Resolving email delivery issues

Introduction

It's important to distinguish between two very different email delivery issues. Firstly, there are many reasons why you may be unable to send an email to someone through ChurchSuite - where message delivery fails with an email error (explained in this article). Secondly, there are many reasons why an email delivers without error but ends up in the recipient's "junk mail" folder, rather than their inbox. In this latter scenario, asking the recipient to mark such emails as "Not junk" may help improve future deliverability to an inbox by re-educating their email provider's anti-junk algorithms, but they are not 100% accurate.

This article focuses on resolving issues where an email fails to deliver at all - where the email is rejected with an error reason.

Email Errors

When a recipient email provider fails to deliver an email, ChurchSuite's mail handler receives a rejection response from the recipient's email provider and the email error details are returned back into your ChurchSuite account. The email error "reason" that ChurchSuite receives from a recipient email service provider is not always clear and can even sometimes be misleading!

To discover the rejection reason for an undelivered email that you've sent, head to the Address Book module's Reports section and view the Email Errors report. This report lists all errors relating to emails sent to Address Book contacts within a range of dates. Note that the Children, Calendar, Giving and Bookings modules each have their own Email Errors reports for emails pertaining to the children, unlinked parents, event signups, givers and booking customers in the respective modules.

Email errors are also surfaced on the recipient person's profile. A soft bounce is considered a temporary issue - the error message will persist on the person's profile for 14 days from the last error, with the option to Ignore the message, thus preventing the email error continuing to show on that profile. Choosing Ignore simply suppresses the error message, it does not resolve the underlying error. A spam complaint or hard bounce error will persist indefinitely until either the email address for the person is changed or the underlying issue is resolved (described below).

When a spam complaint or hard bounce error occurs, the contact is immediately unsubscribed from receiving further general and rota reminder emails. Opting them back in will not resolve the issue and sending further emails will result in further errors and being unsubscribed again from receiving general and rota reminder emails. However, the email address is left in place so that login access to My ChurchSuite is not affected. A Changes log is added to show the unsubscribe and the reason.

Previous errors - what does that mean?

On the Email Errors report and the 'rejection message' surfaced on a person's profile page - you may see a message saying Rejected due to previous errors. This happens any time you send an email shortly after a previous error that has been reported.

Soft bounce errors persist for 14 days, so if you try to re-email the person again while the underlying issue remains unresolved, and within that 14-day time period, you will see a “rejected due to previous errors” message.

Hard bounces and spam complaints last for a year. During this time the email address is usually "blacklisted" (but can be removed from the "blacklist" - see below), so if you try to send another email to an email address that has hard bounced or where a spam complaint has been reported, you will get the “rejected due to previous errors” message.

Spam

A spam complaint is a permanent error and usually arises from a recipient intentionally or inadvertently labelling one of the emails you've sent through ChurchSuite as spam. As a result of a spam complaint the email address is blacklisted to prevent you sending them further unwanted emails through ChurchSuite until the blacklisting is removed at the recipient's direct request to ChurchSuite Support. Even if they subsequently mark your domain as a 'safe sender' a blacklisted email address remains blacklisted until we are given authority from the recipient that they do indeed wish to receive your emails once again.

The purpose of this functionality is to protect people - even if they are legitimate Address Book contacts - from being spammed by emails from your ChurchSuite account. This 'blacklisting' protection involves the contact's email address being added to a suppression list. Removing an email address from the suppression list can only be done by the ChurchSuite Support team and their request must come to us directly from the contact's affected email address stating that they wish to be removed from the blacklist.

Resolution

In the event that a recipient/contact accidentally marks an email as Spam or changes their mind about receiving emails, they will need to contact the Support team at support@churchsuite.com to request to be removed from the blacklist - remember to include a note of the church/organisation name. Once a blacklist removal has been actioned by the Support Team, the affected recipient will be re-subscribed to receiving general and rota reminder emails.

