Emails are most successful if they meet the wishes and needs of the people you send them to. NS International tested and optimized their campaigns on a structural basis to get to that level. However, they felt they were missing the key particle to drastically improve the customer experience: feedback from their customers. How did they change this? And how did feedback help them make customer-centric decisions?
A lot of mails, a lot of optimizing
NS International get you from any Dutch train station to over 3.300 destinations throughout Europe. They strive to offer their customers the best service possible. During travel and also through their email marketing. NS International send out over 55.000 newsletters, action emails and service messages every single week. On a yearly basis that's over 3 million emails. To improve their results they are constantly analyzing, optimizing and testing.
Where was the customer?
Although they had a thorough and professional way of optimizing, it felt a bit one-sided. The customer wasn't involved in the improvement proces. That was not without reason: qualitative feedback was not sufficiently available.
NS International realized they could no longer improve the customer experience without the customer herself being involved. So in fall 2015 they decided to change their way of working and actively collect feedback. To make it easy for their customers to provide feedback they decided to ask for it from within their emails.
First steps into collecting feedback
At first NS International collected feedback through incidental campaigns and two structural service campaigns. They asked their recipients a simple question: "How do you feel about this email?". In six months time NS International collected 2.000 messages. These provided useful insights in customer experience and expectations, which were then used to adjust the emails.
Campaign optimization through feedback
One of the aforementioned service campaigns is called 'Ready to go'. It is one of NS International's biggest automatic campaigns with over 35.000 emails being sent out each month. It consists of several messages before, during and after your trip. They offer tips on hotels, local public transport and car rental, the NS International app and of course information about the journey itself.
The main goal for the campaign is to increase customer satisfaction by decreasing pre-travel insecurities. Some examples of these insecurities are where to board, how to find your seat and what facilities are available on the train. Emails during the campaign also aim on increasing a sense of happiness and the fun of traveling. A coupon for free warms drinks and cookies supports this.
Feedback was asked for in every email of the campaign. It provided actionable insights like these:
The coupons were for intended for two persons, while customers had booked for three or more. This resulted in the new coupon, standard for four people, since January 2016. And a lot of positive feedback afterwards.
The email about hotels and car rental gathered mainly negative feedback. Its content was considered too far from the service NS International provided. Taking their customers seriously, NS International decided to change the content of the entire email and cut out any offerings that were seen as irrelevant.
Thanks to feedback an error in the campaign's business rules surfaced: people who cancelled their trip on a certain moment kept receiving information about it. This was unwanted of course and immediately remedied.
New template based on feedback
Having tasted the success of using customer feedback to improve results and customer satisfaction, NS International decided to fully base their new email template on given feedback. After its implementation they saw a clear increase in positive feedback, proof they were on the right track. They still collect feedback today and improve wherever they can.
Feedback question in all messages
The positive experience also resulted in the implementation of feedback in all their other e-mail campaigns. Within a year NS International collected over 11.000 reactions through 151 different e-mails.
“Customer feedback is a serious reality check” - Kim de Klerk, Marketer Customer Loyalty at NS International
Feedback as input for decision making
Every other week people from marketing and communications have a meeting about customer insights. They see customer feedback as invaluable input and a serious reality check. Together they discuss all commercial emails that were sent and look at points of improvement in both message and approach for upcoming emails. Feedback now plays an integral part in NS Internationals decision making.
Feedback is the future
Feedback is now fully integrated at NS International and saved into their main database to improve campaigns, overall segmentation and individual messages. This will result in an ever improving customer experience and happier and more loyal customers.
NS International rightly felt they were missing input from 'the customer' while improving the customer experience. They changed their way of working and made feedback an integral part of their business and decision making. They took small steps at first and scaled up fast after success was proven. Feedback is now used as a central theme for their meetings, the customer plays a central part in it. And that's the way it should be!
How will feedback change your way of working?