Disclaimer: This article is partially a rant and a review of Outbound Engine, however, it also provides a great deal of valuable content that can be used to improve your business today-guaranteed.
Outbound Engine is an online business tool that sends email blasts to your customers twice a month on your behalf in order to keep you top of mind using industry related content. They service industries in the automotive, wellness, beauty, real estate, and a few others including promotional products. In addition to sending out the emails for you, they also post on your social media accounts. Firstly, I will share my horrific experience, the pros and cons of using Outbound Engine, and an alternative to saving about $10,000 a year by not using Outbound Engine (assuming you have somewhat of an email list and are willing to actually do the work). Most importantly, I will share what you can do to win over your clients who are upset or dissatisfied with your service or product before they fire you. Finally, I will also share the steps you can take in order to screen all future vendors.
I recently signed up as a customer for Outbound Engine after being referred to the company by one of my mastermind groups. I was excited that I could hand off my most of my email marketing to the “experts”. I submitted my contact information on their website to express interest and I have to say the sales rep was phenomenal. He called within 3 minutes after I hit “submit” on their website. The rep called me even though I put “000–000–000” for my phone number. I figured he would understand that I did not want to take a phone call. He was aggressive, but as a sales professional I respected that. I was in the market and he had a solution. Outbound Engine came with a referral so I bypassed my usual steps to screen the company. I signed up the same day. After the launch of the first email campaign, things spiraled down faster than a bullet.
What Outbound Engine didn’t tell me at sign up:
- It will take about 1.5 months (three email campaigns) before your full email list will be cleared in their system. They do this for a few reasons: They do not want to have high bounce rates so they check the emails to verify that they are valid. They check to verify that none of your competitors have the same email on your list. If a competitor of yours has your client or prospects email address on their list, they will delete it from your list. They will tell you that this is hardly ever the case and maybe one or two emails will be an issue. I uploaded a small part of my list; only 200 clients email addresses and five of them were on my competitors lists while 47 of the email addresses were not going go through because their system was still processing them. 1.5 months is unacceptable and an unreasonable amount of time to check a tiny list of 200 contacts. I wonder if it would have taken six months to a year if I had uploaded my full list. Quick Hack: You can still forward the emails to your clients that are on your competitors lists once you get a copy of the email. Make sure you add yourself to the email list in Outbound Engine. Unfortunately, Outbound Engine will not notify you when there is someone on your list that is also on your competitors list. You have to call in and ask them and then they will email you that list.
Solution when you’re not using Outbound Engine: Use a service like KickBox.io — They will verify all your emails in a few minutes for dirt cheap. 500 emails for $5.00. They will help prevent your emails from bouncing, so that your account does not get suspended. You do not need this service if you have an email list that you already actively email. If you are new to email marketing, I highly suggest this because some emails may not be valid.
2. Outbound Engine will place their logo and business name everywhere. They insert it at the bottom of each email they send out to your customers list, the website pages, social media post links and anywhere else they insert their branding. All the page URLS will be branded as well, so someone who does a little research can find them. I understand the importance of branding, but I signed up with a 12-month commitment. I am aware of who you are Outbound Engine. You can delete your logo from the website and emails that I am paying you to send out to my customers.
3. The setup process is simple. Anyone who spends ten minutes playing around with the backend should be able to fully understand how to import their emails and set up their account. Our call was roughly 25 minutes and I was charged about $90. Outbound Engine could send a 1-page pdf checklist or videos to those customers who are not as familiar with technology. I felt cheated.
4. As a part of their social media postings, Outbound Engine will occasionally request followers to opt-in via their platform which- from what I understand- will not notify you when you have new subscribers. You always want to have full control of your list and have a back-up that is not on their platform.
5. They own a company that competes directly us my business!
Why I fired Outbound Engine
1. They sent out an email campaign to my email list with links that went to a page that asked my customers to opt into my email list after I spent hours on the phone making sure that everything would work smoothly and was ensured that it was set up correctly. The links should have gone to the correct product pages.
2. The deliverability rate was very poor compared with what we get using MailChimp.
3. Their customer service was worse than Comcast. Let that sink in for a second. (Support was great until after I signed up.) The manager I spoke with was terrible, but I cannot blame her completely. Outbound Engine does not have adequate training in place. She argued with me and would not listen to what I had to say. She explained that the purpose of their service is solely to keep me top of mind with my customers and prospects. The major issue was that the links were not going to the correct website pages for the products. She felt that this was not an issue because at the time of the complaint-which was right after the emails were sent- only one person had clicked on the links inside the email. Yes, only one person clicked on a link because I followed up right away to resolve the issue before other customers opened their inboxes.
4. Their social media postings have almost zero engagement. They use zero hashtags and use the exact same posts for everyone. So, all of my competitors who are signed up for Outbound Engine will get the same post that will lead them to the same URL with the same content. Imagine what would happen if you used the cookie-cutter approach with your customers?
They failed to meet my expectations, but more so they were unprofessional and offended me. Someone sane finally called me a few days later after leaving voicemails and sending emails…. They explained that many of these things should have been explained to me at the time of sign up, but it wasn’t. This is why it is critical to establish processes and systems. In the end, I requested a copy of the agreement to send to my attorney and interestingly enough they finally agreed to refund me and cancel our contract.
