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Following the script

Yesterday I talked about breaking through the script in order to escalate an issue. I briefly mentioned that I always start out following the script and using the channels ISPs have provided. There are a number of reasons to do this all of which benefit you, the sender.

First off, when you use the designated communication pathway at an ISP there is a record of your contact. There are procedures in place to make sure your communication is addressed and you get a response. When you’re escalating to an individual, you’re using their communication channel. IMs get lost, email ends up buried in the pile, other things come up and a week later you’re still waiting for your answer.

Secondly, when you use the designated communication pathway at an ISP your contact is logged and tracked. This means that if the person you’re used to dealing with gets another job, moves on or otherwise isn’t able to communicate with you any longer you have a history with that ISP. The next person to move into the position and deal with issues can see that you’re a legitimate sender with a history of dealing fairly and professionally with ISPs.

Thirdly, handling direct and personal escalations are often outside the official job description the people directly contacted. This means that when they come up for review, the work they’re doing for people who won’t use channels is not as important as the other work they do. Sure, they may get some credit for helping people with problems, but they may not get the review they should get. This hurts not just the senders who believe they shouldn’t have to follow channels but also those of us who do follow channels, particularly in the current business climate. Do you really want to lose that awesome person you use because some dork thought they were too good, too important to use the provided form and that awesome person lost their job because they didn’t meet their official work goals?

Fourth, you’re not the only one escalating. I had the opportunity to visit my friend Anna from AOL a few years ago. One morning both of us had to actually get some work done, so we were parked in her living room on laptops. I was astonished at the number of IM windows she was juggling constantly. We’re talking 20 – 30 separate windows open at once, many of them troubleshooting sender issues. After seeing that I do as much as possible through the official channels that AOL has provided. She is my friend, and a very good one, and I still avoid using her as a contact point unless there is some emergency.

Remember this next time you are searching for that email address of the person from that ISP that’s currently blocking your mail. Use the official communication channels where possible, and always use them first. Using back channels for issues where the intended workflow works causes a lot of overhead and doesn’t scale at all well.

10 comments

  1. Eaglehawk says

    Very good post. I completely agree, and try in most cases to follow the normal path, until at such point where normal path no longer works. However if I find that the normal path never works, I give up on it and if I know someone there I’ll reach out to them.

    Here is an experience for you. I recently started seeing spam from a customer on a provider that I know someone in the abuse role. I first contacted their abuse@ to get it stopped. I waited for a response received none. I then received another spam from the same IP. I reached out to my contact there, and he said he’d get it taken care of. I then received another copy of it, so I asked the contact again, he said he would take care of it. Guess what I got another copy of it. This is one provider I’m not even going to try to get stuff handled from again, and will just start null routing them.

  2. Seth Weisfeld says

    Good reminder Laura! It’s easy to forget the affect on our friends in the industry when you escalate straight to them. Great anecdotes as well. Thanks!

  3. DJ Waldow says

    Laura –

    As Seth said, great reminder. For those that have great processes/channels in place, I’ve found incredible success. However, sometimes I’ve found my answer on Twitter (i.e., @godaddyguy). Also, there have been times where I’ve gone through the script (i.e., shaw.ca) and have never heard back. What then?

    dj
    @djwaldow


    DJ Waldow
    Director of Best Practices & Deliverability
    Bronto Software, Inc
    djwaldow: twitter, AIM, MSN, Gtalk…

  4. J.D. says

    From the inside, when somebody ignored the correct channel — particularly when I was certain they knew the correct channel — it felt like they didn’t think my time was valuable. It felt like they didn’t care that I might have other work to do, other priorities.

    Surely, that’s not the impression anyone wants to give when they’re asking for a favor.

  5. DJ Waldow says

    @JD – I was not trying to imply that I (or anyone) should “blatantly ignore the correct channel.” My example above was a bit of my real-time frustration with trying to go through the appropriate channel with Shaw.ca. I sent several emails and didn’t hear back for weeks (until today!).

    Your years of experience, history of work an ISP, and current gig at a deliverability firm, has helped you learn what those proper channels are, right?

