Ask the Fulfillment Doctor:

Question: I’m looking for a low-cost way to sample my customer service. What would you suggest?

Answer: By far the easiest, cheapest, and fastest way I know to sample customer service is to insert a prepaid customer survey card in every outbound package. Prepaid means that you only pay the USPS when customers actually mail back the survey card (card rates can run as low as 21.9 cents with bulk discounts). Since the card is a self-mailer, it doesn’t require a stamp or an envelope. Another advantage: The survey can be changed quickly without huge expense.

Several of our clients have used prepaid survey cards over the years. They get anywhere from 10% to 22% returned. Some businesses ask “What new products or services should we offer?” and have gotten a flow of good product ideas.

Prepaid cards, however, won’t give you statistically based answers but they do provide a gauge of customer service. The customers who return the prepaid surveys are probably at the extremes—those whose orders you really messed up, or your most enthusiastic customers.

You must apply for a permit and pay the associated fees to qualify to use prepaid customer service or business reply mail. The general USPS rates and regulations for business reply mail and an overview of card specifications are at the following link:

If a customer gave you just one minute of her time, what would you ask about your service? Here are some suggestions:

  • How was our phone service (friendly, knowledgeable, efficient)?
  • If you used our Website, did you find what you were looking for?
  • How well did we fill your order (delivery time as promised, in good condition)?
  • What additional products or services are you looking for?
  • Will you shop with us again? Yes or no.

Make the card design simple so customers can quickly mark answer boxes (for example, provide very good, acceptable, and poor as response choices). Include a blank line so customers can write in comments—this eliminates the need to make the survey too involved with too many answer choices.

For management, summarize the responses from these cards monthly: for employee feedback, post them in the contact center and the fulfillment center.

Other dos and don’ts for survey postcards:

  • Do thank customers for their orders. Ask them to take a minute and tell you how well you served them.
  • Do keep it easy when a customer first scans the card, is it simple enough that she can answer in one minute.
  • Don’t poke into privacy questions, as some “customer surveys” masked as warranty cards do (asking for income, demographics, etc.). Customers probably aren’t going to tell you anyway.
  • Do ask for a customer’s name, phone number, and e-mail address so if follow-up is warranted you can contact her.

Don’t forget to thank customers for their time.

Curt Barry is president of F. Curtis Barry & Co., a Richmond, VA-based based consultancy specializing in contact center and order fulfillment strategies, e-commerce platform and order management systems selection and implementation.

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