HUB REPORTS practical issue – important!

I’m writing this as this is something I find too important. I hope that the time I put in writing this will save me and others time on sending manual emails with reports to clients or loss of business and unhappy clients for those that choose to use the automatic email reports as-is.

Reports are a huge reason in choosing to use the WPMU Hub. It’s very important in our business to regularly reminde the clients that there is work that is being done each month for that maintenance fee that they pay.

I do love the way the Hub reports are generated, like the fact that it shows all updates done no matter if they were done directly, through the hub or other means. However there are some current critical issues and some areas that require further improvements to make them truly and fully ready for business.

So far I have been testing it out, checking the report, downloading it and manually emailing it to the client later.

But now I wanted to start setting it to automatically send it to the client, and I have noticed that adding the email requires a confirmation. Now that can potentially cause critical business issues. Here’s why:

First lets agree that it may hurt our business and lose clients if for whatever reason they don’t get these periodic reports that shows that we are actually doing work for the $$ they are paying monthly. For most of us reports are a critical part of the website maintenance business, promised contractually, and we do have the right to email them.

PROBLEM 1a: – as-is, it’s easy for the client to not get the reports ever and we would not know it either. He may not confirm email for whatever reason: misses it, ignores it, postpone it, confusion, spam folder, you name it…

SOLUTION 1a: – No need to double opt-in!!! If you want to give some users the option to double opt-in, just make it a optional switch. Give the users control to their businesses. This is not an email marketing service! And even those moved to an optional double opt-in! If you worry about reputation management perhaps implement it in conjuction to Solution 3B although leaving the unsubscribe option mandatory for using WPMU email delivery service should be enough to mediate that.

PROBLEM 1bIt’s good and more than enough to include the option to unsubscribe at any time in the emails. However that needs some improvement as it can lead to issues as-is currently, because we don’t know if a client unsubscribed from reports.

SOLUTION 1b:
option A: If you insist to leave the unsubscribe option as mandatory we would need to get notifications when a client unsubscribes fro the report. This way we would know and be able to talk to the client. I suggest having a do not email list that we can refer to, maintain, that would do the job better.
option B: Make it optional as well, let the user decide how to deal with unsubscribe requests. Personally I do like the option to have automatic unsubscribes if I have a “do not email” list that I can access and also get notifications and reports on unsubscribe events.

But trully it’d be better to be optional in the current state of your system. Automatic unsubscribe is not really required in most places, and each user knowing their own country regulations should have the option to choose what needs to be done. For unsubscribe all we have to do is unsubscribe them per request. This is not a mass email marketing system. We have a direct relationship and contractual obligation with the clients. We need to keep a good grip on what goes on. If you worry about reputation management perhaps implement it in conjuction to Solution 3B

PROBLEM 2 – lack of feedback, tracking. as-is: we don’t know if users confirmed emails, if they receive reports, if they open them, if they unsubscribe…. We do need that! Especially if those options are there.

SOLUTION 2 – subscribe status: your system needs to allow us to see the status of the emails: confirmed, subscribed, unsubscribed… We need to get notifications if there are reports that don’t get deliver because of email not confirmed, or unsubscribed.

While we do need the feedback and tracking, I want to emphasize that it would not serve as a viable solution for making the double opt-in mandatory. That still needs to be optional.
Otherwise knowing that a client does not receive a report because of email not being confirmed would mean that we would have to nag the client into searching a previous email, take some action to confirm the subscription in order to get the promissed reports. Not REALLY a practical or desireable outcome – manual work for us – we were looking at WPMU for automation afterall, wasted time, annoyed clients, and some that will have to give up as it would create a bad case to have this conversation more than once with the client. So no reports for some clients, which will lead to some lost clients in time. And don’t say that if clients want the report they should skip the rope, click a link, or whatever barriers we(you) create – in real like, this works differently.

So is accepting LOSS of business as acceptable outcome because of making the system rigid? For going beyond what regulations dictate a business needs to do? Every country/state/region has its own rules for marketing and transactional emails. It’s our businesses that have to comply in this case, not WPMU, keep that in mind. WPMU offers a tool, and we do require the means to do that. Indeed WPMU should offer those options (as in optional).

“PROBLEM 3” more of a FEATURE SUGGESTION: report tracking: as-is the system does not give us feedback if emails were opened or reports read.

SOLUTION 3:
option A (better): built it all in house as it’d be much more elegant and efficient to have that in the hub. You could easily make it so we can receive reports/notifications/status for opened emails/read reports… check issues of non-delivery, reports not being read, emails not opened… It’d also make it easier to track not only emails opened but also reports opened by doing it in the house, as those reports could be opened on the web or downloaded from the web, ideally using a custom subdomain that uses our own domain.
option B: I figure it’d work just for opened email though – let us use our own third party email delivery services like Mailgun as that tracks that. This also would move the email delivery away form you, so you don’t have to worry about reputation management.
option C (best): a combination of solution A and option B. Offer both options.