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Modest Proposal To Companies: Let Your Customers Respond To Your Emails - Kill no-reply@ (medium.com) 205

An anonymous reader shares a blogpost: Dear way-too-many companies, if you're allowed to send me an email, I'm allowed to send you an email. You just sent me an email and I have a question. Don't make me hunt for a way to ask it. Email already has a built-in way to do that -- reply. Whether it's good news or bad news, whether you're an established company or a startup, your customers will love you more if you let them reply to your emails.
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Modest Proposal To Companies: Let Your Customers Respond To Your Emails - Kill no-reply@

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  • You're nobody. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 404 Clue Not Found ( 763556 ) * on Friday August 25, 2017 @03:05PM (#55085335)

    Companies that WANT your questions will allow it.

    The ones that use no-reply are the ones that don't want to hear from you to begin with. They can send out 100,000 emails and if ten people buy something, it pays for itself. Your question just costs them staff and support time.

    No-reply isn't a mistake. It's a deliberate choice. "Bothering with your inquiry isn't worth it. We'll make you jump through hoops if you really, really need to talk to us, but we'd rather you just buy our stuff and go away."

    • by Junta ( 36770 )

      So there's a class of companies in that category...

      There is another class of company that uses 'no-reply' because they are fixated on a particular engagement model that forces issues into tracket tickets and set of tools to manage them that doesn't know how to deal with email. They don't trust the user to keep an email thread intact to allow someone to follow the history, or they don't have software they trust to translate email thread to a ticketing system.

      • Most companies probably fit your category. I see many "noreply@company.com" as the return address from service announcements from companies that we have an established relationship with (otherwise we would never get their service announcements in the first place).

        Then there are the other kind that is practically worse, I'm the recipient on several mail delivery lists for mutual funds (yes ever changing excel sheets sent via mail are the #1 distribution method of mutual fund companies...) and it seams that i

      • Nope. Fuck that class of company too, because it's ultimately the same damn thing. Fundamentally, companies are either willing to engage on the customer's terms... or they aren't. And the latter don't deserve anyone's business.

    • Re:You're nobody. (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 25, 2017 @04:01PM (#55085805)

      Companies that WANT your questions will allow it. The ones that use no-reply are the ones that don't want to hear from you to begin with.

      Amazon lost my order. It was their delivery system that just lost it. They sent me an email asking me to contact them. The email was "no-reply". It was actually a bit of work to figure out how to correctly contact them, as none of the required options matched my situation. In the end, they refunded my order. But the please contacts us, but don't reply was silly. I'm not sure why a human had to be involved at all.

      • Yeah, this is a situation where while it might get sent out by the no-reply address, it should be simple enough to code the bot to have a reply-to address when it's sending out a "Contact us please" notice--I'd think that whom to contact would be one of the blanks in the form letter, really, so not only will the email go to the correct place when you click reply, but it'll be in the body of the email too, possibly with a phone number and hours if calling will be an option.

        It generally isn't difficult to fin

    • Think about it - if you were running a very large company, would you rather: a) have a catch-all email that runs the gamut of issues, feedback, etc. b) have a way to submit categorized feedback via web forms? I'd much rather have the latter. It can be easily routed to the proper department by issue type, enforce that certain fields are filled in, etc. My suggestion is make sure an email contains clear links on how to provide feedback, not necessarily allow direct replies.
      • by Junta ( 36770 )

        Software can triage email coming in, and failing that, round robin the email to humans who may not know how to answer, but know their own company well enough to quickly bounce to someone who will.

        Already email analysis is a fact of life (spam and phishing), having customer relationship management as part of that doesn't seem such a stretch.

      • Think about it - if you were running a very large company, would you rather: a) have a catch-all email that runs the gamut of issues, feedback, etc. b) have a way to submit categorized feedback via web forms?

        If I were running a very large company, I would want everyone to be forced to just give me their money instead of having to go through the trouble of actually selling something to them in return.

        But I wouldn't be entitled to that -- just like how companies are not entitled to be able to dictate communic

    • No-reply has its purpose. The problem is it's been abused.

      The original intention is for user-initiated notifications like password resets, or other automated notifications from sources other than newsletters.

      Unfortunately some (most) places forgot what the purpose of no-reply was.

      Also, the email landscape has changed slightly over the years. Transactional email services (like Sendgrid, Mailgun, etc) have changed the way we send emails.

      Since sending transactional emails is usually decoupled from the primary

      • by Junta ( 36770 )

        It could be argued that even those user initiated notifications warrant a way of replying. For example I got an email notification of a password reset on an account that I did *not* ask for. In this case it was encouraged to reply if this was not the case, while also unable to continue without my assenting.

        Anytime you receive a message toward one human, it just makes sense for that human to be able to reach back and engage with another human because the automated context may not always be what it seems.

    • This and:

      Dear modest consumer:

      You don't have a fucking clue regarding our business model, strategy, or tactic.

      If you did, you'd be sending DoNotReply shit to us.

    • Re:You're nobody. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Khyber ( 864651 ) <techkitsune@gmail.com> on Friday August 25, 2017 @06:41PM (#55086935) Homepage Journal

      No-Reply is awesome, because it lets me send auto-replay e-mail based EULAs regarding how my E-mail is used. Violate it - your ass pays. You still received the contract.

      It's a nice lucrative thing since they're to scared to get their precious usage of EULA nullified. You just sue in Small Claims, they never show up, send the court-ordered payment to their company, get the check a few days later.

