Service #win: Mailfire goes above and beyond

Posted by on Mar 5, 2009 in geek stuff, marketing, web design | 2 Comments

This is a post that is way overdue, and to those about whom it is written, I apologise for my tardiness. It is another work-related post, but allow me to allay your fears, dear readers, that this trend toward the serious is not permanent and all manner of frippery, tomfoolery and lollygagging will soon return to this blog.


As I have previously stated, it takes a lot for me to either promote or burn anything online, and a while back I did a serious burn on our bulk mail service providers, Mailfire . What I didn’t say, was that takes even more to get me to change my mind about something (being a Leo, I’m just about as stubborn and single-minded as they come). It rarely happens. Like the Yeti, it is more a rumour than a certainty. Few have seen it, ask my friends (better yet, ask my ex-friends).

That said ladies and gents, here you have it live: Mailfire…I’ve changed my mind. Two days after I posted my rant on the company, I received an email from the General Manager of Web Africa, Rupert Bryant. He requested a meeting with us, apologised for all the problems we’d experienced, offered us a month’s refund and a 100% discount our upcoming fees. He pulled people off leave (and to you guys, I’m really grateful), set up a brainstorming session at our earliest convenience and assigned us our own designated support team.

We duly met 5 days later with Rupert, 2 developers and our sales consultant, Tyron. Far from the stuffed shirts I was expecting, I was utterly astounded at this dynamic young team and how openly they were willing to listen to and work with us (AND they didn’t get all pissy that I’d been so rude online, which is definitely what I would have done, and which is why I’ll never make it in PR :P).

I outlined the most pressing problems we were having, namely that:

1.  Their WYSIWYG editor was generating code that was not recognised by the majority of mail clients, where the actual html rendered perfectly in Litmus ( a SUPER awesome app for anyone who designs html email, btw!) testing.

2.  There was no direct html paste and send function, which would bypass the problems caused by the WYSIWYG editor (this is a pretty standard feature on most bulk email clients, catering to companies that have an in-house designer who sets up and sends the mail as desired). So what we wanted was a simple html >> paste >> send, no editing stages to bung in extraneous code where code should not be. For those users who are not able to code, the editor would have to be modified to ONLY generate code which was compliant with email clients.

These were prioritised as the two problems to be tackled first as they would fix the rendering issues we had been experiencing.

We identified a number of further issues which hampered user friendliness and efficiency, which were considered less urgent, including:

1.   A separate image gallery allowing us to upload and delete images, and harvest the image URL to be used for design purposes.

2. A number of issues relating to subscriber lists (which I don’t really deal with so I can’t go into too much detail), including –

  • the option to prevent sending duplication when a sender appeared on more than one list selected for sending, but allowing a user to be on more than one list and to move easily from one list to another.
  • The ability to search the lists for specific subscribers and modify that subscriber’s user account.
  • Uploading of lists via zipped CSV files.
  • Downloading subscriber lists with a number of options as to the amount of information required by the user.

3.  The actual appearance of some of the back end features, which were quite small and difficult to work with.

4.  The order in which sent mails were displayed and the ability to mass-delete old and defunct mails which tended to clog up the account (pretty quickly with us, as we send so much mail)

These were the chief issues – I think a number of others have since been identified and tackled by the Mailfire team (please feel free to correct me guys).

Once the meeting was concluded, Mailfire snapped to action and immediately provided us with our own ‘point man’, Constant Laubscher, who has been an absolute pleasure to work with. He sent me almost daily updates on the progress the developers were making (which was much speedier than I had anticipated) and we proceeded to test and tweak the new features as they were released. Within a week (10 days after the blog post – WOW) we had a fully functional plain html paste feature, meaning an end to our rendering issues.

A few days later, we had the gallery function working properly (a huge bonus for in-house designers, and one the many bulk mailers don’t offer). When using Internet Explorer obviously there were issues with getting this right, and it works a bit differently in that browser than in browsers that sane people use, like Firefox.

