Complaints: Why do they happen, and what can I do about them?

Posted by Joanna Roberts 

Complaints happen. It’s just one of those necessary evils of being an email marketer. However, they don’t have to be evil. In fact, I see them as a great way to learn from our subscribers and continually improve upon our email program.

Many of our clients are often baffled when they get complaints. But these people signed up to get our emails, why would they complain about them? Complaints are often a sign that something changed about your email program. When you see a spike in complaints, it’s important that you do a post-mortem to figure out what change may have caused the complaints, and then take action to get back on track.

The first area to look at is recent changes. Have you started sending more or less emails recently? Did you begin sending a new type of content? Did you send to a new group of recipients or a group that hasn’t been mailed to in a long time – and were they surprised to be hearing from you? Was your From name and address recognizable, or could recipients could have been confused about who the email was from?

Next, go back to the beginning. When your subscriber first signed up to receive your emails, what expectations were set with them? I advise you to sign up for your emails much like a new subscriber would and go through the full process. Take note along the way regarding the promises you make. Do you explain what type of email content they can expect to receive? Do you make it clear what frequency of emails they can expect? Do they understand who the email will be coming from? Is it clear that they will be receiving emails from you, or is that checkbox hidden? All of these points should be addressed on your sign-up page, thank you page and welcome email. If any of these points are unclear to you, you can bet they were unclear to your subscribers as well, meaning that their expectations were different from what they are actually receiving, and this could very well cause complaints.

Finally, take another look at your unsubscribe process. It could be that subscribers are complainer because they cannot easily find your unsubscribe link, or they’ve tried to previously unsubscribe and they continue to receive emails. Look at each email template you send and make sure the unsubscribe link is easy to find. If it’s not, consider moving it to the top or to a more conspicuous place within your template. It’s also important to test that the unsubscribe process is working from time to time. Try opting out of your emails first-hand, and ensure you are removed from the list within ten days. Anything that makes the unsubscribe process difficult or less-than-trustworthy could be another reason for subscriber complaints.

In conclusion, complaints happen to every type of sender for a variety of reasons. The most important thing is how you react to your subscriber complaints and what action you take to reduce your complaint rate moving forward.

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About Joanna Roberts

Joanna Roberts is the Senior Product Marketing Manager responsible for Email Optimization product positioning and ensuring our solutions meet the needs of our customers and partners. She has over ten years of experience in email marketing and enjoys working with marketers to optimize their email program strategy. First as an Account Manager, then as a Director on our Channel team, and now in her Product Marketing role, Joanna helps marketers and partners use our Email Optimization solutions to ensure the right message is being sent to the right inbox at the right time.

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