Should you respond to complaints


David Spinks asks on twitter:

Should you ever contact someone who made an abuse complaint about your newsletter to find out why

My answer was: It depends, but it’s too complicated to explain in 140 characters.

I don’t suggest responding to people who hit the “this is spam” button as a way of complaining. FBLs are complaints, but they are people who don’t necessarily want to engage with you. If they wanted to engage they would have contacted you.
It’s a little trickier when you get complaints directly from recipients. There are a number of reasons people might send you a complaint directly: to honestly engage in a discussion about your mail, to try and track down who might be selling or signing up their email address or to vent their anger at bulk mailers in general.
You can’t always identify which type of recipient just from their initial email, but there are some hints. Complaints cc’d to dozens of email addresses generally aren’t looking for a response, they just want those evil spammers disconnected. Responses to this group of complainers will often be published on mailing lists, newsgroups or on websites. Attempting to engage them usually ends badly for everyone but the complainer.  (Example 1, Example 2, Example 3, Example 4)
On the other hand, there are folks who are contacting you because they think you care about your network and will want to stop abuse from happening. My complaints, for instance, are often only sent to places I think will care. I’m not going to waste my time sending in a complaint to some place that just deletes them. So they tend to be very short and it can be productive to engage with them.

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