Thoughts on "ISP relations"
I’ve been thinking a lot about the field of ISP relations and what it means and what it actually is. A few years ago the answer was pretty simple. ISP relations is about knowing the right people at ISPs in order to get blocks lifted.
The fact that ISPs had staff just to deal with senders was actually a side effect of their anti-spam efforts. In many places blocking was at least partially manual, so there had to be smart, technical, talented people to handle both the blocking and unblocking. That meant there were people to handle sender requests for unblocking.
Spam filters have gotten better and more sophisticated. Thus, the ISPs don’t need smart, technical, talented and expensive people in the loop. Most ISPs have greatly scaled back their postmaster desks and rely on software to handle much of the blocking.
Another issue is that some people on the sender side rely too heavily on the ISPs for their data. This makes the ISP reps, and even some spam filtering company reps, reluctant to provide to much help to senders. I’ve had at least 3 cases in the last 6 months where a sender contacted me to tell me they had spoken with someone at an ISP or filtering company and were told they would get no more help on a particular issue. In talking with those reps it was usually because they were drowning under sender requests and had to put some limits on senders.
All of this means ISP Relations is totally different today than it was 5 years ago. It’s no longer about knowing the exact right person to contact. Rather it’s about being able to identify problems without ISP help. Instead of being able to ask someone for information, ISP Relations specialists need to know how to find data from different sources and use that data to identify blocking problems. Sure, knowing the right person does help in some cases when there’s an obscure and unusual issue. But mostly it’s about putting together any available evidence and then creating a solution.
We still call it “ISP Relations” but at a lot of ISPs there is no one to contact these days. I think the term is a little misleading, but it seems to be what we’re stuck with.