Dec 05
2013

DO NOT REPLY — The best way to tell customers you DGAF.

During this past Thanksgiving / Black Friday / Cyber Monday I must have received well over 100 emails from various retailers, urging me to take advantage of their limited time offers.

Like many of you I was eager to make my country proud and participate in our national shopping holiday. I had gifts to purchase, deals to claim, money to blow!

Plodding through my inbox with a cup of coffee, I deleted the emails one by one. 30% off that mid-century couch? Nah… Buy-one / get-one on selvedge denim? Already have enough jeans to last me a lifetime…

My willpower was strong, but I did finally end up seeing an offer I was curious about. I replied to the email to ask a quick question regarding a discounted product I’d had my eye on for some time, then moved onto evaluating other deals.

Mail.app’s notification sounded while considering if I really needed that set of vintage light fixtures. I’d received an almost immediate response to my inquiry about a previous deal — yes! Sadly, what was inside wasn’t what I expected…

Mail Delivery System -- email could not be delivered

I went back to the original email to check the FROM address. Having sent mail blasts myself I figured they’d just made a typo… What I found was that the email originated from one of those dreaded no-reply@blackhole.com addresses.

“This email address is not monitored”

Scrolling down to the absolute bottom of the message, I was graced with the following passage…

Please do not reply to this email; this address is not monitored. Please use our contact page.

Seriously? What a pain in the ass. Now I had to open a browser, find their contact page, and type a response into some small, badly designed textarea.

Why couldn’t I just respond to the original email?

I started thinking of reasons why a company trying to make money would inconvenience potential customers like this…

  • Volume of responses might be “too high” for them to deal with
  • The company is too cheap, or developer was too lazy to integrate a ticketing system that ties to email like Tender.
  • The company didn’t want to deal with bounced email responses from sending newsletters

…Guess what? None of these reasons are valid!

What DO-NOT-REPLY says to your customers

DO-NOT-REPLY

Quite plainly, “DO-NOT-REPLY" email addresses tell your customer that you don't give a fuck what they have to say.

“DO-NOT-REPLY” email addresses imply that you will dictate the relationship. Conversation is not welcome here.

“DO-NOT-REPLY” email addresses say that you’re too lazy to consider your customer’s convenience, and instead value your time over theirs.

Big businesses don’t care, which is exactly why YOU SHOULD

A few quick Gmail searches revealed other companies who apparently don’t value my time, or care what the hell I have to say.

  • Wells Fargo
  • PG&E
  • Register.com
  • Amazon.com
  • eBay
  • PayPal

These are huge organizations with giant support staffs. It makes absolutely no sense that they’re not tied into an email response system. What a pain!

How you can do it better

Bringing the focus back to small business, this is exactly why you should have a working email address for every communication sent from your organization.

If you send newsletters — originate them from a working address. This could be the email address of your support person, a separate email box you also check, or an alias of your existing email. This way, customers can send inquiries directly to someone who can answer them.

Getting too many emails for one person to handle? Integrate a support ticketing system like Tender that makes it dead easy to scale your support to multiple team members.

If you have an app — make sure all notices come from a working support email address, or that your app does something smart with the responses.

A quick case study

Inside Cashboard, we store a copy of every response to an invoice notice, logging them as a comment stream when viewing it online.

All emails are forwarded to interested parties, so no communications are lost along the way.

Automated followup emails for new accounts come directly from my address. This way, I’m able to step in and answer any questions they have, and mitigate any UI blunders we’ve committed inside the app. As an added bonus, customers constantly remark how much they love being able to reach someone easily.

More examples?

I’m sure you’ve seen examples of this rude do-not-reply email phenomenon. Have a story? I’d love to hear it in the comments below…

Written by Seth B

As Principal of Subimage LLC, Seth spends most of his days improving Cashboard. Occasionally he finds time to write about music, design, startups, and technology.

Tagged: business, startups