Use Email To Connect With Customers

“At first, I was skeptical about the feedback program.
Now that I’ve been doing this for a few weeks, I am amazed at
1) how easy it is to make the program work and
2) how few companies (large and small) take advantage of something so simple.”

— Warren Sukernek, President, Oriac Design Corporation

Last month we began work with a new client, Oriac Design ( Oriac is a Boston based catalog retailer selling designer furniture and accessories.

Among other things, our work with Oriac involves developing a systematic approach for reaching out to Oriac customers on a regular basis. Our goal is to generate more business and more referrals from Oriac’s existing base of satisfied customers.

Yesterday, Warren Sukernek forwarded four customer emails to me that he received in response to the feedback email program that we recently began (the program involves Warren proactively asking customers to tell him about their experiences with Oriac). Excerpts from these emails are included below.

Email #1. From a satisfied customer:

“I was extremely impressed by your follow up message. It’s amazing how good service and proper use of available technology add up to a successful business. I will most likely order from you in the future!”

Email #2. From a customer who thought the Oriac web site was too slow, and who had some suggestions on how to fix it:

“I’ve visited a couple of sites lately that use a horizontal scrolling technique that is really user friendly and loads quickly. Check to see what I’m talking about. . . Thanks for asking, and I hope this helps.”

Email #3. From another satisfied customer:

“I had no problems with the ordering experience, and am wearing with beaming pride my very cool Max René watch. Thank you for asking — not enough people ever do.”

Email #4. From a customer who sent three emails back and forth to Warren (one of which was a page long), complaining that Oriac’s prices were too high:

“. . I strongly believe that the pricing for about 95% of the items is way out of line. . . take care and I wish you the best of luck with your business.”

Here’s what I want you to notice about these emails:

• The Tone. Everybody — even those who wrote back to state their dissatisfaction with specific aspects of the business or the experience — was grateful for being asked their opinion. In the same breath that they complain, these people are wishing Oriac good luck and helping to solve the very problems that they’ve pointed out. When was the last time one of your customers wished you good luck in your business, particularly one who thinks you charge too much??!!

• The Conversational Nature. These emails read as if the people are speaking directly to Warren. Unlike letters to the company (which are polished), these are raw, unguarded thoughts. Oriac’s president now has access to what his customers think without ever leaving his office. Short of enduring a two hour focus group, I have never found another medium that gives management such a direct connection to the voice of its customers.

• The Information Provided. Among other things, Warren now knows that the site may have a speed problem; that the price/value relationship for some customers may be out of line; and that the Max René watches may be cool. Is it statistically valid information? No way. But neither is a focus group and neither is reading the Wall Street Journal everyday. But like these other sources of information, customer emails provide data points that Warren can now pay attention to and attempt to prove or disprove through other means.

• The Lack Of Technology Required. Oriac doesn’t have a high end CRM (Customer Relationship Management) solution in place. They’re not sending out HTML-formatted, computer generated customer surveys. All they are doing is sending carefully worded, plain text emails and seeing who answers. IF U CAN READ THIS NEWSLETTER, you’ve got the technology you need to begin doing this with your customers TODAY.

• The Relationships. The people who sent these emails back to Warren are now fans of Oriac. As you read the words you can actually feel them rooting for the company to prosper. Some of them were already fans sure, but others — the two customers with complaints — were starting down the road to going elsewhere. Given that Oriac’s acquisition costs are over $100 per customer, this email approach is a very inexpensive way for Oriac to leverage the investment it has already made in creating these relationships and holding onto its customers.

Bottom Line: Customers want you to ask them what they think. And thanks to email, in the process of capturing this priceless information, you can solidify your relationship with them. This leads to more sales, more referrals, less expense and less customer turnover.

So here’s my question for you: If you are not spending part of every day proactively interacting with your customers, what are you doing instead that’s more important?

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