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Troubleshooting high complaint rates

Issue
Your complaint rates rise above mailbox provider guidelines or begin to cause reputation issues.

Common scenarios

  • Sending volume and frequency increased during a holiday, leading to an increase in complaints.
  • Email was sent to a suppression list.
  • A new email newsletter was sent to existing subscribers without their consent. Subscribers may not have been expecting the email and perceived it as spam.
  • Email was sent to a large number of new subscribers obtained from a partner or other line of business within your company. Subscribers did not provide consent and perceived it as spam.
  • Customers provided an email address to sign up for an account or to purchase a product. Expectations about what email the customer will receive was not disclosed.

Troubleshooting
To address the problem:

  1. Identify the source of the complaints.
  • Sign up for all available feedback loops (FBLs) to understand why subscribers marked your email as spam. 
  • If you are already signed up with all available feedback loops, check you complaint report to find out which mailbox provider has high complaint rates.
  1. Address the complaints.
  • Remove or suppress complaining subscribers from your list.
  • Search your list for inactive subscribers and target them with a re-engagement or re-permission campaign. If they do not respond, remove them from your list. 
  • Follow the suggestions below.
  1. Determine the cause of the complaints to prevent them in the future.
  • Analyze the complaints to determine if there is pattern to them (such as complaints tied to certain customer segments, campaigns, or list sources).
  • Review your acquisition and permission practices, as well as your sending volume and frequency. Ensure that the email you are sending meets the expectations you set at the point of acquisition. 
  • Ensure all email sent to subscribers is opt-in. Obtaining email addresses through list purchasing, list harvesting or from e-appends are not opt-in consent methods.
  • Check to see if your volume dropped considerably over the past few days relative to your recent sending volume. You may be receiving complaints from prior campaigns on days of low volume, which is referred to as a "complaint hangover". Once you ramp up volume again, and your complaint rates decrease, this is a good indicator that this effect has taken place.  Look for opportunities to evenly distribute volume over time for your campaigns to avoid this effect. 
  1. Once you determine the cause of the complaints, change your practices.
This may mean ending a relationship with a poor data partner or retiring a campaign.
  1. As complaint rates drop, continue to:
  • Follow best practices.
  • Review feedback loop complaints to identify things that generate a high number of complaints.
  • Take action to address and reduce the complaints.
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