The customer support is one of the factors that should be assessed when choosing the email marketing company that is the most appropriate for your needs. It’s not the most important factor. But one of them.
Most companies provide clear and helpful answers to your questions. However, when it comes to how fast these answers are given, quite big differences can be noticed …
5 minutes. Several hours. One day. One week. Or never.
During the last two years, in order to write my Email Marketing Services Series and other email marketing articles I reviewed many companies. My tests included also questions addressed by email to their customer support.
In the first instance I checked for my own curiosity the exact duration the companies needed to respond. Then I figured out that it may be an interesting case study other marketers can benefit from.
1. Test Conditions
Sometimes I asked the same question to more companies. Other times it wasn’t possible to ask the same question. And not useful. So I asked different questions to different companies. This second method introduced some inevitable errors in my study.
However, all questions were related to their services. Therefore even if some questions were more difficult that others, a skilled customer support staff was supposed to know the answer anyway, without pondering too much.
My plan is to update this study. The more questions taken into consideration, the less errors introduced in the final evaluation.
The Score System:
|Response Time||1 hour
Note: The column “Reply – No Answer” refers to replies that don’t actually respond to the question. The “I don’t know” style answer is better than no answer at all, but it cannot qualify for more points than zero, no matter how quickly it’s provided.
2. User-Oriented Support in the Email Marketing Industry
The columns Q1, Q2, Q4 and respectively Q11 from the tables below display the scores corresponding to four (almost) identical questions addressed to different email marketing companies – see the Notes N1, N2, N4, and respectively N5 posted under the tables. Therefore these four columns show very direct comparisons of the response times.
The reason why several companies haven’t been asked the same question like the other companies was that the question wasn’t applicable to them or the answer was already provided on company’s website. I haven’t asked questions for the sake of asking questions.
Due to space constraints, the rest of the columns display the scores corresponding to different questions addressed to different email marketing companies – for example, the question Q9 addressed to Mad Mimi was different from the question Q9 addressed to SendinBlue.
N1Note: Q1 was a unique question addressed to 10 companies. The answers were used in my article Who Else Charges You For Unsubscribes?
N2Note: Q2 was a unique question addressed to 9 companies:
Let’s suppose that a certain email address is added to two different lists. When counting the number of subscribers for billing purposes, how many subscribers do you count? One or two?
The answers were used in the article The Unexpected Side Effect of Your Email List Segmentation
N3Note: Q3 were different questions regarding the Terms of Service (Prohibited Content). Exception: Mad Mimi and MailChimp received the same Q3 question: I inquired the companies what their understanding of the terms “work from home” & “make money online” is, and what content they actually prohibit. Mad Mimi’s answer was included in my article Mad Mimi vs MailChimp.
N4Note: Q4 inquired eleven companies regarding the availability of a report that displays the separate list of subscribers who haven’t clicked any link since a certain date.
3. Affiliate-Oriented Support in the Email Marketing Industry
N5Note: Q11 inquired the companies regarding the lifetime of their referral cookie. It was an identical or very similar question addressed to seven companies.
Update, February 12, 2016: The email sent to MailJet on October 15, 2015 was responded today. After four months! The answer itself included several surprising pieces of information. Like this one:
There is not yet an automated back-office tool that allows you to see your affiliate balance so please feel free to contact our Support Team to know how many leads you have sent us and eventually how much commission you have earned.
Surprising was also the fact that I was added to an affiliates mailing list. Without being an affiliate yet, and without my agreement. Even more surprising was the unsubscribe process: not an automatic one. I was supposed to send an email to a certain address and ask to be unsubscribed. Just in case you forgot it… yep, we’re talking about an email marketing services provider. No further comments!
4. Surprising (or Not) Facts Noticed During the Tests
The support for affiliates is way much slower than the support for users.
Questions initially ignored were answered quite quickly after a followup request was addressed to the staff running the Facebook Pages of the companies. Examples: GetResponse (Q7, Q11), Campaigner (Q3).
The bad news is that some companies ignore the questions they don’t like or don’t feel comfortable with. The good news is that 73% of the questions not answered were related to the Terms of Service or to the affiliate program.
Therefore if you aren’t looking for a clarification regarding the ToS or you don’t want to promote their business (which seems to be something very wrong to some of them!) then you’ll get an answer.
Very rarely, but cases exist (!), the customer support personnel don’t know to answer the questions. But still answer…
Bad example – The funniest response:
My VA: “Re your affiliate program – what’s the life time of your cookie?”
Campaigner: “That depends on what web browser you’re using.”
Better example – Response to my followup request posted on Facebook:
iContact: “Sorry it has taken us a while to get back to you, but the person who handled affiliates recently left and we’re in the process of filling the position.”
Several companies use non-standard expressions that may lead to confusions or to further questions asked in order to understand their initial response. A second question will of course extend the waiting time till you get a clear answer. Example: GetResponse (Q2) – “John joins the campaign X,” which was supposed to mean, “John subscribes to the mailing list/newsletter X.”
Some email marketing companies don’t provide customer support on weekends. As if their online business is a traditional offline business. Examples: SendinBlue, iContact, GraphicMail.
5. Instead of Conclusions – Don’t Fall into This Trap
Have you ever read “the best time to send emails” studies? All of them refer to the past (the future may be different) and most of them contradict each other.
Why do they contradict each other? They are honest studies, but the way the data is collected and the limited amount of data (even if there are millions of entries) introduce errors. It’s inevitable.
Therefore if you think that the best time to send your emails (or tweets, whatever) is the day and the time mentioned in a certain study (or another) … you have fallen into a trap. You’re wrong.
The same for my study. All the pieces of information are true. But the aggregate result includes errors I cannot correct. They are introduced by the limited number of questions, by the different level of difficulty for various questions, etc.
So don’t think that this study is the one which tells you how fast the support is in the email marketing industry. It’s not. The purpose of this study is to share my experience and to give you an idea of how fast the support is.
For example, Mad Mimi almost always responded within less than one hour. Many times within 5 minutes! It is very likely to get a similar result. But that’s not a guarantee. See that single case when they scored a 1 (over 2 days).
That question was too difficult for the support staff and it was forwarded to the top management of the company. The management doesn’t respond within minutes like the support staff does. It’s understandable, but at the same time even if there was a reason for that delay, the delay was still a delay.
The point is… take this study with a grain of salt. The companies were ordered based on their scores. But there’s no ranking. There’s a strong reason for not adding the rankings column ;-)
To Your Email Marketing Success!
P.S. This article doesn’t have to be understood as a recommendation not to buy the services of the companies who didn’t get a good score for their support speed. I encourage you to take decisions based on your needs. If you don’t usually need too much support, a slow customer support service isn’t a big disadvantage.
All the messages that include the answers to the questions Q1-Q14 aren’t deleted but archived. Any company that wants to find out more details about a certain message is welcome to contact me.