Monitor Feedback to Boost Deliverability

How you manage customer feedback probably won’t ever make the conventional wisdom’s top 10 list of strategies to boost deliverability. That’s too bad, because wise feedback management helps nurture e-mail’s most valuable quality: providing direct communication between you and your customers or subscribers.

When you ignore it, you turn off your readers and leave the field wide open to direct deliverability threats, such as negative spam reports and a list full of dead addresses. Because relevancy is a key deliverability driver, you also lose the opportunity to make your e-mail campaigns more wanted and relevant to your target audience or subscribers.

You might think you do a great job of receiving and replying to customer comments and attending the issues they raise, whether they come via phone, letter, or Web site. But you probably also have a line in your e-mail message that reads something like: “Please don’t reply to this message as it isn’t an actively monitored e-mail address.” Or worse: “Please don’t reply to this message because nobody will see it.”

Talk about shutting down communication! Good marketers embrace positive and negative feedback. Good programs request feedback in all messages with feedback form links, customer service links, and phone numbers. Good managers attend to feedback that comes in both through approved channels and anywhere else a customer wants to send it.

The reality is some customers will reply to your no-reply e-mail address whether you give them an alternative or not. Telling them not to respond in a particular channel kills the dialogue you should be attempting to cultivate.

It can also affect deliverability. When you shut off a communications channel, you lose the opportunity to collect information that can help you refine goals and improve efforts.

Surveying the Scene

Effectively managing feedback doesn’t stop with just processing comments, complaints, and questions that arrive in response to a mailing, purchase, or some other interaction.

You should also be out in front of your subscribers or customers, soliciting comments with regular surveys and with prominently displayed requests in newsletters, solo offers, transactional e-mail, and Web links.

When you seek out comments, you unearth valuable information that not only helps your marketing goals but also spotlights dissatisfactions that can potentially affect deliverability.

To avoid over-surveying your whole database, concentrate on the four prime points in your relationship with customers at which you’re likely to get the most valuable feedback:

  1. When customers opt in to your e-mail program. At this point, customers are most likely to open and respond to mailings. As soon as the opt-in’s confirmed, contact your new member with a welcome package that includes a survey of their interests and other relevant details. This is separate from an invitation to fill out a preference page, although you can use that data too to create a better picture of their interests, needs, and desires.

  2. When you need to reengage readers who have drifted away from your program without unsubscribing. This can come as soon as two months after opt-in. The responses can help you focus your e-mail program more sharply and identify trouble spots, such as problems receiving or rendering HMTL e-mail messages. Adding an incentive such as a gift or a price reduction could help boost participation.
  3. Whenever a customer is associated with a complaint, whether it’s delivered in person, over the phone, via e-mail, or on the Web.
  4. Whenever delivery reports indicate common complaint characteristics, such as a sudden spike in spam complaint from a major domain or customer-acquisition source. You can survey this audience to determine where there’s a technical problem or if the messages have no value or are irrelevant to them. This is yet another reason it’s so important to understand and review delivery reports, both during each send and immediately afterwards.

Interdepartmental Cooperation Is Key

To realize deliverability gains through better feedback management, you’ll probably have to break down barriers between departments in your company.

Your IT department, or whatever department monitors all e-mail inboxes associated with your program, must understand how important it is to keep an eye out for stray comments, complaints, questions, and unsubscribes that don’t go to the official mailboxes and to forward those immediately to your or your designee.

Conversely, you must also keep IT or your e-mail service provider (ESP) in the loop if you detect troubling trends affecting delivery issues in your feedback.

You may have to work a bit to get over any territorialism between departments when it comes to e-mail data. However, both departments will benefit from the closer working arrangement.

Till next time, keep on deliverin’!

Want more e-mail marketing information? ClickZ E-Mail Reference is an archive of all our e-mail columns, organized by topic.

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