Q&A | Not all complaints are created equal

Q: Dear EmailKarma,

Recently we had a member of our opt-in (we only send opt-in) mailing list complain about a message that we sent to them by posting a long article about it on their blog. After working with our ESP and investigating the acquisition of this address it was found that another member of their family had subscribed and used this address in the past.

What should we do about these types of complaints in the future?

[name withheld at request of sender]

A: Hello,

This appears to be a case of an individual user overreacting to your messages, because they were accessing an account shared with another individual in there household. This is occasionally seen when one individual subscribes and the other doesn’t realize of know about this (i.e. husband/wife, parent/child).

A few recommendations immediately come to mind reading the steps needed to correct this type of issue in the future;

  • Build a program that will keep your users (even less engaged users) seeing your messages on a regular basis, those that fall off based on your business rules should be sunset correctly.
  • Build personalization into these messages, starting with Dear “First Name”, vs. Dear Valued Client, allows for instant recognition of the subscriber at a shared address.
  • Add in footers with the individuals name, subscribed date and email address that reinforce the individual that subscribed to your list. This is also good for an individual that may forward one account to another (or a friend).
  • Build an easy opt-out, requiring a password or membership number will also drive individuals like this to complain about your mail as they will generally not know the password on the account as it was created by another member of their household.
  • Last but not least, be polite and honest when dealing with people like this. Explain how you got the email address, who subscribed it and when.

Hope this helps you avoid these types of issues in the future. Have any other tips for your fellow reader on avoiding these types of issues, leave a comment.

Author: Matt V - @emailkarma

Matthew Vernhout is a digital messaging industry veteran and Certified International Privacy Professional (Canada) (CIPP/C) with nearly two decades of experience in email marketing. Matthew is 250ok’s Director of Privacy, and he is currently the Vice Chair of the eec, after serving for several years as the Chair of their Advocacy Subcommittee. Matthew was recognized as the 2019 eec thought-leader of the year.

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  1. I would also suggest posting a comment on the blog with an explanation and sincere apology. I have been in this situation before and have seen a complete 360 from the complainer once we had a comment conversation. The post may not disappear, but the resolution is appropriate and equally as public.

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  2. Good point Adam. Being proactive, responsive and involved with your clients is a great way to build on these small bumps in your program. Especially when you can take a negative experience and resolve it in a positave and proactive way.

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