March 25, 2019

ALWAYS reply to feedback emails.

Bart Boch @BartBoch

A while ago I have received an email asking to sign-up to a startup and feedback if I won't do it. I have got 3 automated emails like that, and I said - OK, the emails are well crafted, I might give them a bit of feedback despite my limited time. I spent ~30 minutes checking their offer, content and writing a long email. I have highlighted what I like, what could be improved and no bs reason why I will not sign up at this time (nothing offensive - their pricing is "off" for me). I have been very honest with them as we all know honest feedback goes the extra mile.

I have never received a reply, no thanks, no nothing.
This raises all kind of red flags for me.

This should be one of the core rules of a founder - always respond to feedback emails!

  1. 3

    It's actually written into our company ethos and operating procedures that all correspondence gets a reply within one business working day. It's drilled into any freelancer that works for us.

    It's simply rude to not reply to correspondence - even if the answer is a simple "no".

    OK - we don't bother with obvious spam - but it is pretty rare to receive it.

    I'm pretty sure I got that from How to Win Friends and Influence People.

  2. 3

    May I add, always try to reply as fast as you’ve read it.

    Most of the users who wrote me and whom I wrote back within an hour were very thankful for swift reply.

  3. 2

    I definitely try to do this. Although there are a few different modes I get in:

    1. Wow this e-mail feels like someone found a huge list (on IH/Reddit/whatever) and spammed everyone. -> Mark as SPAM.
    2. This e-mail feels cold and like they're a large enough org that my feedback isn't necessary. -> Reply if I have the time.
    3. This feels like they personally reached out to me and my feedback will be very useful to them. -> Almost guaranteed reply.

    I'm not a marketer, but from my own experience, if you're trying to get feedback from someone in the early days of your project, I think you should make it personal! Cut through the jargon, remove any pretensions of being a large org for now, and be direct: "Hi <name>, I'm Andrew from Blah, and I was wondering if you could take a few minutes to <...>. Just reply to this e-mail and I'll let you know once I've read it :) Thanks!" Subject line is equally important. My guess is, despite the desire to sound overly professional, the more personal "Hey, I would love your feedback" (I hate using "I" in copy/talk of my products haha) is much more effective.

  4. 1

    Can you please clarify:

    • When did you receive the email?
    • When did you respond to it?
    • How long has it been?

    I'm trying to get a sense of timeline to understand if your concern is realistic. As a founder I would never commit to this or call it a "core rule." Founders are constantly triaging issues of importance. Oftentimes there are 5 important things and 20 semi-important things and you can only do 3 of them in total. If that founder is in that situation and responding to a non-user isn't the most important thing, they are misusing their time and that is a bigger "red flag."

    1. 1

      I disagree. I have run a company with 80+ contractors/employees, and I always found time to reply within 2-3 days. In extremely busy times I would just reply "Hi, thanks for the email. I am totally flooded with work, and I don't want to reply without taking some time to process what you have written, so allow me a few days to get things in order before I will reply you. Thanks!".
      I would then forward the email to myself and put it in a proper folder.

      You can get 20-30 emails sorted this way within a few minutes each day. And a lot of people are grateful for the reply.

      To answer your questions:
      -it seems we have passed 13 days today with no answer

      I understand prioritization of the time, but the founders need to remember, that they have what they have thanks to the regular and potential users.

      This company violated my email box with automated emails and then asked for my time. I provided my time to them out of good will and they ignored me. I am a founder too, and my time is really limited. So I don't really see how this is 'bigger "red flag."'

      This tells me something about this company culture.

      1. 1

        TBH i'd question your own time management and prioritization if you respond to every email you get. But perhaps our inbox flow is at a different scale and I envy a more simple time when that was possible. At Google I coached my employees to treat their inboxes as a flowing river from which they'd occasionally catch fish, rather than a to-do list of other people's agendas.

        1. 1

          I find it as a courtesy. Sending email I mentioned above takes just a moment and creates an initial connection. I am happy with inbox at "0" unread messages from 3 days +. It never took more than ~2-3 hours a week at my busiest times, but it created a lot of value, a lot of sales and forced me to optimize my time. Definitely worth the time I invested in it.

          Also, I never said I answer all emails. I said I answer all handwritten emails.