An email service provider might be first and foremost an technology provider, but its employees and people skills still matter…a lot. According to one industry analyst, poor customer service is the number one reason organizations decide to seek out a new ESP.

Not email deliverability or lack of features or inability to offer email integration…no, the number one reason is poor customer service. Which begs the question, what kind of customer service can you expect from your ESP?

As email marketing consultants, we have heard tales about customers waiting days for a response from their ESP, ESPs losing critical data, and other horror stories. Those are at the extreme end and obvious red flags. But customer service doesn’t have to be that bad to be a problem. If you can’t get questions answered or problems fixed, if training is poor or communications slow, your email marketing efforts are hindered.

Keep in mind, we’re talking about customer service beyond just problem solving. As ESP platforms become more complex, you need to have good people on the vendor’s side to support your team as your needs and email marketing strategy change and develop. This is true for all Saas providers, but the expectations of great service are different in email marketing.

So how do you determine what kind of service you’ll get before you sign on with a new ESP? If you’re already thinking about switching to a new email service provider, make sure customer service gets factored into your decision making process by considering the questions below.

Also be aware what kind of needs your team has. Is it a fairly self-sufficient group of people? Or do you operate with a skeleton crew that leans more on the ESP for help? Get your expectations figured out first, then determine how well the ESP will meet them.

Contacting customer service

  • What are your options for contacting customer service? Chat, email, phone, a form on the website?
  • If it’s an online process, can you walk through it and try it out? Are you faced with a series of drop-down menus? Are these easy to understand? Can you find what you’re looking for?
  • If by phone, can you get directly to a real person or do you need to work your way through a series of options and button pushing?
  • Once in contact with customer service, what is the help like? Friendly and helpful? Abrupt and dismissive?

Contacting technical support

  • What about getting technical help? Is there a number for technical help or do you start with customer service or another department first?
  • Is reaching a live person important to you? During which hours are calls answered?
  • Do you need 24-hour access to support?
  • What type of ticketing system exists?
  • What is the ESP’s complaint escalation procedure?

Asking current customers is the best way to learn about an email service provider’s response times. Ask the ESP for references, then ask those references:

  • Do you notice problems before the ESP notifies you of them or vice versa?
  • How long do you wait for someone to get back to you? Is it hours? Days?
  • How long do you wait for an issue to be resolved?
  • In what way do they normally get back to you? With a phone call? Or with an email?
  • When you get a response or help initially, how knowledgeable is the staff person? Are they able to fix your problem, or do they have to refer you to someone with more knowledge?
  • What about other types of customer services questions such as billing? Is the ESP responsive?

What not to expect from your ESP’s customer service
When you sign on that dotted line with a new email service provider, remember you’re only getting what they’ve offered. Be intimately familiar with the Service Level Agreement (SLA) and what the ESP promises to do. That way, your expectations should be in line with what the ESP offered. If their contract spells out a 24-hour response time and your staff is fidgety after 20 minutes of waiting, you’re not being fair.

Although a good customer service experience begins long before any problems arise, knowing what you can expect in the event of a problem should be a key factor in choosing the best email service provider for your organization. Use these questions, and ask your team for a few of their own, so you can truly know what to expect once that ESP is your ESP.


Published On: April 1st, 2013Categories: Email service providers

About the Author: Sharon

Sharon Ernst from is on a mission to improve the business and marketing writing skills of today’s workforce with her blog, newsletter and online classes. Her newest class on intermediate email copywriting covers 19 tips and techniques non-copywriters can put to use right away for better results. The class has real-life examples and before/after comparisons to make the lessons stick. Find her class at When she’s not busy helping employees, managers and marketers master their writing skills, she and her husband are busy raising pigs, cows, chickens and vegetables on their 20-acre farm.

Recent Posts