How to make enemies and annoy people

Evidently, there are some real doorknobs out there who think "Can Spam" legislation actually gives companies permission to harrass people with unsolicited email.

Because I'm "info-saturated", it is my general practice to opt out of all communication from a site, unless it's something I can't live without.

I like to think that, after 15 years in eCommerce, I've grown adept at scrutinizing and filling out the opt-in/opt-out fields on a registration form. However, in some cases I might miss a tricky default setting that signs me up for a newsletter. My response: DOH! Shame on Me! I then go back and reset things to opt-out.

Lately, however, there seems to be something fishy going on. Despite my opt-out behavior, there seem to be a few sites that believe they have the right to email me, no matter what!

The most recent offender is Ancestry.com. The site baited me into a free trial period, and curious to see what they offered, I registered as a member. In doing so, I opted OUT of ALL communications. Curiously, an unwanted newsletter or two arrived anyway. I had to go back in to my account and reset my preferences, which had suspiscously changed to opt IN ...

After using the site for less than a week, I decided it wasn't something I was interested in and cancelled my membership. Unfortunately, the emails did not end. Ancestry.com has insisted on sending me unsolicited emails baiting me to come back to an improved site. I've gotten three emails since I cancelled my membership, and they won't stop. Changing my preferences does nothing and there's no phone numer to call (that I can find, at least). I sent them an email today, reminding them that continuing to email me is a violation of Federal Law.

Another offender is eHarmony. Yes, I admit that I did a free trial, about four months ago. With all due respect to the site's many loyal users, I personally didn't care for the experience the site offered. So, I cancelled my membership. Actually, the cancellation itself was a nightmare. Beyond that, I had to go back to eHarmony THREE TIMES to opt-out of communications, and I'm still getting emails from them. They refuse to stop emailing me despite multiple email complaints and phone calls. Screwy!

The sad thing is that, by spamming me, Ancestry.com and eHarmony have successfully turned me against them. By respecting my preferences, I may have returned on my own as a customer -- at some point in the future. Not anymore!

So, What's the lesson in it for all companies?

1. Develop a multi-tiered opt-in strategy for your site carefully. Take ample time to map out your customer entry and exit communciations, and walk through every imaginable customer scenario to ensure the experience - and communications - are as positive to customer relationship as they can be.

2. Make sure your strategy complies with permission-based marketing best practices as well as state and federal law. Today, there are people who make a living off lawsuits over stuff like this. Get smart, or pay up!

3. Test your back-end process to ensure it supports customer opt-out within 10 days.. If your data management, internal process and capabilities can't support this, you'll violate federal legislation.

4. Respect customer choice. Underhanded, tricky, invasive opt-ins or installs (if you provide software downloads) only serve to irritate your customer. Irritating your customers is stupid.

5. Remember, the run around is for dogs. Customers don't like jumping through hoops. Push them too far, and it may lead your company into a "public blogging".

We need to hold companies accountable for responsible marketing. Companies need to understand that in the era of customer choice, it's stupid to alienate customers by pummeling them with unwanted solicitations. That's why it's never been more critical to develop a strong, permission-based, multi-channel customer experience strategy.... but that's another post entirely.

9 comments:

LivePath said...

It appears that blogging may, in some cases, work better than emailing a company. I published my post today at 11 am, and at 1:30, received this message from Dave Robinson, Senior Manager, Electronic Communications at Ancestry. com:

I'm writing in reference to your recent entry regarding Ancestry.com's email practices.

First, I would like to apologize that the author had this experience. Second, as a communications manager at Ancestry.com I would like to get to the bottom of his/her experience so we can identify what sounds like a breakdown somewhere in our email processes? We take Can-Spam very seriously and only send Email to those who have opted-in to email communications.

While there may be a lag time of a few days in honoring opt-out requests, the author should not have received any further communications 2-3 days after opting-out? Also, there has never been a re-setting of email flags for those who have opted out as reported?

Not trying to make any excuses here, would just like to identify what sounds like a potential breakdown in our email processes so that we may rectify the problem. Please contact me at your earliest convenience.

Regards,
Dave Robinson


I'm working with the folks at Ancestry.com now to figure out where their breakdown is. What's most interesting about this is that TWO different people picked up my blog posting faster than they picked up the email I sent last week...which is still unresponded to. Interesting... Will let you know how this plays out

LivePath said...

So here's the updated on what happened with Ancestry.com. They were very interested in resolving the issue and we had quite a bit of back and forth.

I provided them with a list of the emails I kept - and the dates on which these emails were sent. I also gave them the specific dates when I opted out -- as well as the approximate dates of my first opt-outs. I actually unsubscribed several times on the site.

In reality, I was getting email about 30 days after I unsubscribed. However, I think because their system doesn't register anything but my last profile edit, they they are under the impression that I was being emailed only eight days after opt-out (my second or third opt-out). As such, they do not believe they violated Can Spam legislation.

They chalked up the slow opt-out to a list-pull issue and email delays...

Whatever the case, I did get the impression from the emails that there were a number of internal problems they were trying to fix.

With regard to eHarmony, I continue to get emails from them despite my opt-outs and complaints. Know any good lawyers, let me know. ;-)

Anonymous said...

http://blacksheep.rootsweb.com/shame/ancestry-cancel.htm
You can find about almost any business's phone number by typing in the Company Name + the words Phone and Number on Google search.

The harrassment has to stop.

antirj said...

I have spent months trying to stop the e-mails from ancestry.com. Finally after reporting it for the past two weeks to spamcop I am getting replies, not very good replies, replies stating that to stop their emails to unscribe from them. I've been unsubcribed from them for 6 bloody months, bouncing them back to them as no such address for 4 months and still they come.

antirj said...

Anyone still having problems with ancestry.com spam, please go to spamcop.net, sign up for a free account, and use their reporting feature to report their spam.

This company needs to learn they need to fix the problems with their system ands top filling e-mail boxes with unwanted spam

farouk said...

thanks for the info :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info confirming that Ancestry.com=spam. I signed up for a trial account with Ancestry.com some years ago, and rarely heard a thing. But recently, I've been getting about one a month.

At first I went back to my Ancestry.com account setting and disabled anything that I could. A few weeks later I got another bulletin. That convinced me Ancestry.com is a spammer. I looked for a customer service email address in vain. Further evidence that Ancestry.com is not interested in hearing from users.

I went back into my account and changed the email address. Today, some weeks later, I got an email at the old address.

It's clear: Ancestry.com don't care what you do once they've got an email address. Their system won't take note of the changes I make, and they don't provide a contact address so that I can write and ask (politely) that they remove all traces of my account.

My conclusion: Ancestry.com=spam.

Offended by Ancestry.com said...

Mr. Robinson wrote: "While there may be a lag time of a few days in honoring opt-out requests, the author should not have received any further communications 2-3 days after opting-out".

So why am I still getting mail from them 3 months after requesting a halt? This is surely spam, and a violation of privacy standards. Reporting Ancestry.com to spamcop isn't enough. Stronger measures are needed.

Anonymous said...

File a complaint with the FTC! I did.

https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov

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LEIGH DURST

LEIGH DURST
I’m Leigh Durst, a 20 year veteran in business, operations, customer strategy, ecommerce, digital & social media and marketing. Simply put, I’m a strategist that helps companies (start-up to blue chip) achieve business shift, create more compelling online and offline experiences. I also write, speak and teach about experience design and next-generation business. I’m a futurist, visionary, strategist, doer and connector with a passion for people and helping others. When I’m not on the road, you’ll find me in the San Francisco bay area, working, beaching it and hanging out with my family and dog.

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