Postmark is incredibly good about turning off delivery to email addresses if they bounce, unsubscribe, or complain about spam. As a result, we’ve encountered a handful of instances where customers stopped receiving email notifications and were confused. I certainly believe that this is the right behavior, but it caught us and our customers off guard since our old provider didn’t do this.
From a support standpoint, it was easy enough to correct, but it happened frequently enough to become a distraction, and we wanted to enable people to handle the situation on their own. Enter Postmark’s bounce hook. Whenever Postmark receives a bounce notification, they securely post the bounce information to a URL of your choosing where you can then handle the bounce. That gives you the freedom to handle bounces a little more elegantly than simply ceasing delivery.
Classifying and Handling Bounces
There are several scenarios that create bounces. In some cases, it will affect email delivery, and we need to notify the account holder or administrators of the problem. In others, like an unsubscribe request, we should automatically process it and disable notifications for them, but we don’t need to notify anyone since it was user-initiated. So, depending on the type of bounce, we need to react differently.
While the majority of the messaging is the same, we do our best to provide some level of detail about why email delivery has been suspended. So the messaging is adjusted based on the reason for the bounce.
Account Holders & Admins
Once a bounce comes in, assuming that it’s relevant to an account holder, that is it was accidental and not user-initiated, we email the account holder and flag the user’s account as bouncing. From that point forward, we present alerts to anyone on the account with administrator privileges in order to ensure that the problem can be resolved sooner rather than later.
In addition to the adminstrators, we also want to let the user know what’s going on so that they know why they have stopped receiving email notifications. We display an alert on the dashboard as well as information on the individual’s profile page explaining what happened and how they can correct the problem.
Opting out of notifications is very different from email delivery problems. In the case of unsubscribes or spam complaints, we automatically turn off email notifications for a given user. However, in the case of most bounces resulting from technical issues, we do not make any changes to their email notifications setting.
As a result, there’s potential for confusion if we let someone know that we are having problems with their email address and aren’t delivering notifications, but the email notifications option is selected. In order to try and prevent any confusion, we inform them that delivery issues are separate from their choice to receive notifications or disable them.
Correcting the Problem
Depending on the type of bounce, there are a couple of options that the user or administrators can use to restart email delivery. For each bounce, we explain those options at the top of the relevant pages.
- Update the email address. Regardless of the type of bounce, if you replace the bouncing email address with a new email address, we’ll begin delivery again to the new email address.
- Reactivate delivery. Sometimes, there are temporary delivery problems stemming from downtime, DNS problems, or other similar issues. In this case, if delivery can be reactivated remotely, we offer the option to simply reactivate delivery to the existing email address.
- Contacting support. Currently, there are some scenarios like spam complaints, where Postmark doesn’t enable us to override the bounce and reactivate notifications. In these situations, we need to get involved and provide the Postmark team with an explanation so that they can reactivate it manually.
Postmark has been incredible. The product is great, and the few times there have been hiccups, they’ve addressed the problem quickly and efficiently. I can’t say enough great things about the product and the team. Ensuring email deivery and handling bounces is an easily overlooked detail, but we think this will really help alleviate confusion and enable people to immediately correct email delivery issues without having to worry or wait for us to explain and correct the issue.