DCG Logo #153

Constant Contact Problems and IssuesConstant Contact is a web based marketing service aimed at small to medium sized businesses that helps with managing email lists, distributing emails, online surveys and event marketing.

Constant Contact
provides an email service for which it charges its clients by the "Stored" email address. The one-size-fits-all format of Constant Contact can cause trouble with clients who wish to customize their email delivery and distribution. This article discusses outstanding problems and issues with the Constant Contact product solution that directly impacts clients.

Problem 1 - The Add Client List Failure When The Account Is Under List Review
This particular problem involves adding clients to Constant Contact, triggering a list review (without knowing it) and trying to resend an email all in the same session.
Problem Specifics
If a Constant Contact client has already sent an email and wishes to resend that email to more of their clients, one that have not yet been added to Constant Contacts list, they will run into this problem.
When they make a manual addition of a client list to CC, they will run into a list review, which is where the Constant Contact List review team asks them a long line of questions about the source of the email addresses. This is of course a reasonable expectation, but the list review itself causes a failure of the resend - Something that can never be undone - its a permanent failure of the resend. Lets break it down by the steps:

1 - Send an email out to the normal client list
2 - Add some clients to CC, enough to cause a list review (Usually about 1000 will cause a list review and the account is frozen, but you don't know it as the list review is arbitrary and secret)
3 - In the same CC session try to resend the email to the new set of contacts you just added
4 - This email send will then fail - as the list review has already been triggered. Logging out and then back in will reveal the list review status.
5 - A phone call to Constant Contact will undo the list review hold, but the Constant Contact system will believe that the email was already sent to that list - when clearly it was not.
6 - Amazingly, you can never resend this email out to those added client names again. Its an unbelievable bug that still exists today.

Constant Contact Response:
"We don't believe this problem hits enough of our clients for it to be something we want to fix"
" A work-around solution is to create a new email and send these client list additions to that new email"
" Another work around solution is to log out and log back in after every list addition, that way you would know if you have been flagged for a list review - sorry for the inconvenience"

The problem with the Constant Contact workaround solution is that it creates an even bigger problem than it resolves.
Because this is the very first email that you are sending to these new clients the spam rate will be much higher than normal - Certainly more than 1 per 1000 which is Constant Contacts limit. Constant Contact will stop your account due to spam complaints if they exceed their standard. This is the very reason why you wanted to send it out as an addition to the original email, so you could leverage the low spam complaint of the original email against the new added clients and therefore not run into spam complaint territory. Even if CC gives you a break now and says OK, its our fault, 3 months from now when they are looking at the history of your account, they will not remember the details of the event where you sent a large amount of spam - and they may well impose sanctions against your account including email stepped distribution (Where they will only send a few thousand at a time) or worse, account termination. Its a self-fulfilling prophecy, Constant Contact causes the problem and then supplies a solution that causes an even bigger problem of spam history and potential account termination.

