Have you heard the news? Verizon is out of the email business. A few weeks ago the global communications and tech company announced that it will no longer manage 4.5 million of its customer email accounts. Those impacted have the option to migrate their accounts to AOL, which Verizon purchased in 2015.
In the next 30 days, Verizon’s email customers will have to decide what they want to do with their existing accounts. So, if you’re a marketer who relies on email campaigns to connect with customers (and are there any marketers on the planet who don’t rely to some extent on email?), you have your own set of concerns to worry about — and precautions to take.
How This Impacts Your Deliverability
The good news is that it’s not likely that a large portion of your contacts will be affected. Out of the 4.92 billion email accounts worldwide, only 0.09% are a part of the Verizon.net domain to be impacted. However, after late March (Verizon has not released a specific deadline), you may not be able to continue to communicate with any remaining Verizon.net email addresses in your database. So before that happens, your customers will have three options for how to handle their Verizon.net email accounts:
1. Take no action.
Big problem here. After the 30-day cutoff, your customers will not be able to access their Verizon accounts any longer – and you will not be able to communicate with them – at least not by email.
2. Keep the Verizon.net email address and migrate it to AOL Mail.
If you can, convince your customers to migrate their old email account to Verizon-owned AOL. This will allow you to continue communicating with customers and should transfer their emails, contacts, and calendar data automatically, but you may experience some deliverability challenges in the interim before all migration is complete.
3. Find another email provider.
If your customer chooses to go with a new email provider (and many of those impacted by this change are predicted to do just that) you may face communication issues. Since your customer will no longer be able to access his current Verizon.net email address, you will have to rely on him to set up a new email account. Then you’ll have to hope that your customer will inform you of the new address or update their accounts and profiles.
What You Can Do to Stay Connected with Customers
If you just broke out into cold sweats, there are some things you can do to guide your customers through this transition, hopefully retain all their profile data, and ultimately remain connected. Here are 8 next steps that we recommend:
1. Count the Verizon.net Email Addresses in Your Database
The first step is to figure out how large of an issue this is for you. Once you know how many customers are impacted, determine which ones are active, responsive to campaigns, or have purchased recently so that you don’t spend valuable hours trying to update contact information for past customers who haven’t engaged with your brand in years.
2. Ensure You Have Accurate Contact Info
Use communication methods like on-site messaging to reach out to customers with Verizon.net domains and – without being bothersome – check-in with them before and after Verizon’s switch to ensure you have the most up-to-date contact information.
3. Create a Communications Plan
It’s always a good idea to establish alternative ways to get in touch with customers, but it’s more critical when massive changes within an ESP affect 4.5 million accounts. Use this opportunity as a reason to talk directly with impacted customers. Beyond taking the opportunity to inform them of the impending change, you can also ask them to update their profiles with new email addresses, as well as with alternative contact details, such as mobile phone numbers, social profiles, and so on.
Go the extra mile and specify a channel other than email that you can use to contact your most valuable customers to avoid running into “invalid” or “hard bounce” messages the next time you try to reach them. While every single contact is important, you’ll want to take special care with your VIPs. It would be terrible if any customers slipped through the cracks, but it could be an absolute disaster if you don’t make sure your VIPs are accounted for.
4. Get the Most Out of Your Deliverability Tools
Leverage your ESP’s deliverability arsenal. Using domain reports or inbox previews could be your greatest tools in ensuring that your email will be delivered to all of your recipients before and after the switch.
5. Get Your Team on the Same Page
Brief your call center team about the upcoming changes and make sure you’ve prepared call scripts for missing shipping notifications or alerts. While you might not have a huge number of customers affected, it’s still a frustrating experience for them to go through, and a consistent response from your customer service department goes a long way toward proving how much you care about your customers.
6. Change Your Email Signup Message
This might seem obvious, but make sure you alter your email signup or login message to notify new customers that they shouldn’t sign up using a Verizon.net address.
7. Bounce Rates May Vary
Even if you can communicate with your customers via email, there could still be disruptions during the transition period. For customers who migrate their Verizon.net email addresses to a new provider, you might experience issues with bounce codes.
Unfortunately, ISPs don’t all send back the same bounce and error codes. Some make no distinction between an out-of-office or “soft” bounce and a “hard” bounce. The main thing is to be prepared and have an alternative way to contact customers apart from email.
8. Root Out Invalid Addresses from Your Database
After the email address switch, be sure to thoroughly clean up your database. Good data hygiene is always important, but if you don’t eliminate all remaining affected addresses, your bounce rates will rise as you continue sending email campaigns to addresses that no longer exist.
A major changeup in any of the channels you use to communicate with your customers is worrisome. There’s not much scarier to marketers than the thought of suddenly losing all contact with a customer, especially one who’s been happy with your service in the past and continues to make purchases with you. But there are precautions you can take to minimize disruptions. Communication is the place to start, but don’t forget to also take full advantage of any deliverability tools your company has.
For more on the complexities of email deliverability, download our whitepaper.