Every Complaint is an Official Complaint

Email subscribers using web based email services like AOL, Hotmail, Yahoo, etc. have the option to complain about messages they do not want in their inbox. Most Internet Service Providers (ISPs) offer reporting facilities that allow their customers to mark emails they do not remember opting in for (or did not opt in for) as a complaint. To monitor potential issues, Email Service Providers (ESPs) regularly calculate the percentage of complaints generated by each email campaign. In order to maintain the best deliverability rate and ensure email marketing best practices are being used.

When a recipient of your campaign reports the email as a complaint, two things happen — the recipient who made the complaint is immediately unsubscribed; and the complaint is recorded in your reports for that campaign.

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ISPs still consider every complaint as an official complaint from their customers. This means if enough recipients mark your campaign as a complaint, the ISP will punish the offending sender by adding them to their blacklist or adjusting their sender reputation score. Also, if enough customers are reported as spammers the ESP’s reputation is at risk, as well as their relationships with ISPs.

If you are unable to lower the number of complaints, your account may be shutdown to prevent further unwanted email from being sent.

People always ask – “What is an acceptable amount or rate of complaints?” The correct answer is ZERO! However, in the real world, your campaign’s complaint rate should be below .1%. Review the following, to see different size campaigns and the corresponding acceptable number of complaints:

Message Complaints

1000 less than 1

5000  less than 5

100000 less than 100

Sender reputation, (determined by a number of different factors, including volume of emails sent, spam trap hits, percentage of bounces, etc.) is one of the most important factors in the deliverability of email messages. If your complaint rate is high for a period of time, it will affect your deliverability, as well as your reputation as a sender. If your complaint rate exceeds .1% you need to contact your ESP to discuss the rate, reasons why it may be elevated, and what needs to be done to get it back to the appropriate levels.

You can minimize the chances of your campaigns being reported as complaints by following email marketing guidelines:

Uses a confirmed opt-in subscribe process to ensure a high quality subscriber list. In addition, this provides proof those making complaints are unwarranted.

Add an explanation at the top of every email you send explaining how you received that subscriber’s permission and give them the opportunity to unsubscribe immediately.

Do not wait for too long after people subscribe to send your first email (because recipients may forget opting in by the time they hear from you and report the email as a complaint).

Set clear expectations when someone joins your list. Tell them what you will be sending them and how often.

Also, it is a good idea to contact your subscribers about their subscription. You may want to remind them if they are no longer interested, they may remove themselves using the link at the end of the message. There is no benefit to keeping old, uninterested subscribers on your list. They will tire of receiving messages that are no longer of any interest to them, and complain about your message. If someone signed up two years ago for information on education opportunities, they may no longer be interested. Similarly, someone who was planning a vacation three years ago may no longer be in need of your travel tips and discount offers.

Did You Know? The average email list experiences approximately 25% turnover each year due to people abandoning email accounts or switching jobs. 83% of the time an email fails to reach a recipient’s inbox; it is due to a poor sender score.

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