Email Subject Lines that Drive Customer Feedback Survey Responses


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Before a customer can complete your meticulously developed customer feedback survey, they need to open the email invitation. You have precious few seconds to prevent their finger jabbing at the delete key and your subject line is your first defence. So make it a good one.

There is lots research into what drives higher general email open rates and we can leverage this to make sure that we can maximize the open rates of our client surveys. So let’s take a look.

Words to Avoid

It’s pretty commonly known that you want to avoid looking spammy in a customer’s inbox. To that end we’ve been told to avoid words like “free” and hype like ALL CAPITALS and “!!!”.

What has not been so clear is that, in the right context, that advice might not be so good. “Free” is no longer the highway to the junk mail folder that it used to be and in fact there are some words you probably are using that you need to avoid.

For example, you should not use any of the following:

  1. Help
  2. Percent Off
  3. Reminder

So the first to go in the customer survey subject line reject bin is:

“Reminder to complete our survey”

Also in that bin is anything where you are asking for help from the recipient. Does this look familiar?

“Help us improve our customer service”

Okay so “Help” is out but there is another problem in that subject line. Can you see it?

It’s All About Me

We all like to think we are altruistic and give to the common good but when it comes down to it WIIFM* rules supreme. That last subject line has nothing in it for the recipient. It’s all about the company.

Your subject line needs to have something in it for the recipient so they will want to open it and take the time to complete your survey.

Be Specific

These days people are not out looking for more emails to read. They are trying to eliminate the emails they don’t need as quickly as possible.

Subject lines that are “creative” or too clever require too much mental power. In those couple of seconds often it’s easier just to delete than try to work out what the heck is under that cool and wacky subject line you spent hours devising.

No need to believe me, there are stats. A couple of years ago Aweber released a report that shows that a clear subject line gets 541% more clicks than one that’s clever.

In this vein, your feedback survey invite subject line you should let respondents know how long the survey will actually take them but remember to be honest.

People are often looking to be able to cross easy things off their list. So put yourself at the top of that list.

If you tell them “this task will take 3 minutes, it’s easy and you can cross it off your list” people will be more likely open and respond.

Length of the Subject Line

There is lots of research that shows that generally shorter subject lines have higher open rates. This is even more important as the shift to mobile devices means that sometimes the full subject line can’t be read in scrolling mode.

The general advice is to use subject lines up to 50 characters.

From Address

The From address can be very important in driving open rates. Generally our advice is to have the invite come from a real person. Don’t send it from an impersonal (and non-branded) “Customer Service” group.

Balanced with that is that your brand or company name will also be important in the open/delete decision so you need to ensure that you get that information into the respondent’s view quickly and effectively.

Avoid These Items Generally

Over at CopyHackers they have done some additional testing which shows what you should also avoid:

  • Beginning with “how-to”
  • Suggesting un-fun work, such as “comparative analysis”
  • Being vague
  • Being cheeky with no substance

Cheat Sheet of Survey Invites Subject Lines

I’ve talked a lot about the elements so let’s put it all together.

Here is a range of best practice subject lines that met the rules outlined here. You can use them straight out of the box or tweak them to your own needs:

Subject Lines
John Smith (Acme Co) 3 minute survey on your recent purchase
John Smith [Acme Co] 3 minute survey on your recent purchase
John Smith (Acme Co) Tell us what you think – 3 minute survey
John Smith [Acme Co] How was our service – 3 minute survey
John Smith (Acme Co) How was our service – Only 5 questions, we promise
John Smith (Acme Co) Your recent purchase – 5 questions = 3 minutes

Yes these are a tad boring but they work. Would you rather be effective or creative? Personally I’ll always stump for effective.

*WIIFM: What’s In It For Me.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


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