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Choosing Features Over Support? Good Bye, ROI!…

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You know customer support is important when choosing an Email Service Provider (ESP), to ensure you get the service you expect (and you’re paying for).

But do you realize just how important customer support is to your bottom line? More than you’d think, let’s see how that works.

I would argue that good customer support is so important to your success (and ROI) that you are better off with an ESP that’s a good fit with excellent customer support vs. an ESP that’s a great fit with mediocre support.

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You need comprehensive customer support

Customer support is not something you’ll only need periodically or when you have a problem. It’s something that should be available to you in some form 24×7. That’s why it’s called support.

If you invest more money to get a more powerful ESP, but you can’t use that ESP to the full extent because you haven’t received the right degree of support and guidance, then aren’t you losing money? You’re paying for the power and features, but not using them fully. Therefore, you’re not getting your money’s worth.

In my opinion, it makes more sense financially to invest in an ESP that will help guide you, to enable you to take full advantage of the platform.

In this scenario, you’re going to be able to use that ESP to its fullest extent, getting all of your money’s worth out of the platform, its features and its power, and therefore optimizing your ROI. It might turn out that the best ESP is mid-tier in size because many mid-tier ESPs today can compete with the top-tier ESPs, serving clients with large-scale, complex email marketing programs.

How to find the ESP with the support worth the cost

When you’re researching ESPs, it’s not as if you can go to them with these concerns and get straightforward answers. Of course they are going to believe their support is all you’ll ever need. No, you need to be proactive in your research. Try this advice for help:

  • Set a clear plan for what kind of support you want. What does it look like for setup, training, troubleshooting, and on an ongoing basis? Is there premium support and how much does it cost?
  • Look at the next 18 to 24 months of marketing evolution you plan to achieve. How much will you rely on the capabilities of the ESP?
  • Review options in the Service Level Agreement
  • Talk to customers of the ESPs you’re considering and see if that platform can support your existing and future needs by asking about their experiences. Ask specifically about setup, training, problem-solving, day-to-day support and any customizing or integrations that were above and beyond the typical support. Do they fully use the platform? Are their issues dealt with in a timely fashion? What was training like? Decide which issues or concerns are the most important to your goals and ask about those.
  • Look at the available service channels for support and customer success

A powerful platform with poor support is not worth the money

As ESPs evolve and grow in size, their platforms tend to grow in complexity, as they add functionality, integrations, cross-channel marketing, reporting, and much more. Some of these features are user-friendly like drag-and-drop journey builders.

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But often they are complicated to use and therefore don’t get used—or at least not used to their full capacity. And sometimes it’s a five-figure spend to get that part of the functionality enabled for you to use!
When that happens, you’ve invested in a very expensive ESP in part because of the powerful features offered by the platform, yet you can’t use these powerful features because you’re not getting the training and support—or because you can’t afford it—which means you’re not going to get your money out of this expensive investment.

And it’s not just the money: You invested a lot of time and effort into choosing that ESP, migrating over, and getting ramped up, not to mention the time spent on training.

The four parts to support and why they matter

There are four areas where you need to be able to lean heavily on the ESP’s support in order to maximize your investment in and use of that ESP…

First, at the very start, with setup and training

Two critical pieces must be in place from the very start of your relationship with this new ESP. One is the setup and the other is the training. For the setup, it’s imperative that your data, integrations and automations are set up correctly from day one.

As for training, if the ESP doesn’t provide the initial training to the degree needed to ensure everyone on your team really knows how to make the most of the platform and features, then you are screwed. This also applies to the training of new employees you might hire during the duration of your relationship with that ESP.

Second, when something breaks

As much effort as ESPs put into their technologies, things will break. That’s to be expected and doesn’t necessarily reflect poorly on the ESP. However, if something does break, quits working or not work correctly, you as the client need that problem resolved right away. You need a prompt response from the ESP recognizing the problem, and resolution as soon as possible.

Without that immediate resolution, you’re unable to fully function on your end and your email marketing program will suffer. The degree to which it suffers will depend on large part to one how big the problem is, and two, how sophisticated your program is.

email-marketing-support-importantTechnical Support Nerds that are very knowledgable are often a better choice. And sometimes they wear cool matching plaid shirts.

If the problem is only that your reporting is not working right that’s one thing, but if you’re suddenly unable to send email to any Gmail accounts, or your automated emails aren’t being triggered, or something else goes awry, then you’re losing money and potentially customers as they become annoyed with your brand and move elsewhere.

Deliverability, in particular, is a big issue. What if you can’t send to Gmail accounts? What if Comcast blacklists you? What if your deliverability plummets, and you have no idea why? A customer support team that can dig in and find answers—and solutions—for you is worth its weight in gold, almost literally, because every email not delivered is potential revenue lost.

Third, support on a daily basis and Customer Success

The third is the least commonly provided but just as important as the first two: the day-to-day support. You and your staff will only learn a limited amount during the initial training. As you use the platform and master the features, you’ll want to get more advanced and use the features that made this platform so appealing in the first place. However, you will likely need some help. Who will be there to show you how to easily execute sophisticated campaigns, if anyone?

And it’s not just wanting to become masters of more of the features. Amazing customer support means someone is paying attention to what you’re doing on a regular basis, not just leaving you to flounder.

It means that someone looking at how your data is set up, how well you’re optimizing your campaigns, how well you’re using the features you have mastered. It’s less like support, and more like ongoing guidance.

Fourth, when you’re ready to go to the next level

The fourth is supporting your evolving needs. When you’re ready to go to the next level, with deeper segmentation, more dynamic content, more sophisticated integrations, or more complexity overall, you want to know your ESP will be there to help you make it happen…without an exorbitant expense.

There’s the strategic guidance, but you also need to know how to use the platform to get to the next level. That might mean digging deeper into the functionality, knowing how to use the tool systematically vs. doing tasks manually, or having someone on the backend who can get the task done faster than you can by doing it through the interface.

When you’re ready to go from A to B, you want the ESP to help you understand the best way to get there, including going as far as building something for you if you need it.

The importance of great support

The importance of good support can’t be overstated, especially when you weigh that support against the money you’ll invest in the ESP. A platform with poor support is not worth the money if you can’t get your money’s worth out of the investment because the support isn’t there to guide you. Dig really deep into these support issues well before you decide that a certain ESP is the right one for you.

And get your money’s worth.


About Marco Marini

Marco Marini is the CEO of ClickMail Marketing, a vendor-agnostic reseller of email marketing solutions. Marco is an acknowledged expert in e-marketing with over 15 years of experience in the field. Before taking over as CEO at ClickMail, he was the VP of Marketing & Operations. Marco has also held key marketing positions with CyberSource, eHealthInsurance, DoveBid and IBM Canada.

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