Bounces

Your sent email may have been bounced by the recipient's email provider and consequently added to a rejection blacklist. There are two types of bounce explained below:

Hard Bounces

This is a permanent error. If an email error is labelled as Hard Bounce it almost certainly means that the recipient's email address you hold is invalid, possibly due to a typing error in the address. When this happens, the email address causing the bounce still remains against the person so that they can continue to access My ChurchSuite; however, the person is unsubscribed from both general and rota emails, and a Changes log entry is added against their profile stating why they were unsubscribed, e.g. "Email address does not exist". Additionally, when the person's profile page is viewed, a feedback message is displayed advising of the hard bounce. This message will persist until the email error is resolved. If the email address for the person is changed, the feedback message will no longer be displayed.

A hard bounce arises because the recipient's email handler has returned a hard bounce error message back to ChurchSuite. Hard Bounces can therefore usually only be resolved by the recipient providing you with a correct email address or by the underlying issue being resolved by their email provider.

Whilst the ChurchSuite Support team can remove an affected email address from the blacklist, the recipient contact may need to contact their email provider first to ascertain what caused the hard bounce rejection. Emails will continue to be rejected until the email address is removed from the blacklist. Unless the underlying issue is resolved, further hard bounces will likely reoccur.

As a final caveat to the above, some email providers experience temporary issues that result in false positive hard bounces being triggered. If you (and the recipient) are sure that the email address is correct, then removing the recipient's email address from the blacklist may be sufficient to resolve the issue. If, having been removed from the blacklist, the email address continues to be rejected with further hard bounces in the future, the ChurchSuite Team are able to 'whitelist' the email address, which may help resolve persistent false rejections. If email errors continue to happen the recipient must take the issue up with their email provider or consider providing you with an alternative email address.

Resolution

Typically an email address is blacklisted for a year when a hard bounce rejection occurs. In the event of a hard bounce, you or the affected recipient can contact the Support team at support@churchsuite.com to request the affected email address be removed from the rejection blacklist. If the affected email address has previously been blacklisted, resolved and and is now blacklisted again; let us know and we'll try 'whitelisting' the email address. Once a blacklist removal has been actioned by the Support Team, the affected recipient will be re-subscribed to receiving general and rota reminder emails.

Soft Bounces

If an email is rejected with a Soft Bounce error it typically means the recipient's email provider is encountering a temporary issue. When an email address soft bounces it will immediately display as such in the Email Errors report and will continue to surface as a soft bounce on the recipient's profile page for the next 14 days.

Any ChurchSuite user can suppress the feedback message by clicking the Ignore action; however, the reject will continue to show in the Email Errors report. If the email address for the person is subsequently changed, the feedback message will no longer be displayed - the feedback message is specific to the person and also their email address.

There are many reasons an email address may soft bounce - common reasons include...

  • Recipient mailbox is full (over quota)
  • Recipient email server is down or temporarily offline
  • Email message is too large for the server to handle

If a Soft Bounce issue persists, speak to the recipient to try and work out the problem: often it will be as simple as removing a large history of emails from their mailbox to free up mailbox space.

Subsequent emails sent to a soft-bounced email address may reject with a hard bounce. For example, if someone has not accessed their email account for a long time, their inbox may now be full. If you send them an email you will receive a soft bounce. For some email accounts, like Hotmail, if the mailbox is full and there have been no logins for a year, Microsoft will close the email account. Subsequent emails that you send will now hard bounce.

Similarly, if someone has a custom domain name email address and the domain name has gone into a redemption period (where it has expired, but can still be renewed for a period of 90 days) - given that the domain could be renewed, you may get a soft bounce during that redemption period. If you email again after the redemption period (when the domain has not been renewed and has been re-listed as unused), this time you will get a hard bounce - the temporary error has now become a permanent error.

Resolution

Typically an email address is blacklisted for a week when a soft bounce rejection occurs. In the event of a soft bounce rejection error, you or the affected recipient can contact the Support team at support@churchsuite.com to request the email address be removed from the blacklist.

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