Subscribers have always been able to reply to any email and send a message directly to my personal email address. However, this invitation substantially increased the number of people who actually emailed me.
It's not everyone. (Thankfully—I don't know if I could keep up!) But a couple times a day I get an email from a new subscriber who tells me a little about themselves.
It helps me learn more about them and I often try to share something helpful in response. I've also learned those subscribers are more likely to share their feedback as they begin to receive the weekly tips.
Discussion Question: How can you invite individual customers to engage in a one-on-one conversation?
Catalog Unstructured Data
Something really amazing happens when you take all those individual conversations you have with customers and categorize them.
I went through hundreds of emails from subscribers and categorized the customer service challenges they shared with me. When I decided to put my weekly tips in a book, I put the top ten challenges in a chart and identified tips that could help with each one.
Going through several hundred emails may seem like a lot of work, but it really doesn't take that much time. I probably spent an hour or so.
It goes even faster if you catalog feedback from individual customers as it comes in. A lot of customer service software platforms have a tagging feature that allows agents to do this on the fly. If your technology won't do it, you can have agents use a spreadsheet or even a piece of paper.
Discussion Question: How can you capture and analyze unstructured data?
Be a Customer
I learn a lot by subscribing to my own email.
This was a trick I learned from working in the catalog industry. Catalog companies would mail themselves a copy of each catalog so they could time how long it took to arrive and could verify each catalog arrived in good condition.
Subscribing to my own email allows me to do something similar.
For example, the Customer Service Tip of the Week goes out each Monday at 8:45 am Pacific time. One week, the email didn't arrive as expected. I double-checked the system and discovered I had set that particular email for 8:45 pm.
Oops! Fortunately, I was able to quickly change the send time and the email went out only a few minutes later than normal.
Discussion Question: What can you learn from being your own customer?
This post is a bit longer than normal, so here are all the discussion questions in one spot:
What process do you have in place to allow your frontline agents to resolve or report problems?
What do frontline employees do when they encounter a strange or unusual problem?
How can you invite individual customers to engage in a one-on-one conversation?
How can you capture and analyze unstructured data?
What can you learn from being your own customer?
All of these questions can yield terrific customer feedback without ever resorting to a survey! Best of all, the feedback you get from these sources can often be quickly used to make improvements.
You can get five more survey alternatives from this old post.
And, if you really want to use a survey, my course on LinkedIn Learning can guide you. Here's a short preview.