Steps to Take When Faced With Prospect Complaints

By Lucy Mazalon

When a prospect complains about the marketing communication we send through Account Engagement (Pardot), our first reaction is to panic. Like Kübler-Ross’ “5 Stages of Grief”, you could experience a variety of emotions when troubleshooting on behalf of disgruntled prospects – denial, frustration, bargaining – but the answer typically doesn’t warrant the stress.

Examples could range from a prospect receiving the wrong information, wrong language, personalization gone awry, or repetitive emails firing. Regardless, there’s often an explanation – you’ve just got to investigate.

1. Get to The Core

Once you have the prospect’s email address, head to their prospect record in Account Engagement (Pardot) to see activity history, or their Salesforce Lead/Contact record to see Engagement History.

Account Engagement (Pardot) has a good UI for identifying activity that doesn’t look right.

Other sources of complaints are when personalization goes wrong – for example, showing content in the wrong language. The prospect record is the place to go for checking the data point/s that determine what personalization is displayed for the prospect.

2. The Prospect’s Inbox Settings?

In the example below, the prospect had complained that the same email had been sent over again. Looking more closely, I could identify that, for the same email send, the activity was ‘open’, not sent.

What’s the issue here? Likely the settings that the prospect had chosen to manage their inbox.

Common among Outlook users, there are settings not to mark emails as “read” unless the individual spends a certain amount of time with the email body open. If the prospect is an email skimmer, the email will keep reappearing unread, and they may result in asking why you’ve sent multiple emails.

3. Check the Email Report

To backup what you just saw on the prospect record, you can check the email send report. By filtering by the prospect’s email address, you can see that they received this email once, which is logical as Pardot filters out duplicates from lists. Even now that the vast majority of Account Engagement accounts are using allow multiple prospects with the same email address (AMPSEA).

4. Control Engagement Programs

Should the issue be caused by an Engagement Studio program – perhaps it’s looping and sending prospects emails repetitively – then you will need to pause them to edit them.

The ability to make Engagement Studio programs more complex, such as the ability to repeat, meaning there are more ways to go wrong.

5. Email Aliases

Although Account Engagement “de-duplicates” email addresses in your send list automatically, prospects may be using email addresses that Account Engagement considers unique, but will still land in the prospect’s same inbox. For example, the Gmail trick of using “+” like “” would be considered as a different record to “” but emails sent to either address would land in my inbox.

Similarly for organizations that have changed their email address naming conventions, for example, “” may have changed to “” but has resulted in two prospect records (if, say, I filled out a form after the email address changed and the Pardot cookie was not tracking my activity, e.g. using a different device/clearing my cookies).

6. Preference Center Visibility

Prospect complaints could be a consequence of not being able to unsubscribe themselves.

Organizations have a habit of making the unsubscribe link/email preference center small, and in the email footer. Ensure these key links are visible so that you can deflect these grumbles – some even say that moving it further up the email template is a smart move to prevent recipients flagging the email as spam (versus scrolling right to the end of the email to opt-out).

7. Auto-unsubscribe

From wishing to opt-out, to prospects wondering why they are not opted-in.

The SPAM filters that organizations deploy are becoming ever more intelligent. Part of their job is to check each link is safe before delivering that email to the recipient’s inbox.

What looks like prospects clicking all the links, multiple times and in quick succession (typically within 1 minute) is actually a bot that is scanning the links for security threats.

READ MORE: Weird Clicks in Pardot Email Reports Explained

This includes the unsubscribe link. As a result, prospects may complain that they were once receiving your emails and now mysteriously aren’t (thanks, bot). You may not think that people would miss receiving emails, but it does happen.

Carl shared a handy solution to identify which prospects are being affected by bot activity that you could use on all emails to get to the bottom of mystery unsubscribes.

READ MORE: Identify Email Bot Clicks with Pardot Custom Redirects

8. Fake Opt In

When prospects opt in/re-opt in, they are basing their subscription status on the Opted Out field on their prospect record – after all, why would they consider there could be another field (Do Not Email) that’s preventing their opt in?

If the Opted Out field is false, yet the Do Not Email field (that your organization controls) is true, this can be unintentionally misleading – essentially a fake opt in. Both Opted Out and Do Not Email have to be false to allow a prospect to receive emails.

Bill Fetter, marketing automation genius, came up with a solution to handle fake opt ins by adding additional completion actions on the forms you are allowing prospects to resubscribe through.

9. Snooze

If it’s over-emailing that’s causing complaints, perhaps it’s time to get smarter with email frequency. You could consider offering prospects the option to “snooze” their subscription.

READ MORE: Snooze Prospect Email Subscriptions Using Pardot

10. Einstein Engagement Frequency

Einstein Engagement Frequency evaluates your contacts and subscribers, and identifies the optimal number of email messages to send.

Now available with Pardot Advanced and Premium editions, let Einstein decide when prospects are receiving too many emails, based on their previous engagement. “Einstein Engagement Frequency” is a field on Pardot prospect records that shows their status – either “On Target”, “Undersaturated”, or “Oversaturated” – which gives you additional insight into Pardot’s sending behavior in case complaints arise.

11. Reach Out?

If you have the permission to do so, get in contact with the prospect who made the complaint to help troubleshoot problems that lie on the recipient’s end. This personal interaction could go a long way to show you are proactively resolving the situation – and you may unearth other issues causing the repetitive emails that you can fix.


With marketing automation, it’s impossible to keep your eye on every prospect interaction, all the time. While you’re likely to have configured your email automation in a way that makes sense for your audience, a handful may complain – and not just about receiving too many emails, but also not receiving what they expect.

The Author

Lucy Mazalon

Lucy is the Operations Director at Salesforce Ben. She is a 10x certified Marketing Champion and founder of The DRIP.


    mapquest directions
    November 10, 2022 2:06 am
    Account Engagement (Pardot) offers a decent UI for detecting suspicious activities.
    365 Days of Positivity
    February 08, 2023 7:33 pm
    Thanks for mentioning the auto unsubscribe!

Leave a Reply