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Thank You 'Deliverability' Department

  |  June 8, 2011   |  Comments

One company shows what not to do when responding to negative deliverability issues, and five things you should do in this situation.

For those who know me, I regularly contribute to the start-up environment here in the North Texas region, which is a great place for any company to start. I'm a partner in a mentor-driven technology start-up accelerator. I mention this because of a recent spam compliance story involving me, my use of social media to make that story known, the not-so-great response I received from the company, and how I saw something that changed my way of thinking about customer service.

Our good friend Gary Vaynerchuk recently visited Dallas to promote his new book, "The Thank You Economy." On a regular basis, Gary talks about the thank you department he has at his Wine Library TV business, and this is a premise he continually pushes into the companies he invests in as an entrepreneur. I love this idea for any company or any position you work in, because it addresses those who love you and your products, those who don't (or as we call them, the "squeaky wheels"), and those in between.

What's my point here? Well you may have seen from my Twitter feed last week that the company SkyAuction, a travel auction and deals site, sent an email to one of my spam traps that's been hidden on websites waiting to be harvested. Overall, I wasn't surprised by the account receiving spam as it has these past 12 years. This occurs when people harvest it and resell the address or use the common name before the @ sign to sign up on websites in order to get more information without my knowledge. So, I tweeted the issue and tagged SkyAuction to let it know about the spam I received.

The responses I typically see from either responsible ESPs or companies who have great deliverability departments begin with an apology, usually asking for more information and some time to "dig into it" with the sender to understand how the email address got there in the first place. However, with SkyAuction I received the opposite. I considered the response awful - blaming me for signing up for its service and stating that it did nothing wrong. The company basically said I registered on its site so it had to be me who asked for the outreach, that it doesn't buy lists, and that it only sends email to its customers. So how then did SkyAuction get my email? We went through the normal "prove it" scenario, where the company quickly pulled out an IP address registered in Houston for an ISP I have no access to, as I don't live near Houston. It became clear that someone other than me had used the email address for their own purposes or inputted it randomly (doubtful) in SkyAuction's forms. This also pointed out that SkyAuction does not confirm its sign-up's, which you would think would be important for an auction site.

I was getting frustrated with the company and the treatment I was receiving. Now this is what a company should do in this situation:

  1. Begin by apologizing for any "spam" a customer might have sent.
  2. Let the receiver know you will discuss the situation with your customer and see where the email address came from specifically.
  3. Don't just unsubscribe the person without either notifying them or asking them if that is what they want. (They normally request that in the first email, but you should ask anyways.)
  4. Never place blame on the complainant or make them feel at fault.
  5. Don't play a back-and-forth game trying to prove that your customer or company was right.
  6. If the customer is wrong, then you either have them contact the person apologizing or do it yourself, and then require the removal of the database of potential issue addresses.

After a bit of time, SkyAuction gave up…or maybe I did. I began to realize that Gary Vaynerchuk's "thank you department" mantra could play a critical role in the email deliverability business, just as it has with customer support. Deliverability either at the ISP or ESP level can be stressful with the angry emails that come your way, but you should never take them personally or lay blame on the complainant. After all, "the customer is always right." Gary does a wonderful job of ensuring customers or complainants feel needed and wanted by having this ideal.

Take a look at your email deliverability - not just for inbox rates, but also in how you deal with the negative issues that might come your way. Are you saying "thank you for contacting us"?

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Dennis Dayman

Dennis Dayman has more than 17 years of experience combating spam, security issues, and improving e-mail delivery through industry policy, ISP relations, and technical solutions. As Eloqua's chief privacy and security officer, Dayman leverages his experience and industry connections to help Eloqua's customers maximize their delivery rates and compliance. Previously, Dayman worked for StrongMail Systems as director of deliverability, privacy, and standards, served in the Internet Security and Legal compliance division for Verizon Online, as a senior consultant at Mail Abuse Prevention Systems (MAPS), and started his career as director of policy and legal external affairs for Southwestern Bell Global, now AT&T. As a longstanding member of several boards within the messaging industry, including serving on the Board of Directors and the Sender SIG for the Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group (MAAWG), Secretary/Treasurer for Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email (CAUCE), Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP) Advisory Board, Dayman is actively involved in creating current Internet and telephony regulations, privacy policies, and anti-spam legislation laws for state and federal governments.

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