Report: Do marketers get the service they need from their Email Marketing Service Providers?


Are email marketers getting the level of service they need for their brand’s email channel? That is the main question answered in the 2012 retail email marketer survey by Bluehornet.

In other words: Are email marketers getting the level of service they need for good business?
Maybe not all.

Service is a broad term for Email service providers

“Service” is a broadly used term in the email marketing industry. All the email software companies that are listed on our site can be called email Service providers. Even if their service purely consists of delivering (large volumes of) commercial email for marketers. Some marketers only use the email software and the email marketing tools to create, segment, send, and track their email campaigns. The software itself could be seen as a service. (SaaS).

For this report Bluehornet surveyed all retail email marketers at the IRCE show in Chicago. These retailers currently work with an email service provider. The research was aimed at knowing more about the value of full service to them. Plus what the relationship between the email marketer and their Email service providers means.

The impact of current full service on the bottom line

Less than half of the 78 retail email marketers surveyed, indicated that the level of service of their current ESP was highly valuable to their email program’s bottom line. 39,5% found it somewhat valuable.

What do those numbers mean? Some of the retail email marketers are not using the services of their Email Service Provider. So that might explain a part of the lower / none added value.

For various reasons another part of the marketers are seeking the value they are not gettting somewhere else or doing all emailings in-house. But if we take a look at the response time of account managers you might get a different idea where the lower ratings might also come from.

Need for full service email marketing

There is a difference between Self-service email marketing software and the added services that full service email marketing providers offer. Often email marketing teams are small and in many cases it even is a one man show. With the online marketers’ attention being divided across many channels marketers increasingly have to rely on the help from their email marketing agency or ESP to get things done.
So it’s an important question to ask. What does the “service” part really mean to the marketers driving their brand’s email program?

Response times

Response time is often an indicator of the level of service an email marketing agency or Email Service provider is offering. If you ever had an immediate issue (problems with sending, etc.), you know that issues are best solved quickly. It is truly frustrating if you can’t reach anyone from supplier side it there is an issue . The survey asked how long it takes to get a response from a person (not an automated reply) to a support-related issue.

What to do about low value

Seen in a context of an Average response time, I find these numbers to be quite shocking. For the marketers who give newsletters and email campaigns priority, the best advice would be to take a good look at their Service level agreement (SLA). Find an email newsletter provider that can match the value they would like to get. And promote pro-active action from the side of the ESP. If you want to know upfront, how full the full service actually is, try number 3 and 4 from these tactics to evaluate an email service provider.

Image by Brian Talbot

About Jordie van Rijn

Jordie van Rijn is an independent email marketing consultant and Analyst. He is the Founder of Email Vendor Selection and specializes in smart email marketing, optimisation and RFP / vendor selection. Named on of "50 Online Marketing Influencers to Watch in 2016 " by Entrepreneur magazine.

  • Sentori

    Jordie, I’m not that shocked by these numbers. Compared to other services that we use (e.g. CRM), a response time of 6 hours doesn’t seem bad at all. Salesforce and Zoho both typically take 2 days to respond!

    Our standard response time for support is within 2 hours, usually much quicker. I’d be curious to know how that 50.6% broke down in more detail. My guess is that some of the ESPs in that segment are actually much faster in their response times.

    • Jordie van Rijn

      Hi Sentori, thanks for your comment.

      I’ve seen pretty snail like response times from suppliers, that it is happening is not be the most shocking part. The report is talking about averages, so that is way different the maximum response time (something you want to cover in your SLA) .
      Seeing an Average response time of more than a day, tied together with the low added value of the ESP. It looks like some retail email
      marketers are not with the right supplier at the moment. Or they don’t care.
      How does this translate back to an individual email marketer once ready to choose / switch? They should think about what their needs are when things go wrong. How important is that quick response? Time is money…. and in retail this can surly be the case if something goes wrong in sending, preparing or other parts of email marketing.

      What do you think, should full-service agencies have faster response times than self-service email software suppliers?

      • Sentori

        I think you might be right that some retailers don’t care (or don’t know any better), perhaps because the standard of support from other services that they use has set very low expectations.

        Given the time-sensitive nature of email, I won’t disagree that 6 hours is too long. That’s the difference between an email going a day late. However, as I said, I reckon you’ll find a skew toward the faster response times of that 6 hour category. Or maybe I’m just hopeful. :)

        Regarding self-service vs. full-service, if you’re paying for the services of an expert account manager you have every right to expect their direct phone number and immediate resolution to your issue. My guess is that this isn’t always the case, but that’s what you should expect.

  • David Baker

    I see response times as an indicator of budget as well.. Not all response is treated equal… but its hard to describe response times in one category for these purposes.. Most ESPs have SLAs, but rarely go out on a limb in legally obligating themselves to penalty driven SLAs.

    Good piece Jordie, you bring up a topic that should be explained in more detail, so people realize what they are getting when they sign up, switch etc… Vast majority of why companies switch vendors is due to this exact reason (mismatched expectations)..

    • Jordie van Rijn

      Thanks David, of course you are right. Some issues are very time sensitive, urgent, and should be handled immediately, while other requsts can wait. How do you see response times as an indicator of budget?

      • David Baker

        ESPs offer varying levels of service and response based on what you “pay”… Most may not know that and its not published in most cases, but its the hard fact. Be careful about negotiating down the lowest CPM and not using that extra savings to ensure you have adequate support. This can vary from deliverability related responses and remediation to system related issues (delayed sending, image rendering issues, tracking issues, access issues, issues with DB queries) etc.. It doesn’t typically effect mid-market as parity is much closer, but as the contracts increase, volume, and complexity in the program increases, so does the variation in good support/response times. , what you get is a result of what you pay. I learned this the hard way before I ran an ESP and worked with a 1/2 dozen ESPs. Now I run a product operations and the reality of deliverability support, product operations and technical support operations, these realities are not what you hear in pitches and very hard to fact check before you buy. Some do better than others, some are like calling a telecommunications help line, not very helpful.