With these 2 things in place, compilation and accurate sending of the newsletters was made infinitely quicker and easier and they went out and were now received by the end user as they were designed.

The developers have been working on the other issues on the list in the background, and we still have a few kinks to iron out and extensive testing is ongoing as there seem to be, for example, text conversion errors on Outlook 2007 (CURSE your suckiness Microshit and your sucky email client and your sucky web browser!) Also, there have recently been some instances where it has taken several hours for a mail to be processed. We head into a follow-up meeting tomorrow in order to go over these final problems, and if the support we’ve received in the last 2 months is anything to go by, these will be resolved in no time.

I actually cannot say enough good about these guys though. They totally went above and beyond for us – how often would you find a company that is not only willing to listen to a client’s issues, but totally redesign a system for them? They admitted mistakes had been made and rectified them quickly with no ‘ands’, ‘buts’ or bullshit, and they continue to offer prompt and competent personalised support for any problems that may occur (which, if you are sending out emails that have to go out at a certain time such as press releases, is an absolute life-saver).

I’d venture to say that I think we’ve done them a favour too, by helping to improve a application which would probably have hit problems down the road if we hadn’t thrown our toys. But they met the challenge and pulled out all the stops to make sure we had a fully functional system. And this in time for an election campaign, of which a large part is digital, and of that part, at least 50% in the form of email.

SO…my mind is solidly changed, well done guys – you have restored my faith in that elusive dream of service excellence!

And here’s the kicker: Mailfire is by FAAAAR and away the most affordable bulk email solution available in South Africa – at around R3000 per month for 200 000 emails, it’s about ¼ of the price of any of the other recognised bulk mail solutions, such as Mailchimp – between R8500 and R10 000 per month ; Campaign Monitor – R14 000 for 200 000 emails, plus R50 per email, and Striata who quoted about R13000 for 50 000 emails, meaning 200 000 hits the R50 000 mark!

The Mailfire 10 out of 10:

score 1 | the guy at the top took an interest and got involved personally.

score 2 | they admitted they were wrong.

score 3 | they compensated us.

score 4 | they showed a firm commitment to rectifying the problem from day one.

score 5 | they listened to us and took our concerns and advice seriously.

score 6 | they fixed the problem quickly and kept us informed.

score 7 | they continue to provide amazing support (a huge improvement from before), and we have our own ‘point man’.

score 8 | they are continuing to improve the system and keeping us informed as they do.

score 9 | they have been professional, courteous and engaging throughout the entire process.

score 10 | their rates KICK ASS!!


  1. Voyagerfan5761
    July 20, 2010

    As much as I love using Google’s products, I have to say their support is pretty horrible. Even for paying customers, I’ve seen a lot of complaints about being directed to a forum where other users will help you. (I haven’t yet jumped onto the pay-Google-for-stuff bandwagon, but I’m sure I’ll have the same issues.)

    Microsoft? Ha! If Microsoft provided this level of support for Windows and Office, they’d have to hire the entire population of China to run 24/7 call centers. <chuckle type=”sarcastic” /> But really, if Microsoft would only give such rocking support, maybe Internet Exploder (not harsh enough, I know) wouldn’t suck so much.

    Even if Mailfire is behind a lot of the spam I’ve been getting (some website leaked my address and now it seems like every has added me to their mailing lists) it sounds like Web Africa is a great company. This post should be linked from the Mailfire page as a testimonial.

    (Since I’m moderated, it wouldn’t hurt if you combined my two comments. Sorry about that; I was hoping for an edit plugin.)

    • wikidknickers
      July 31, 2010

      Sorry about that – only just got notified about your comment now :S…which tends to make me agree with you about Google products 😛

      I must say, Web Africa has consistently impressed me with their service ethic – I do tend to complain quite vocally when presented with questionable service / products, and they pay attention to their clients and really make an effort to address their concerns. While on the pricier side, I tend to feel the extra money is well worth the service and support they provide.


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