I was asked to complete a survey about Azure. I didn’t.

At Moov2, our go to cloud hosting solution tends to be Azure. For a small company we pay a relatively large amount of money to Microsoft for the service and more often than not encourage clients to do the same. I just received this email:

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I think this survey is supposed to make me feel special for being invited. It doesn’t. I did what I’m fairly sure I recently wrote isn’t a constructive thing to do and ranted about it on Twitter:

What was an opportunity to gain real customer insight and increase customer buy-in has actually had the opposite effect. I took issue with a multi-billion dollar company, who I pay money to, asking for my time and input under the guise that it’s for my own benefit. There is really nothing personal about this interaction despite the token effort to be signed off by someone, who I had no idea who they were until I just looked it up.

I’m calling out Azure specifically here but that’s just the misfortune of timing, this is a pretty typical process and one I’ve done (on a much smaller scale) myself. But I felt bad for just ranting and not thinking about what might be a better approach to this. I do believe customer feedback is important and I do understand Azure is a massive, global product with a huge customer base. So what might be a better approach?

Value my time

Show me some appreciation for completing your feedback. Credit me some actual amount from my hosting bill. Offering me a token amount will mean a lot more for a small business like mine than a megacorp like yours so how about a bit of quid pro quo?

Make it relevant

There is barely any effort here to make this feel like a personal interaction. The email smacks of coming from a mass mailing system, there is nothing that even tries to demonstrate knowledge of how I might use the service and offers me no context that might make me feel my feedback is wanted. Show me an understanding of my usage of your service: “You’re currently running N applications and have been since dd/mm/yyyy, let us know how these are working for you…”

Make it personal

Even though the email appears to be from a named person, the email address is from “noreply@azureemail.microsoft.com”. You’re literally telling me not to reply to your request for feedback. I’d much rather receive an email from someone lower down the food chain who actually does have the time to read and respond to my feedback rather than a very thin facade of someone more senior who has actually no intention of interacting with me.

Actually speak to me

Yes a mass mailing can be sent to hundreds of thousands of people which might seem desireable, but the likely response rate will be tiny. Clickthrough rates for email campaigns for “Computers and Electronics” is only 2.32% (source). Even for the best performing campaigns only very few are going to open, click and then complete your survey. After this, how many of those responses are going to contain real valuable data? There are going to be a lot of ill-considered, knee-jerk or rushed responses and even some straight up false ones. The value of the exercise is diminishing rapidly. I would argue it’s diminished far enough to warrant actually just assigning resource to pick up the phone and call a sample of your customers. An opportunity to appear genuinely interested and gain some real, considered feedback with opportunity to discuss in more detail.

Show me I can make a positive difference

Highlight to me exactly how my feedback will make a difference. A vague statement of “we need your feedback” instils zero faith that anything I say is going to actually be acted upon or make the slightest bit of difference. Show me examples of what has been done before based on customer feedback. Show me how I can register my interest in aspects of my feedback so I might know when change has been enacted. Don’t just give me a black hole where I don’t even know if my feedback has been looked at.

I’m no expert and these are just some initial thoughts off the top of my head about how to gain some more valuable feedback rather than defaulting to the same old tricks. Let me know if you have any other ideas on Twitter.

#adventblogging post 15 of 24 see the rest.