Problem 2- Deletion of Historic Data
Constant contact deletes all email information including all "open" information after 90 days.
This means that a client cannot tell who opened an email after the 90 day window
Constant Contact Responses:
"We don't have the server space to store this kind data"
"Our clients generally don't need this information after 90 days"
"Our clients should store this information for themselves, even though exporting and using it in the future can be traumatic"
The cost of storage space for this kind of data is tiny. Newegg.com offers 1TB drives for $400.00, which could over 400 Billion entries of "open"information
Problem 3 - Inability to re-send an email after 90 days
Most email deployment systems allow an email to be resent to a list that has grown in size. Because Constant Contact deletes all its client data after 90 days, a resend that is sent to all contact that have been added since the email was originally sent cannot be performed
Constant Contact Response:
"In our experience the email is probably out-of-date after 90 days"
"Create a new email and try to determine what addresses have been added since the day of the last send by doing an export"
It is not the prerogative of CC to determine whether the clients email is out-of-date or not - It may be a topic that has a long shelf life
Constant Contact does not provide any tools to determine what emails have been added since that email send date, so the whole database must be exported and then manually modified re-imported. This results in many hours of extra work that Constant Contact creates for its clients.
Problem 4 - Large enterprise accounts are supported exactly the same was as mom&pop accounts
In its bid to reduce it operating costs CC applies a one-size-fits-all approach to tools, deployment and support.
Experienced enterprise clients that have hundreds of thousands of email contacts receive no special treatment, are asked to use "entry level: templates, receive the same rudimentary support as mom and pop shops, must answer the same questions over the telephone hundreds of times and are generally treated as equal to much smaller operations that have no credibility. It seems that CC doesn't;t know how to handle things when the clients grow - their needs and expectations change, CC does not.
Constant Contact Response:
"Everyone gets treated the same, irrelevant of how much they spend with us"
Enterprise clients need an email partner who will treat them with the support they need.
Problem 5 - CC Clients are not allowed to talk with anyone above Level 1 Support
Constant contact provides only rudimentary support and clients cannot talk to anyone outside of this support group - This support group is often not the most qualified to be a client advocate. The groups that the client cannot talk to include development and audit departments and even lower management. This often gets in the way of providing large clients with appropriate answers - the support group may not understand the question properly and they then take that poor understanding of the issue to the other group for a resolution and then come back with an inappropriate solution. Often level 1 support is fed misleading information, such as how long the email servers will be done for etc. Often no accountability is prescribed for any outages and issue caused by Constant Contact.
Constant Contact Response:
"We pass on your suggestions"
"You can make suggestions on our web site forum"
When asked about who reads the suggestions and how many have been solved, the level 1 support team does not know.
The Constant Contact support team needs to create an appropriate escalation method and be cognizant of when they need to get out the way of a problem or solution, allowing better qualified personnel to manage.
Problem 6 - Lack of expertise and technology in managing text based email
Many clients use portable devices to read their emails in text form. Some of the popular devices that allow this mode of reading are Blackberry, IPhone and Droid. Constant Contact does not handle text based technology very well and has little strategy on how to appeal to this clientele. Moreover, CC will actually mark the client as "unread" as they haven't developed anything that allows the client "read" to be recognized or even for it to be discovered that it is in fact a text based device. Even more ridiculous, CC insists on putting overly long URL's at the bottom of text based emails, clearly a mistake - It seems they haven't heard of tinyurl.com yet.
Constant Contact Response:
"We don't know what we don't know" IE Meaning that they don't have a handle on it.
They need to develop tools to better manage these text based clients, they make their customers throw out the baby with the bath water, because they make it appear that the email was not read when read by a text client.
Problem 7 - Permission Reminder - Lack of client customization
The permission reminder is a nice touch. its a line at the top of the email that asks the client whether they want to opt out - but at the start of the email instead of the end. Problem is that CC insists that if you select this option they will insert an extra line return and your must use their set verbiage. They also allow you to add extra verbiage to it, but it just makes the text even longer. Their verbiage isn't terrible " You may unsubscribe if you no longer wish to receive our emails." - but clients like to fine tune it to their audience - But part of Constant Contacts, one-size-fits-all approach, everyone must us the same verbiage
Constant Contact Response:
"Its the standard - we don't allow customers to change it"
Big brother approach doesn't work well with enterprise clients who are trying to customize their product
Problem 8 - Inability to first name, last name or any other field value in the subject line
Constant Contact has not developed the code to allow their customers to populate the subject line with any values from the client database fields including first name, last name or any piece of date captured about the client. There are many uses for this and greatly increases the email open rate. We wanted to send an email that said "Fred, have prepared this report especially for you and the guys at Schwab" - but Contact Contact does not allow this.
Constant Contact Response:
"We don't believe our customers want this functionality"
"In our experience it makes email look like spam"
"Our clients would be confused"
Another example of the lack of ingenuity at Constant Contact
Problem 9 - Developing frivolous tools that few clients want or need. Neglecting the development of important tools
Frivolous tools recently developed that have little or no value to enterprise clients
  • Surveys
  • Archives
  • Event Marketing
  • Learning Center

Tools that Clients Actually Want

  • Ability to send a test email to more than 5 people
  • Allow test email to use a contact list, be able to pick out contacts
  • Auto correct bad email addresses in the the database - Clearly there is no such thing as yah00.com or hootmail.com, but the CC system is so dumb it will store these errors, try to send an email to this bad address, then respond to the owner that the user doesn't exist at that email address. Not too much of stretch to allow an auto correct for the most common errors ?
  • Design a support forum that is less "pretty" and more functional - Its very difficult to see other posters comments/subjects in the current support forums, track your own postings and generally navigate a forum that appears to have been designed to be as user-unfriendly as possible. A quick conversion to a phpBB would solve all the issues.
Problem 10 - A Multitude of Minor Annoyances
  • The email scheduler always defaults to the following day - leading to accidental scheduling errors,even by seasoned Constant Contact email veterans - It is too easy to accidentally schedule an eblast for tomorrow, when you really wanted it to be sent today.
  • Level 1 support is often completely in the dark to previous Constant Contact outages, each support person claims to have no knowledge of previous outage history - makes troubleshooting difficult when they wont admit their own problems
  • The list review trigger amount is secret. This causes list reviews at the most inconvenient times, especially in the middle of the night when CC does not operate its business, meaning that your account is frozen until they unfreeze it on the next business day. Why cant it be a known and understood amount, is that so scary, so customers can work around it and not get it unexpectedly ?