I'd like to order some spam egg spam spam bacon and spam, please.


Sunday, February 08, 2009

So we have this hypothetical situation: Let's imagine a customer sends me an email asking me how to change the margins in an Excel sheet. I read the email, I fire Visual Studio or Delphi, and spend the next half hour of my life writing a small demo project showing him how this can be done.

After that I zip the project and email it back to him. And after that... well, there is no "after that". That is all.

By some strange reason the email I sent went to the heaven of emails where all good unread emails go. I have lost half an hour of my life, and probably a customer too.
I won't even know my email was never read, and the user will think I didn't even care to answer him, not even a courtesy answer.

And now of course, comes the part when I tell you I have lied to you. All the way. This wasn't an hypothetical situation. This is a *real* issue we see here much more often than what we would like. Every month I get to know of one or two cases where I am aware this happened, because the user writes back telling me that they still expect an answer. But I don't know about all those users who never got my answer and just assumed I never wrote back. And this is frustrating as hell.

Whenever we send an email, we can never sure that the other side is getting it. So you can't assume we are going to get your email, and neither that you are going to get our answer. And while we can't completely avoid this problem, there are ways that we can use to minimize the probabilities of this happening. This is what we will be speaking about today.

When sending emails

Whenever you send an email, you want to make sure we get it. And this is especially important the first time you write, since you are not in our address list and might be filtered out.

  • Have a descriptive title for your mail: Besides having my spam filter in low settings, I also review my spam mail to make sure we are not missing any emails. But we have thousands of them daily, so I will just look over them. And I am much more likely to spot an email with subject "Issue with FlexCel and named ranges" in my junk folder than one with subject "Can you help?" or "I have a problem".

  • Include relevant words in your email and in the subject: For example, if you are writing to me, make sure you write "FlexCel" somewhere in the subject and in the body of the email. If you are writing a question for AdvStringGrid, make sure that AdvStringGrid is very visible somewhere. Spam filters learn to recognize those words and will let those email pass through the gates. And we are much more likely to see them ourselves if for any reason the spam filter misses them.

  • Don't include words that might be considered "spam", and specially in the subject: You need to balance the reward of sending me that smart pun about v!agra against the risk that I might not see the email. XXX is other word to avoid, I used to use it sometimes to indicate things like "version 3.XXX" until I saw junk filters assuming other meaning for XXX.

  • If it is your first email, consider not including attachments: This one is not really necessary, you only should consider it if you are not getting any answer. Attachments are more likely to be considered junk.

  • If you are a registered user, consider using our support form: After login, if you click in "My support" in the sidebar at the left, there is a section "Submit a support question" where you can submit a question and be sure we are going to get it.

When waiting for an answer

Ok, so you have sent the email and it got pass our defenses. Congratulations! You have half of the work done. BUT, if we answer and that answer gets filtered by your own email filter, we are back at square one (and pass through the jail not collecting any money). So, here are some things to do when waiting for an answer from us:

  • Don't wait a month for an answer: We have seen cases of a customer sending an email telling us that he didn't got his registration data, a month after he registered the product. Don't be that customer. We answer all emails we get in a reasonable time, normally the same day or sometimes a little more, but never in 30 days. If you haven't got an answer in 2 working days, you might safely assume something went wrong.

  • Do wait a couple of days: While we normally answer very fast and in the same day, sometimes we are overloaded with work and can't send an instant answer. So be patient to us.

  • If possible, put tmssoftware.com in a whitelist: This depends on the filtering software you are using, but if you have access to it, and you can modify it, and you are waiting an answer from us, it won't hurt to whitelist us.

  • Look at your spam folder: If you are waiting for an answer that never comes, make sure you remember that you have a spam folder and that you can look at it. Maybe a surprise is there waiting for you.

  • Try sending from other email address: If you sent a mail and didn't get an answer, try sending it from other address. In fact, you might cc the email with other email address of yours. We will reply to all, so we will send the answer to both addresses, and you will duplicate your chances of hitting the jackpot.

  • If possible, avoid sending us mail from free providers: Try to send your email from your company address, not from Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, etc. As most real spam comes from those providers, your email is also much more likely to be classified as spam if it comes from the same place.
    Bonus points: Avoid Gmail! Ok, this is my personal pet peeve.I don't know why, but Gmail filter seems to love sending our emails to the junk. I have done an experiment myself, sending one email from tms to my gmail address, with relevant content, from Adrian Gallero to Adrian Gallero, and it was indeed merrily sent to the junk. Some people seems to love Gmail junk filter, I personally dislike it a lot. Not only it sends legitimate mail to the junk, it also lets a lot of spam go through my account. So please, if you must write from Gmail, make sure you look at your junk folder for the answer.

Adrian Gallero


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