A few months ago I found a great blog post written by an ER doctor about how to convince other doctors to come in and deal with a patient in the middle of the night. There are quite few similarities between his advice and the advice I would give delivery experts, ISP relations folks and ESP representatives when dealing with ISPs and spam filtering companies.
Credibility is the sole currency you have in this relationship. Hoard it carefully and spend it wisely.
Delivery is not a matter of life and death, so failing to get what I need from an ISP does not result in anyone dying. But over the long term, I am much more likely to get contacts, help and information if I demonstrate that I am an ally and that I can be trusted to work with them to get their users email that they want while stopping email they don’t want.
Here’s my not-so-patented recipe for success in getting information from ISPs.
- Never contact without first knowing exactly what it is that you want. Are you looking for information? Are you looking to get a block lifted? Do you need help translating a cryptic bounce message? Whatever it is, be clear about what you want. If you’re opening a ticket, give them all the information they ask for. If they have a text box where you can give more details do so, but be concise and clear.
- Never lie or shade the truth. The ISP reps have heard it all before, they know that a significant portion of people with “ISP relations” in their job title will lie, cheat or run their grandmother over on the street if it will get their mail delivered better. This is the reputation (right or wrong) of our industry. You can overcome this, if you always shoot straight. Don’t promise anything your customer (or client) can’t deliver.
- Have your data together. Have all the data you will need to deal with before opening a ticket or escalating. This means you need to know the dates the mail was sent, the IP it was sent from, what the bounce message was if it was rejected, how long this has been happening, what URLs are in the message, what the from: line of the message is. Being able to provide all the data that the woman on the other end needs to help you is going to make the process so much easier for everyone.
- Be reasonable. You know how over worked and behind you are? How many clients and customers you have screaming at you for a response? The ISP folks are at least that behind, and are generally not making near as much money as you are. Don’t open a ticket, then send an email to the guy you met at that conference and then open an IM conversation with him. Give them a chance to get back to you before escalating
- Be pleasant. Social lubrication is a good thing, keep it light. Again, most of us who do this are incredibly busy. “Hi, How are you, do you have a minute” is a great opening line. “Hey, what’s the new law in CA say?” is less so. If they are open to a bit of chatter then that’s great, if they say they are busy ask your question and get out.
- SAY THANK YOU. This is especially true when you’re escalating something and using a personal contact. Thank them for helping you. It’s even nice to send a (very brief) followup once your customer or client has fixed whatever the problem was. “Thanks for your help the other day. Your information helped me to convince client to do X, and now they are getting good inbox delivery.”
Consistency is key to establishing a personal reputation that you are someone who is both pleasant to deal with, trustworthy and not going to waste their time.