Dunning Management: Hard Bounce vs. Soft Bounce vs Auto-Replies: Why the Difference Matters
There are many different reasons why your emails or dunning emails might not make it to their destination, and the thing they all have in common is that returned emails are detrimental to a company’s marketing strategy. Obviously, you want your message to have the best possible chance of being received by your customers, so what can you do to ensure that this is the case?
Turns out it helps to know not just that your message was rejected, but why it was returned so that you can take appropriate action. After you better understand the why behind the bounce, you can be proactive about making sure it doesn’t happen again. Your clients and your business will thank you for it!
The Difference Between Hard Bounce vs. Soft Bounce in Dunning Emails
An email bounce is what happens when your message is not delivered, regardless of the reason why. When this happens the sender generally gets an automatic notice that their message was unable to be delivered. Sometimes the automatic bounce notice will contain information about why the message wasn’t delivered; whether the recipient email address was wrong, the mailbox was full, etc.
The reason for the bounce is what classifies it as a soft bounce or a hard bounce. A soft bounce is more of a short-term issue whereas hard bounce is a much bigger deal.
- Soft Bounce. A soft bounce means that the email address was valid and the email message reached the recipient’s mail server. Some reasons it bounced could be that the recipient’s mailbox was full, the server was down, or the message was too large to fit in the recipient’s inbox.
- Hard Bounce. A hard bounce means that the email was permanently rejected (hence why it’s considered more of a long-term problem). This could be because the recipient’s email address is either invalid or it doesn’t exist. Perhaps the email address was deleted when the person left the company and/or created a new email address (this is pretty common) or the email never existed in the first place. Your lead could have given you a fake email address, or maybe they gave you their real one but you recorded it incorrectly.
More Reasons Why Emails Bounce
Auto replies are considered a soft bounce because your email technically made it to the inbox, the recipient just wasn’t available to receive it. You then received an automatic notification stating the reason why they weren’t there, whether it be a vacation notice, out of office reply, etc. This isn’t a big deal as long as the person eventually comes back and answers your email. If months go by with no response, however, chances are they’re not still on vacation or “out of the office” and you might want to remove them from your contact list.
Some institutions have strict block features, like schools and government organizations, so your email could end up being blocked through no fault of your own. If this happens just try contacting the system administrator, explain to them who you are and who you’re trying to contact, and ask them to remove you from the block list. As long as your background checks out this is a relatively easy thing for them to do.
Aggressive spam filters
Spam filters are constantly evolving as spammers are constantly finding ways to get around them, which makes it challenging for legitimate businesses trying to send emails. Some businesses have particularly aggressive spam filters and firewalls built in, and so your email could easily get identified as spam by their algorithm and bounced back. Thankfully, there are ways to manage your spam shields to decrease your bounce rate.
These are just a few of the main reasons why your message may not be getting through, but check out this article by Drift for more information on the various types of email replies and how they fit into your marketing strategy and this article about why this is so important for your marketing funnel in general.
Dunning Best Practices
The message in your dunning emails should be more brand focused. You don’t want your customers thinking you outsourced a collections agency. Be sure to add a humanized approach and leave room for a customer to reply and explain why they missed a payment. If you meet them halfway you can win back involuntary churn.
Tailor and Customize your emails: Have each email’s message vary from each drip sequence. Do not send out the same template each retry. It also helps to email at different times to optimize open rate.
Keep it short, simple, and urgent: The body of your email should be no longer than 2 sentences while gently letting the customer know their service will end soon. Always follow up with how you would not want to lose their business.
Analyze the success of Your Campaign: Gravy offers winback reporting that shows you what payments have been won back and what customers responded. Analyzing won back payments and where there is potential to win more.
So why do the differences in email replies matter? In general, bounce rate matters because if your emails bounce then your message isn’t getting through to your audience. In turn, this hurts the communication with your consumers and can damage your reputation as a professional. More specifically, the reason why your email was returned should lead you to take different actions to rectify the problem.
In other words, when it comes to meeting both your website goals as well as your dunning goals, or ensuring that you aren’t losing customers due to failed payments, making sure your emails are successful matters.
How to Reduce Your Bounce Rate
- Constantly review your contact list. Go through your list and remove any invalid contacts or email addresses. This is particularly helpful if you receive a lot of hard bounces. It’s always good to be proactive and delete any invalid contacts before they become a hard bounce.
- Temporarily suspend the email addresses of any soft bounces, including out-of-office (OOO) replies and vacation notifications. Tools like Pardot can be particularly helpful in that they can sort through the messages and determine which ones are soft bounces vs. hard to help you determine which accounts to suspend and which ones to delete. Aside from using an automated tool, you can manually keep track of who is on vacation or out of the office and needs to be suspended (although surprise surprise, we wouldn’t recommend it!).
- Send a confirmation email when you receive a new email subscriber. This will tell you right away whether or not their email address is valid and will prevent hard bounces, though there is still the potential for soft bounces in the future.
- Monitor your bounce rates vs. your response rates. Be proactive and try to catch and fix any problems before they become a major issue. If your bounce rate is above 1% chances are you need to make some of the improvements discussed above.
- Keep content information up to date. If you run a physical shop or store, ask people to check and update their contact information when they make a purchase. Then make sure you collect the new information and update your database, deleting any old addresses.
- Monitor the blacklists. There are major spam databases called blacklists, and you don’t want your email address to end up on one. It’s important to actively check these sites because if you are added to the list, you won’t receive any kind of bounce message or notification. Your messages just won’t go through, and you’ll be left wondering why you’re not receiving replies.
Amanda DiSilvestro is the Editor-in-chief for Plan, Write, GO. She has been writing about all-things digital marketing as a ghostwriter, guest writer, and blog manager for over 10 years. If you’re interested in outsourcing your content, check out her blogging services to learn more!