“Do Not Reply” emails are offensive — and a missed opportunity

Organizations email individuals all the time. The sender is often something like “do-not-reply@organization.com.” That’s a massive “screw you” to the customer, and it doesn’t have to be.

Why do those “Do Not Reply” emails exist?

There are lots of reasons that companies send emails from a “do not reply” address. The main one is some sort of automated communication. Here is your bill. Here is your electricity usage. Just wanted you to know that there is an outage in your area. We’ve updated your terms of service.

The “sender” here is an automated process, and automated processes are a lot better at generating emails than at conducting conversations.

But putting “do not reply” in the message (and as the name of the sender) sends a message all its own. That message is, “We’re not listening. We don’t want to listen. We don’t want to hear from you.”

No one likes to be shouted at. No one enjoys a speaker who doesn’t listen.

So fix it

Why would I want to reply to such a message?

if you look at it from the customer’s point of view, the answer is clear.

If it’s a bill, maybe I have questions about the bill.

If it’s a notice of some kind, maybe I want to know why you are changing things, and if it affects me in some way.

If it’s a delivery notification, maybe I want to delay the delivery, or report that the item arrived damaged.

Regardless of what kind of message it is, if I have a question, now I have to track down your customer service email, which is buried somewhere on your website. That is wasted time for me. It again says “We have time to fling this email at you, but we don’t have time to make it easy for you to respond.”

The answer is simple.

If there is one likely reason a customer would respond to an email, then route responses to the customer service channel appropriate for that reason. For example, if I had respond to an email about a bill, route my response to the customer service for billing questions. This has big advantages for both the customer and the company, because my response will include the attached bill, giving the customer service rep exactly the information they need to solve my problem.

If there is more than one possible reason for a response, then you can send an automated reply like this:

Thanks for responding to our email.

Here’s how to get the help you need:

To report an outage, go to [link address].

For billing questions, contact [email address]

For customer service questions, contact [email address]

To change your address, go to [link address].

For all other questions, contact [general customer service email]

This isn’t an answer, but at least it’s a response that is intending to help the customer with resources.

But this might generate more customer service calls

You’re damn right.

You are making it easy to respond to the company after the customer has received a communication about their account.

Anyone who responds to such messages likely has a problem.

You can solve the problem. Or you can let them grumble and eventually give up on you.

You have an opportunity to address a customer right at the moment they need help — and prove that doing business with you was the right choice.

Why would you turn your back at a moment like that?

“Do not reply” translates to “We want to make things difficult.” So get rid of it.

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  1. This is only tangentially related, but the post reminded me of a question I have once a month when one of my regular bills arrives. Any thoughts on why a company would say this right under it’s address on bills (the all caps are in the message, not added by me):


  2. A nice thought, but as I’m sure you’re aware it’s merely the outgrowth of companies seeing customer service as merely a cost—and, to a certain mindset, you cut costs however you can. Short-sighted, but all too common.