I have seen a lot of companies attempt to send out customer support surveys by email, only to fail dismally. Generally, the intentions of the companies who do this are good, but the executions are appalling. Companies have found any number of ways to invite epic fail to call, including mailing to non-customers, mailing to the wrong person at a customer company and mailing to former customers.
Mailing to non-customers generally happens when companies sort abuse and support mail through the same ticketing system. Good customer support (tell us how we did) turns out to be rotten complaint support. The failure here is multifactorial, but revolves around not understanding the difference between customer support mail and abuse complaints. Abuse is not, usually, mail from your customers. More often mail to abuse is from non-customers. While it may seem like a good thing to follow up with abuse complaints to find out if the person is satisfied, generally someone who complains about spam does not want more mail from a company. The fix it to change the selection process for surveys. Survey customers not complainers.
The second failure is more common with enterprise vendors. Generally the vendor will have multiple contacts at company but send a single survey out to all contacts at the customer. Take an average website that provides statistics about web or email performance. A company establishes an account there, and then provides a logins for customer support people, a manager or two and maybe an outside consultant. These people are all using the same site, but are possibly using different parts of it. The consultant can give some feedback on the API and data access, but is not the right person to ask about pricing, packages or overall usefulness and value for money. Management can provide feedback on pricing and value for money but probably has never logged into the website, despite having a working account. Customer support can provide feedback on the user interface and overall usefulness of the site. Knowing who is who at the customer and who is the right contact for different surveys can be tricky, but it is always better a company to appear to be acting purposely.
Finally, some companies send out surveys to anyone who has ever registered for a website, or game or product no matter how long ago that registration was. They send mail to the person who registered for a website but has not logged in for 6 months, or 12 months or even longer. The recipient may have even taken positive action to close an account, such as discontinuing payments. And, yet, the company still mails them a customer satisfaction survey. If the recipient is not paying for the product, if the recipient is not logging into the website then they are no longer a customer. Sure, there are times to reconnect with old customers, and it can be done well. However, what I am talking about is the survey that is clearly designed to be answered by current users and customers.
The sad thing is, I have received customer satisfaction surveys in all of the above categories in the last 6 months.
If you as a sender, are going to use customer satisfaction surveys, do it in a thoughtful and purposeful manner. Do it in a way that brings value to your company and to the people you are surveying. If you do not, you risk higher complaint rates. Remember, people who are not your customer or who are a former customer are probably more likely to hit “this is spam” then to answer your survey. Like any mail you send, make sure you know who your audience is and have a mental model for how they will treat your mail. Do not just grab all available addresses and mail them. Do some analysis of your customer base before you mail and mail them surveys that apply to them. You will get fewer spam complaints and probably more and more accurate survey responses.