What does a customer expect when there is an issue?
Communication — Immediately email and call the customer to acknowledge the issue. Shut up and listen to the customer. Let them do the talking so that you can understand the problem and see their point of view. I cannot stress how important it is to shut your month and to listen. I hope that someone will forward this blog to Heather at Outbound Engine.
Outbound Engine is a VC backed company and the impression they left me with is that they don’t care about their customers and I can see why. Once a company raises millions in funding, hires a team and starts delegating to the team, most employees just go through the motions of the daily routine. I challenge you to ask the next person you work with why they do what they do. As someone who started my company at 20 years old and never had anything handed to me, I know and understand the value of each dollar. I felt like Outbound Engine stole my money and more importantly, my time.
How they should have resolved this issue and what they can do to prevent this from happening again
Companies like Outbound Engine who deliver a poor customer experience should take feedback from their customers as a way to improve rather than to be defensive. What upset me more than anything was the manager who would not be quiet and listen to what I had to say.
They collect emails to build your list, but of course they will not notify you of new email subscribers. I recommend using SumoMe for collecting email lists. You can download it for free and it is one of the fastest ways to grow your email list.
- Step 1: Listen to the customer to understand what the problem is.
- Step 2: Apologize — Outbound Engine did apologize, but it was not sincere and their manager Heather had a mouth on her. Be respectful.
- Step 3: Provide a timeline to resolve the issue. If you cannot provide a timeline stay in close communication (1–2/day) to let the customer know that you are aware and are working on providing a resolution and a new timeline. Outbound Engine went idle.
- Step 4: Ask the customer what you can do to make it up to them. Most times, the customer simply wants the issue resolved and nothing else. I wanted a credit for the campaign that went out because it failed to do what it was supposed to.
- Step 5: If the request is reasonable, honor it and then go one step beyond that to really impress the customer. Send them a custom swag pack or do something they do not expect to earn some of that lost trust. The best way to grow a business is word-of-mouth, but it’s also a great way to ruin your reputation and deter business.
- Step 6: Document the issue internally and create audit steps and trainings to prevent the same issue from happening again. We use Manage Hub and our CRM to do this.
Steps to take before getting in bed with any company (check all steps!)
1. Search Quora to read reviews and get feedback about the company.
2. Ask the company for references. Outbound Engine refused to provide this for “privacy” reasons. This is not in the agreement. RED FLAG…
3. Check out their social media accounts for reviews. Outbound Engine hides the review section on their page. RED FLAG… Look for customer and company engagement to see how they communicate with their customers. I tweeted my dissatisfaction and noticed that others posted negative feedback on their Facebook wall, but they never replied back to any of it.STAND UP FOR YOUR COMPANY. Work with a company that stands behind their products and services. Not with someone who hides and does not communicate.
4. Search YouTube for reviews.
5. Search hashtags on social media to read and hear what others are saying about their company. Search the hashtag of the company name or related keywords on Facebook and Twitter. This is what I found when I searched for the hashtag “#OutboundEngine”:
6. Visit their website a few times before you decide to sign up. Many companies like Outbound Engine will use services like Adroll to retarget you on social media. This is great because you will be able to see comments from their customers and potential customers. You can see whether they ignore the positive or negative feedback. Some companies just manually delete each negative comment which is silly because I think you look better if you defend yourself and address the issue rather than hide it. Below is a screenshot of their ad that showed up in my Facebook newsfeed recently.
7. Give the company a chance to defend itself. Call them and share with them what you found online. See what they have to say.
8. Ask in your mastermind groups or affiliations for feedback about the company you intend on working with to learn from their experiences.e.
9. Ask them: “Why do customers stop using your service?” and “How many customers continue to use your service after their 12-month commitment?” Although there is no way to know if they are providing factual information, your intuition should help give you a good insight on how they answer.
Take control of your own email marketing if you want serious results
Outbound Engine on-boards customers by providing elite service and then puts everything on autopilot after that. They hit cruise control and expect things to go smoothly. This is never acceptable! You should work closely with your customers, at the very least in the very beginning to ensure a smooth transition until they are comfortable. Make sure to set clear expectations. I hate when companies reach out only when it is most convenient for them. Only when they want to upsell a new feature or product without providing any value first.
At the end of the day, it is just silly to give your entire customer list to any 3rd party to manage. If a company like Target or Neiman Marcus can get hacked into and have customer information leaked, imagine how easy it would be for hackers to steal email lists from a company like Outbound Engine.
If you have been a victim of Outbound Engine and would like to learn the step by step method to get massive results with email marketing or prevent your company from becoming a victim email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “OE Victim” and one of my team members will reach out. I will put together a step by step guide that you can follow and then delegate to your team that will guarantee you a saving of at least $1,000 a year and give you more bang for your dollar than Outbound Engine for your email marketing. I will include a template that you can use anytime you are faced with a customer complaint. This template has saved me thousands of dollars! I will also send you info on how to set up a referral program for $0.00 which Outbound Engine charges about $50 for every time they sent out the email.