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The Dos and Don'ts of Managing Email Subscriber Complaints

December 7, 2011 By Tom Sather
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The following is an excerpt from the recent DirectMarketingIQ report, "Hitting the Email Inbox: Protect your sender rep, clean up your e-list and improve design to add dollars to your email marketing ROI."

Subscriber complaints are the No. 1 reason for marketers’ reputation problems. The most common way for subscribers to report your email as spam is through the “report spam” button located in most webmail and email reader interfaces. Generating too many of these complaints can cause your email to be sent to the spam folder, or even blocked from ever reaching any of your subscribers at all.

The good news is that most ISPs and webmail providers give marketers a way to know who is complaining. Subscribers who complain should be treated like an unsubscribe request and suppressed from future mailings. If they think your mail is spam, they probably don’t want to receive your mail anymore, and continuing to mail to them will only provoke more complaints. Any email sender can sign up for feedback loops provided they have an email address to receive complaints. A good complaint rate that most senders should achieve is one complaint per 1000 emails sent to the inbox.

Subscribers complain for a number of reasons, but mostly because expectations weren’t set properly at the point of email sign-up, the messages were not relevant to their needs, they don’t recognize the company or brand, the frequency is too high—or in some cases—too low, and it’s too difficult to unsubscribe. Determining the reason for why your subscribers are complaining can be tricky, but using your feedback loop data is the key. Start by looking at complaint trends to determine problems are beginning. You should also drill down to specific segments or campaigns to determine where complaints are originating.

To maintain low complaint rates:

Do …

  • Sign-up for all available feedback loops and promptly remove complainers.
  • Monitor your complaint rate at all times and take action if you see it getting too high.
  • Tell subscribers exactly what they’ll be receiving when they sign up, how their email address will be used, how frequently they will receive communications from you, and if possible provide examples so they can get a taste of the benefits of your email program.
  • Provide relevant content based on feedback from your subscribers, website activity, customers, and any other data point at your disposal.
  • Make your brand recognizable in the From address or subject line.
  • Keep your promise of email frequency that you set at the point of collection. If you promised a weekly email, don’t send daily. On the flipside, if you don’t mail to all of your subscribers at least quarterly, they may forget that they signed up for your email program.
  • Make it easy to unsubscribe. Make the unsubscribe link easy to locate, give them choices to change email preferences like frequency or newsletter type, and provide a website confirmation to set expectations of when they’ll completely stop receiving emails.
  • Analyze complaints that come through the complaint feedback loop to help determine when and why subscribers are complaining. For example, if most of your complaints are coming on the first email, your permission or disclosure may be too weak. You can also use complaint metrics along with email response rates to judge the effectiveness of your email campaigns.

Don’t …

 

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