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I’m not a customer any more

We recently moved co-working spaces, after 8 or 9 years in the same place.  I’ll be up front here, we left Space A because I was annoyed with them. I’ve been increasingly unhappy with them for a while, but moving is a pain so just put up with them. But their most recent rent increase along with the lost packages, increasing deposit requirements and revolving door of incompetent staff finally drove us to find a new co-working space.

On the 15th of the last month of our contract, I started receiving marketing emails from Space A. I just deleted a couple of them but finally decided I didn’t want to ever see their name again. I tried to unsubscribe.

Gotta give them credit. Checkboxes for everything, except some of them are to opt-in and some of them are to opt-out. This is the kind of interface marketers use to confuse folks and limit the actual number of opt-outs. I’ll admit, the first time I tried to opt-out, I probably did it wrong. But, I know CAN SPAM says they have 10 days, and I know many marketers take advantage of that so I wait a while and keep deleting the messages that show up in my mailbox.

That was late June. By early July I realize it’s been more than 10 days and I’m still getting mail from them. So I click another opt-out link. This time I notice I need to uncheck most boxes, but check the bottom one. OK, fine, you got me, I didn’t read and didn’t correctly opt-out the first time. This time I will.

I continue to receive email. I continue to delete the email. We run our own mail system so I don’t have the benefit of a this-is-spam button, but you can bet if I did I would have used it, on every message I received after my first attempt to opt-out.

This week, after getting yet more mail, I start digging. What ESP are they using that’s bungling the opt-out process? Ah. I know that ESP. So I send in a complaint to abuse@ESP asking them to please make their customer stop mailing me. I also go, once again, to the preference page and submit an opt-out request. Because, hey, maybe third time is a charm?

12 hours later I get yet another mail from them. Really? REALLY? OK. Now I’m moving from annoyed to irate. First step: figure out if I know anyone working at said ESP. Ah, right, them. I have a lot of respect for this colleague, so I send a heads up pointing out that their customer isn’t honoring unsubscribes and can they take a look at what might have broken in their unsubscribe process.

This morning they tell me they looked into my subscription and have not registered any opt-out request until the one this week. The other two? Not recorded in their system. “Does this match your recollection of what happened?” No. No it doesn’t. I know I clicked on unsub links at least 3 times and only one of those clicks is recorded.

At this point, I’m pretty sure I’ll be suppressed by the ESP so I won’t have to get mail from Space A any longer. That fixes the annoyance on my end. But I can’t help thinking about how horrible this interaction was, both from a deliverability perspective and from a customer perspective.

As a deliverability consultant

I understand why they added me to their mailing list immediately before our contract ended. As a customer, I was regularly interacting with them. Now that we were on our way out the door, they were losing that touchpoint. Good marketing says you use all the touchpoints, so adding me to their list makes sense.

I understand that opt-outs break down and sometimes don’t work correctly. They shouldn’t, but they do.

Overall, they didn’t really do anything wrong from a deliverability or marketing perspective. Maybe 3rd time really was the charm and I should have just waited another two weeks before raising a stink about getting mail from them.

As a former customer

I am a former customer because of how they treated me. I wasn’t happy with them and had many a troubling set of interactions with their corporate office over the years. For a long time, they had competent onsite staff that were friendly and helpful, so that made it tolerable. More recently, those staff were gone. They were replaced with an ever changing group of people who weren’t very helpful and weren’t around for more than a few weeks at a time. Additionally, corporate kept raising our rents and charging us “deposits” to cover … something. I’m still not sure why we needed to give them a few hundred dollars in deposits, when we were long term customers and they had permission to charge our credit card every month. Clearly they care nothing for me as a customer, as they just waved us out the door. 

Adding me to their mailing list after I left is just insulting. It didn’t make me want to come back or continue using their services. All it did was convince me that I’m just a piece of data and they don’t care about anything other than how much money they can extract from me.

Most small business owners use some sort of service for email. A lot of companies will just use Google Apps or Office365. Both of these companies provide users with access to a “this is spam” button. Even though the button doesn’t generate a FBL email, it does register in the reputation engines of both providers. I am sure that the average business owner would have availed themselves of the “this is spam” button. I would have in their shoes. This has the effect of both preventing the user from seeing future mail from the sender, but also harms the sender’s overall reputation.

Does it matter?

I will certainly never recommend Space A to anyone looking for space. The way they treated us at the end of our relationship guarantees that. Is this going to matter? Not really. Sure, multiple folks come to me looking for advice on starting small businesses, but me not recommending an international corporation with a multi-billion dollar market cap isn’t going to matter to them. It’s unlikely that even if every former customer in my position were to do the same they wouldn’t even notice.

But for companies that aren’t such market behemoths even a few poor word of mouth recommendations may hurt them. A few people hitting “this is spam” because they tried to opt-out and it didn’t work could hurt delivery.

Context does matter. Details do matter. How you interact with customers affects brand reputation and deliverability. I’m sure that Space A has a carefully planned marketing campaign and it works more than it doesn’t. I’m also sure I’m going to be telling folks that their service is not great and their marketing verges on spamming. They won’t care. But at least I’ll protect other small businesses from them.

2 comments

  1. Bill Silverstein says

    You are now blocked by the ESP for all mail from that ESP?

    I was thinking that might be a problem because you might be subscribed to mailings that you want from the ESP. How do you deal with that?

  2. laura says

    Not from all their customers, just that one. It’s pretty common for ESPs to have the ability to suppress addresses on a per customer basis.

    But there is at least one ESP that has suppressed all mail to our domains. I only found out when I was consulting for one of their customers, and I could not get any mail from the ESP.

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