    Looking forward to meeting in person at MAAWG.

    dj
    @djwaldow


    DJ Waldow
    Director of Best Practices & Deliverability
    Bronto Software, Inc
    djwaldow: twitter, AIM, MSN, Gtalk…

  6. J.D. says

    DJ: not always. Sometimes, particularly with really big companies who provide a myriad of products to millions of end users, it can be difficult to find the correct channel for questions that aren’t the usual end user stuff. Those channels are often shoehorned into end user support systems, and front-line folks may not be fully trained on how to recognize that it’s not an end user asking. That’s why I’ve always recommended keeping the initial message simple — too much information just confuses ’em — and staying patient.

    I’ve certainly learned some things about setting up support channels for senders, though. The first is that whenever someone claims to be having a “marketing emergency” or rants that they’re “losing millions of dollars an hour,” or marks their message “urgent,” that request goes on the bottom of the pile. The second is that I shouldn’t be doing support for senders of marketing mail — so y’all should be glad I’m not. *grin*

    Instead, I’m trying to make sure (as are we all, finally) that every product I work on can be supported by a dedicated team who has not yet lost all patience with people who make silly claims like those. For example, there’s paragraph six here: http://www.returnpath.net/blog/2009/01/yahoo-deja-vu.php

  7. Personal Contacts at ISPs: Part 2 at Word to the Wise says

    […] talked quite a bit recently about working with ISPs and personal contacts. Today I have an example of what not to […]

  8. Jon says

    It’s funny, I found this thread by searching for alternate means to contact Yahoo FBL. This is because I desperately need to communicate with them and their ‘normal channel’ has been literaly as effective as a shout down a wishing well.

    I’m an engineer sending mail from a very popular social networking site (>65M users) dedicated to political activism and charitable donations. We’re not selling V1akra, that’s for certain.

    I’ve built a mail sending system to enhance our communications with our users. Currently 90% of our outbound mails are opt-in confirmations, the remainder are notifications sent to previously verified/confirmed addresses.

    I’ve signed up for all the various FBL’s with the major providers and we’re tracking reputation nicely as we warm up the sending IP’s with about 75K mails a day over the last month. Yahoo! of course is 35%+ of that mail. However they’re blocking the heck out of my mails from time to time. For the last few days one of my sending IP’s is almost completely blocked while the other three are not. This causes horrible delays. I think that the longer expected mail is delayed the more likelihood it has of being marked as spam or ignored.

    I’ve repeatedly filled out their forms requesting assistance. I get an automated response about half the time. A ticket is opened a form reply is sent, a customer satisfaction survey is sent. Repeat. Never a response revealing anyone has read my request for assistance, never any feedback at all, so to speak. 🙁

    It’s very frustrating. I’m a legitimate sender, sending legitimate mail. I use SPF, DKIM, Domainkeys and participate in feedback loops wherever possible (including Yahoo!). I send consistently from a small set of IP’s. Yahoo! simply will not respond to me. 🙁

    So, what can a person do when the ‘normal channels’ are completely and thoroughly unhelpful?

    Thanks for reading this far… Hoping for a miracle.

  9. J.D. says

    Are you filling out the postmaster forms, or the end user forms? That’s where most people get stuck with Yahoo! and the other biggies.

  10. Jon says

    J.D. Thanks for your follow-up. Yes, I’m filling out the postmaster forms. I’m pretty hip to the idea that I’ve got to work through this myself though. It’s not in the ISP’s best interest to telegraph how to avoid their throttling. Following publicly available guidelines would make not just my job, but the evil spammers jobs easier. Persistence and patience are going to get me through this, but it sure messes with my engineering frame of mind. I just want facts ‘n figures please.

    I found over the weekend that Y! has relented on the IP they’ve been despising. That makes the mailman very happy. I figure I mostly just need some more ‘warm up’ time to establish a reputation. Everything seems to be tracking well overall. Did I mention I’m learning patience? (grin)

    I did receive a valuable hint on connections/msgs per connection from Laura Atkins (Thank you!). That’s something I specifically asked for from Yahoo! but never heard back. Otherwise I was flying blind and my vendors suggested settings may have been too high. Maybe this little tweak will keep them from snubbing me as often.

    Best

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