Learning From Your Relationships

Written by Account Executive, Kim Chapman

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When I unsubscribe from a company’s email list, sometimes I just receive a short farewell, and then they let me go. But other times, I receive a little more attentiveness and am asked for some feedback; possibly even the opportunity to give their emails another chance.

Reasons for unsubscribing are varied. Maybe the customer just wasn’t interested. Or maybe it was something else; something the company could have done differently.

It’s like a romantic relationship. If you don’t get any closure, you may miss an opportunity to learn something important from your customers.

Gaining closure can be as easy as letting your customers choose why they unsubscribed – in the form of multiple choice options.

If feedback indicates a customer wasn’t right for you, the only real takeaway is knowing you can now focus email efforts on more relevant customers. But when the feedback indicates something else, there may be more useful takeaways.

According to a study* conducted by Epsilon, some of the main reasons for customer unsubscribes are as follows:

– The content was irrelevant (64%)

– They were receiving too many emails (60%)

– They thought their address was being shared/sold (40%)

– They had privacy concerns (33%)

If a company is sending 1 email per week, they might try offering their “potential ex” the option of downgrading their email frequency to something like twice or once a month, instead of losing them forever.

(Side note: whether a customer REALLY receives too many emails is debatable. For more on this, check out one of my previous posts.)

The 3rd and 4th unsubscribe reasons (definitely good feedback for a company to have) might be easily fixed by making a company’s privacy policy more visible within the email. Don’t skimp on putting some real thought into your multiple choice options. The more discerning, the more insight it may reveal.

In addition to multiple choice, giving customers the room to write comments may provide additional value. For instance, what if you find out that they are having trouble viewing your emails, or that the offers weren’t as good as they expected?

Now, some customers may think that “exit surveys” are intrusive and annoying. And, they can be. So here’s a tip. Don’t be annoying. Don’t talk to your customer like they are indecisive or didn’t know what they were doing. “Are you sure you want to unsubscribe? Or did you click the unsubscribe link by mistake??” And don’t make them jump through hoops to unsubscribe. That’s actually against CAN-SPAM rules.

What’s the smarter way to go about it? It’s important to acknowledge the customer’s wish to leave. Let them know that you are listening. Then, gently (not forcefully) give them the option to provide feedback. This feedback should be OPTIONAL, hence why I’m calling it an option.

Collecting feedback is easy, and does not take a lot of time to set up. And you never know; you may receive some interesting information that will help you service your customers better.

* Epsilon, “Inside the Inbox: Trends for the Multichannel Marketer.” June, 2009. Download PDF (accessed 18 August, 2010).