Choosing an email marketing vendor might seem like a daunting task. Products and roadmaps among well-established ESPs might start to look pretty much similar, because vendors like to blur the lines to come out full-featured.
In an extreme case, you will find yourself ending up making a choice based predominantly on price. Wrong.
There are a lot of ESPs and messaging solutions out there. Finding the best ESP to fit your needs requires research. If you weigh up the importance of different factors in your decision-making process, the customer service level is not the first thing that comes to mind.
Often good customer service is presumed just to “be there”. While the lack of adequate customer service is one of the leading reasons why brands switch email service providers.
Putting Customer service first
Great customer service is usually only appreciated the moment you encounter a problem. What if we reverse the approach? Look at your vendors beyond the functionalities and price.
By choosing the right tool and the right team, you make sure that people behind the contract will address your needs on a daily basis and help you become a savvy email marketer.
The added value of good customer service definitely helps to navigate through emerging trends and technologies in email marketing. Your email marketing know-how can vary from the possibility to use email service without ever interacting with a human, while it is also possible, and sometimes necessary, to get a little more guidance.
Email marketing customer service checklist
When evaluating vendors on customer service look for the following:
- 24/7/365 support
- Different communication channels
- Proactive approach
- A knowledge-base and other self-service resources
- Support beyond ticket solving
- Timely feedback when handling the ticket
- Evaluation of service after closing the ticket
Customer Service vs. Customer Success
Customer success and customer service are not the same! What is called a Customer service, are the front-line people who focus on helping with practical questions and solving issues.
What is called Customer success, on the other hand, should be a proactive team that is also able to think long-term. Their goal is to help customers get the most out of the product, become power users who are happy with the platform they chose.
You can recognize an ESP that has a great customer-focused mindset the moment you start analyzing the ESP market. From providing resources online, interacting with people talking about their email solution, through professional and reliable sales team, to signing a contract and being there to help you use email platform into successful communication channel.
One of the greatest examples of the Customer Success approach is Zappos. Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh, has even written a book on delivering world-class customer service. And the stories of just how far they will go to make a customer happy are legendary. Just to name one, Zappos once saved a best man from going to wedding barefoot. His package with shoes for the wedding, unfortunately, ended up in a wrong location. He made a complaint to Zappos.
What did Zappos do?
Offered overnight replacement of the shoes.
Routed the original shipment back to Zappos.
Upgraded the client to VIP = free overnight shipping on all subsequent orders.
Offered a refund of the lost shoes.
Won a customer for life 🙂
Now the question for you during the ESP selection. Would you prefer a customer success approach from your email vendor? How does the customer support level differ across different email service providers?
Email service providers could be proactively working with customers helping with:
- Onboarding programs helping new users get familiar with product features.
- Know-how resources available on their websites (includes articles, webinars, video tutorials, informative blog posts).
- Email drip communication targeted at the customer’s needs based on how advanced users they are, aiming to make each and every user expand their know-how and dig into interesting topics from their business perspective.
- Being available regardless of time zone and working hours, being there to actively work together more as partners than just a business interaction.
There is a difference between what a software-only SaaS ESP, full-service ESP or agency will provide included in their package (without extra costs).
Even when using the best marketing tools there will be problems that you won’t be able to solve by yourself – that’s where customer support comes in. Ask yourself, can you schedule problems? What would you do if you had to wait over the weekend to solve a bug in your campaign because your vendor support is only available during working hours? You want a reliable ESP.
A simple question you should be asking yourself when choosing a vendor is:
Will my ESP be there to answer the phone?
Think of other situations when you might want to get in touch with your email solution provider. Because customer service is not only connected to potential problems. The vendor should be available anytime you have questions in regards to the product.
The goal is to make you a power user. This is Customer Success and it has no end date. It is available 24/7.
Customer support can be delivered through multiple channels if your ESP supports them:
- email (help-desk): the most popular, easy to use and doesn’t require a lot of time. A ticket system and additional tools speed up the case resolution.
- phone: from the user’s perspective this can be the easiest way of getting help.
- live chat: growing in popularity and is also very quick.
- social media: transparent and quite quick.
Convenience is the name of the game and that means you want to have the opportunity to interact with your vendor in a place that fits you best. The strong advantage of phone and live chat is that they both require you and the support agent being available at the same time. Your most urgent issues might start there. On the other hand, social media is a great opportunity to transparently address any questions or concerns you might have.
Monitoring and interacting on social media
When you start to research vendors online marketers often discuss email tools on social media and business related forums. A good sign of a proactive Customer Success approach of your potential business partner is getting relevant information straight from them.
If you find out that an ESP is monitoring people and places that are talking about their products and interacting with potential users even before they become customers, you can almost be sure they take customer success seriously.
Relationship vs. Business as usual
When starting to work with a new ESP, you want to establish a good relationship. One that doesn’t look at services as a necessary evil. When choosing a vendor don’t underestimate the importance of a strong account team.
Make sure the team can carry you through from start to finish. You want to work with experts who understand email and understand your struggles. Customer-focused ESPs will proactively ask questions to understand your business needs.
Look how your ESP is handling tickets. Do they evaluate and keep an ‘open door’? This is usually done in a form of a short survey after closing a ticket. It helps you to evaluate and address every concern about the service you’ve received as well helping the vendor to provide their customers with a better experience in the future.
Another important thing you should pay attention to and evaluate in your vendor customer service is the ticket solving process. Being informed in case your issue will be solved in a longer timeframe or is escalated is not an extraordinary service, it’s a must have.
If your vendor is responsive and reacts just in time, you will definitely save yourself from being frustrated while waiting for your ticket to be solved and not being informed about its progress.
Support team know-how
You don’t want to rely only on help desk personnel with entry level employees working from a script. According to DMA Marketer Email Tracking Study 2016, 93% of program owners say email marketing performs a very important or important strategic role for their businesses.
Email constantly changes and adapts to newest technologies. Implementing novelties in email and making it a part of your marketing strategy is a must. You need to be sure your vendor is here to help you. Your ESP’s team of experts must be on top of the immersive email marketing world, openly sharing their know-how. This will help you stay on top of your niche, getting to know new features and understanding the value of new possibilities email has to offer.
The importance of outstanding customer service
When someone sells you coffee or tea, elaborate customer service isn’t necessary. Those are simple, self-explanatory products that everyone knows how to use. Email marketing systems, on the other hand, are something that often needs follow-up and guidance to ensure that as a customer you will be able to get all the value from it.
The ideal level of customer service is one that supports your company in achieving business goals by helping you shape your email strategy and develop the necessary know-how for your business growth.
You might think customer service is not something that is a game-changer in the email vendor selection process. Your main priority is to get the technology which will get your email delivered and won’t ruin your budget. However, when you think of email as a digital channel which constantly evolves, it’s worth reversing this classic approach. Think of the customer service level of potential ESPs as something as important as the features themselves.