Want to know what your customers think? Ask them.

Shutterstock_34765378 If we're honest, we'd admit that we make assumptions about our customers every day.  First we wonder something.  "I wonder why Tuesdays are so slow," or "we sure seem to get a lot of calls at 4:30 trying to schedule service," or in my case…when someone unsubscribes from the blog, "I wonder why they're leaving."

After we wonder something, we make an assumption. Or a series of them.

It might be perfectly accurate but we all know about the ASS + U + ME joke.  And most important, we don't really know.   We think we know but we aren't sure.  That's a tough place to use as a springboard for new decisions.

But the truth of the matter is, we rarely ask.  Probably lots of reasons why, but for whatever reason, we don't.  

I've been writing this blog for almost 3 years.  And every month, a small handful of people unsubscribe.  It's never been very many and fortunately, more come than leave.  But none the less, it bugs me.  I wonder what I could/should do different.  I worry about the content mix.  I fret about frequency.  But I never asked.

A couple months ago, I drafted a very short few paragraphs that looks like this:

I’m sorry to see that you’ve decided to unsubscribe to Drew’s Marketing Minute.  I am constantly trying to hone the blog and make it as valuable as possible to my readers

Would you mind taking 15 seconds just to tell me why the blog wasn’t meeting your needs?

Was it..

  • That you decided to subscribe via RSS feed reader instead
  • The content wasn’t interesting to you
  • You got too many posts a week
  • Not enough content
  • Something else?

I sincerely appreciate you giving the blog a try and wish you continued success.  Thanks for taking the time to help me improve Drew’s Marketing Minute.

Now, every time I get an unsubscribe notice (e-mail subscriptions only, no way to know with RSS) I send them that little note.  So figure I have sent 10 or so of them so far.  Here's some interesting (albeit unscientific) results:

  • Almost everyone writes back
  • About 50% were switching to RSS readers
  • About 30% were trying to quiet their information overload and my blog didn't make their cut (they said it with more tact)
  • A few subscribed for a short-term need like a class or a project at work
  • A few thought I posted too often
  • And one guy gave me an insight I would have never gotten elsewhere

The insight was…."I'm a skimmer and because your subject line is always just the name of your blog, I can't determine if I want to read it or not."

That got me to wondering if I could get my titles to appear in the subject line.  I went to Feedburner and just a couple months ago, they'd added that functionality and I hadn't heard about it.  Naturally, I've added it.

Thanks to the subscribers who have decided to leave (btw, I never try to talk them into staying, I just thank them for taking the time to respond.) my blog is better for those who are staying.

Imagine, over time, that I will get 50 or 100 people's feedback.  And with each one, learn a little something more about my readers.  All because I asked.  (I'm always open to feedback….you don't have to unsubscribe to shoot me an e-mail with suggestions, thoughts, likes or dislikes!)

What question should you be asking your customers that you haven't taken the time or made the effort to ask? 

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com

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9 comments on “Want to know what your customers think? Ask them.

  1. Sometimes it is the simplest of things that escape the brightest people in business. I’m still having trouble wrapping my head around why more people don’t realize that their customers are an invaluable resource. All you have to do is take your head from out of the sand and listen…

  2. Stuart,

    Yes…but sometimes the stories we tell ourselves are less scary. Good business decision? Of course not. But, as human beings sometimes we react in our more base interests.

    I don’t disagree with you at all. But I have to look in the mirror and wonder why it took me more than 2 years to start asking a very obvious question. Human failing, I guess.


  3. Gayle Welter says:

    Drew –
    As always,you’ve demonstrated how to take a great concept and put into action. The other thing that strikes me about this post is that when any of us assume, we are actually taking the lazy/easy way out. This was a good reminder that even one comment or reply can be well worth it if you ask the right question.

  4. Asking customers is something I’ve done on behalf of clients since I started consulting. And I remain amazed after all these years at how consistently I am able to get such great information.

  5. Gayle,

    Agreed on the lazy way out. We just assume. In a day and age where we are being asked to do more with less, a few simple questions could lead to success like we haven’t begun to imagine.

    I can’t imagine ever asking a question and not learning something useful. Makes me wonder why we so often opt not to.


  6. Hamilton,

    What do you think is the secret of your ability to get people to be so forthcoming?


  7. And….you get brownie points just for asking. Even if you don’t learn anything new (and you always do) it’s worth the effort for that reason.


  8. Hey Drew, I agree with you. I am a freelance writer and I used to just keep my head down and writing all the time… I always wanted to ask my clients for feedback but honestly I was somewhat scared. Then I took this daring step, and the tips that my client gave me, changed everything. After that I always listen to my clients and do as they say 😉

    1. It takes some courage but the insights are well worth it!


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