if handled correctly. Businesses get fresh feedback on how the customer found the shopping experience with them, while customers could be offered an incentive for completing the survey.

Asking to complete such a survey show that as a business, it is interested in the experience of its customers. Small gestures such as this can go a long way to influence customers especially if they're followed up on. If a customer has a good experience with a business and feel valued afterwards, then they are more likely to recommend that business to family and friends either via word-of-mouth or on social networks.

2. Thank those customers who did complete the feedback survey

Sending a thank you email will provoke further customer engagement. A business is able to use this opportunity to ask those customers who left positive feedback to recommend the business to their friends and family. Those who may have left some negative feedback can also be addressed, advising them that their feedback has been noted, and that it will be acted upon where possible. Not only does this allow a business to rectify any issues, it also allows the business to adapt to its customer’s requirements by acquiring customer insight.

It can be tricky to pinpoint individual customers who've completed surveys, so feel free to get in touch with us to discuss the best ways to do this.

3. Create dialogue with customers via social network sites

A few businesses may shy away from inviting feedback through social network sites. It can leave them open to publicising criticism from their customers. On the flip side using these social network accounts for the purposes of social CRM shows both current and new customers that the business is ready to listen. This creates an openness between the customer and the business that can develop into a long-term relationship. Of course there will be customers who may feel that they have been treated unfairly, and will address this publicly via social media. Businesses can use this criticism to their advantage by dealing it with it promptly and giving that customer a solution sooner rather than later. Not only will this show the customer that the business is able to rectify any issues, it also shows other customers how you're willing to resolve issues. This will result in both the customer and any other readers of the complaint seeing an effective business respond to its customer’s needs.

It is also important that customers are able to communicate with a business in their preferred manner. For example, if a customer posts an enquiry on the social network site, ensure the query is dealt with in the same place. Advising customers to then send an email makes the social media account look unnecessary, and create a lack of trust between a business and its customers. Having a choice of platforms for a customer to contact a company allows a business to gain customer insight.