How to Improve Your Relationship With Your Email Service Provider (Instead of Ditching Them Altogether)

if you're frustrated with your email service provider, try these tipsExperts say companies switch email service providers (ESPs) on average about every two years. If you’ve been through such a grueling process as this, you might wonder why switching is such a common occurrence when it can be so costly and time-consuming.

Obviously, if a poor choice was made the first time around (perhaps due to Shiny Things Syndrome), then it’s harder to make the existing ESP work. Ditto if your organization has simply (and unexpectedly) outgrown your current ESP. But are there times when a switch is not the answer? Yes. Sometimes it’s a matter of improving existing relations, not starting over with someone else.

Are you sure a switch is worth it?
If you’re thinking a new ESP is the answer, hold on, because there might be a few things you’re overlooking—consequences of switching that you hadn’t considered yet. Let’s address those first.

At some point, that ESP seemed the best fit for your organization. Take a look back to remember what those reasons were and decide if they’re still relevant today. Are there features they offered that others didn’t, features that you’ve become used to that you will struggle to find with another ESP?

Or in a more extreme situation, is there technology that the ESP has developed specifically for your business, such as an integration or customization that’s critical to your email marketing program? Leaving your current ESP could mean leaving that functionality behind…and learning to live without it, or going through the painful process of rebuilding it somewhere else.

Have you ruled out internal issues?
You also need to do a gut check and make sure the problems really are due to the ESP and don’t stem from your end. See our post on 6 Reasons NOT to Switch Email Service Providers and scan the list of issues that might be internal, not external. These include not adhering to best practices, failing to do all that’s required for optimum deliverability, and ignoring ESP suggestions for improvement.

Maybe you don’t need a new ESP, just a new approach
If after thinking about all of the above, you’re sure a new ESP is the answer, I still say maybe not. Maybe you can improve the relationship with your current ESP, and at least temporarily avoid all of the work that’s involved in finding a new one. So just in case this relationship can be saved, here are some things to consider to help you improve your relationship with your email service provider.

Are you doing all you can internally?
Is the ESP to blame for every problem? Or are there steps you can take to improve the relationship without even talking to them? Oftentimes, there are simple best practices that can be followed to improve both the ESP relationship and the email marketing itself. Before blaming the ESP, make sure you’re adhering to best practices on your end, including:

  • List hygiene
  • Sending and delivering
  • CAN SPAM compliance
  • Doing all of the training
  • Keeping up with updates

When expectations aren’t met
Sometimes clients want to switch ESPs because they think promises weren’t kept and expectations weren’t met. Pricing surprises often come up as complaints when we talk to people who want to switch. Usually what happens is the client realizes they need a functionality later, like special reporting, and then they’re shocked at the price to create something that’s customized for them. In addition, we hear a lot of complaints about poor customer support, that ESPs are non-responsive and take a long time to respond to requests, or that open issues remain open for far too long.

Ideally you will have communicated upfront before signing on with that ESP, and spelled out everything in your contract, including pricing, training, support, services such as deliverability help, and other expectations, to name a few. All of that communication before you ever signed a contract should decrease the chances of dissatisfaction later. Still, even after this kind of due diligence, organizations will approach us wanting to find a new email service provider. And still I say hold on…

Issues to discuss with the ESP
…let’s not give up on them yet. If you’re still having problems, despite doing everything you can internally to make things better, communicate clearly with the ESP about those problems and see if they can help you figure out the solution. For example:

  • Address the support issues—or maybe I should say lack of support issues? Is the ESP even aware that you’re frustrated by the lack of response and action on their part? Maybe your team needs more customer service or account management time. Can that happen without increasing your costs?
  • When you have a new project or need that comes up, be upfront with the ESP about your expectations regarding the timing and the pricing. Have a clear understanding of the SLA and use that to your advantage if they’re not adhering to it the way you understood that they would.
  • If you’re having issues with platform, maybe it needs to be configured differently for you? Or maybe your staff needs additional training on the platform or special features?

It takes two to tango. Work with your current ESP to see what kinds of solutions you can come up with to improve the relationship—and the email marketing.

Note: If you want to switch because of stability or security issues, then this is all irrelevant to you, because it’s likely that no amount of talking to your ESP can address your concerns!

Are your expectations reasonable?
If these talks get you nowhere, and you’re still convinced that a new ESP is the only way to fix what ails you, you might want to evaluate your expectations and make sure they are reasonable. Try talking to colleagues at other businesses who are in a similar role to find out about their experiences with their ESP. Your goal isn’t to talk to a sales rep at a competitive email service provider, but to talk to an objective person about your expectations of your ESP, to help you determine if switching even makes sense or if you’re likely to have the same challenges even if you do.

And if you decide it is time to switch?
If, at the end of all this reflection and effort, you and your team agree that switching is still the smartest move at this point, then you begin your search for a new ESP, and two free tools are available to help you jumpstart this search: the ESPinator and the 2015 ESP Guide.

  • The ESPinator is a free online tool that asks you questions about your email marketing program needs and objectives. Based on your answers, the ESPinator will give you the top three ESP recommendations. This tool is 100% vendor neutral.
  • The 2015 ESP Guide is also completely vendor neutral. It offers 11 need-to-know facts you dive into in order to guide you in your new ESP choice. If fact is a category with multiple subcategories with dozens of questions that will help you start and refine your search for a new email service provider.

Of course, you can also choose to simply call on ClickMail first, as we are also completely vendor neutral, and helping clients find the best email service provider for their business is what we do!