  • by msauve ( 701917 ) on Friday August 25, 2017 @03:06PM (#55085345)
    Web forms are NOT email. Don't put a link on your website saying "email us" if it points to a web form.
    • I would be happy if they replied to the web forms. I can not count the number of times I have filled out a form asking a question and never get a reply.

      Sometimes when I have a choice of companies to buy a product from, Ill send an email or fill out the web form asking the same question to multiple companies. The one that replies is the one I buy from. I wonder how many customers companies are loosing because of there non-responsiveness.

      • by Anonymous Brave Guy ( 457657 ) on Friday August 25, 2017 @03:45PM (#55085657)

        For the web form thing, I'd settle for at least knowing whether or not I'm going to be sent a copy of what I'm writing by email afterwards. If I am, I don't need to save it manually myself, but I also shouldn't include any sensitive information. If I'm not, maybe including sensitive details is OK but I also need to keep a copy.

        • by chihowa ( 366380 )

          I'm glad when I'm sent a copy of the web form entry, because it means that the form was actually functional and capable of sending email. Who knows if the address that it's sending email to actually exists or is checked, and you know you'll never see the bounce if it's a dead address, but I suspect that a huge chunk of the web forms don't actually work at all.

          They're like the elevator close door button or the thermostats in an office building: just there for psychological soothing.

    • Web forms are NOT email. Don't put a link on your website saying "email us" if it points to a web form.

      Not necessarily. Because email is inherently insecure, banking and healthcare sites routinely point you to an SSL-enabled reply page. HIPPA actually requires correspondence to be handled this way.

      • by msauve ( 701917 )
        Whoosh. It's still not email. Provide a link saying "contract us" instead. And how are you going to respond?

        HIPAA (not "HIPPA") places restrictions on providers ("covered entitites"), not patients. And, replying to a patient's email via email is not prohibited.

        Patients may initiate communications with a provider using e-mail. If this situation occurs, the health care provider can assume (unless the patient has explicitly stated otherwise) that e-mail communications are acceptable to the individual.

        - Lin [hhs.gov]

        • Then why does every single doctor office receptionist cite HIPAA as the reason why doctors won't communicate by email?

          • by msauve ( 701917 )
            Because they're as uninformed as you are. Really, are you arguing against what HHS specifically says?
          • by pem ( 1013437 )
            HIPAA is exactly like Sarbanes-Oxley and ISO 9000 in this respect.

            The things done in the name of HIPAA, SOX, and ISO are just lip-service provided by drones with no real understanding of the actual goals and how to meet them. It's all just rubber chicken waving, with the rubber chickens rubber-stamped by "expert" law firms.

      • I refuse to take any advice on HIPAA from someone who says "HIPPA", and, in fact, stop reading the post as soon as I see it.
  • by zifn4b ( 1040588 ) on Friday August 25, 2017 @03:09PM (#55085355)

    Obviously, the author of this nonsense doesn't 1) Understand b2c communication and 2) Doesn't understand how to run a customer care center.

    Take off your rose colored glasses for minute. First of all, no-reply emails are a means to notify a customer of something. They are one-way. They are not meant to be responded to like text message notifications of upcoming appointments or Amazon shipping notifications. Second, actually learn about call centers and customer care teams. You obviously have no clue. It's a lot harder than you think. Most call centers are fielding a variety of customer interactions like phone calls, emails and chat. They are also usually understaffed due to cost constraints. Before you write about something like you have no clue what you're talking about go learn what it takes to run one of these. If you do that, then you might not just complain about a lack of something, you might also have a suggestion as to how what you want ought to be done. Good luck

    • by Holi ( 250190 ) on Friday August 25, 2017 @03:16PM (#55085407)
      Obviously you should follow your own advice. Customer retention is probably one of the highest priorities of a call center especially for smaller businesses. If ditching the no-reply helps me keep my customers, then BYE.

      And we did. instead we use logic and filters to direct emails to the people who can provide the best answers. 20% growth over the past 4 years must mean something is working.
      • Wish I had mod points, this is the kind of company that has it figured out. Plus they are seeing growth from it.

        I did the same thing at a company and we were seeing similar growth. It is amazing what real customer care will get you these days.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Clearly your company is small to medium. When your business gets large enough it can be uneconomical especially if non sense questions or basic "Read the manual" questions come in.

        Like hi I just bought X how do I turn it on?

        You get enough customers with enough content like that coming through and you have an issue. I like the approach you have but I do scrutinize the scalability of it. Small businesses often thrive because they have the flexibility to provide personalized support to their clients. A company

        • And a company the size of Microsoft probably have some e-mail address that goes to their first line of support somewhere in india. So why not use that address instead of the no-reply? It's not like the "Read the manual" questions won't be asked just because you use a no-reply in a notification mail.
        • Like hi I just bought X how do I turn it on?

          Write something to the effect "Instructions to turn on your device are on page 2 of the Setup Guide." and give a link to the HTML version of the guide.

          Small businesses often thrive because they have the flexibility to provide personalized support to their clients.

          Then why not structure a large business as a collection of small businesses?

      • by war4peace ( 1628283 ) on Friday August 25, 2017 @03:54PM (#55085723)

        20% growth over the past 4 years must mean something is working.

        Yes but not necessarily the way you handle communication. Also, pedantic mode on: 20% growth could mean you have 5 customers instead of 4.
        Also, when taking into account whether no-reply is good or bad, you have a plethora of factors to consider. Some below, off the top of my head, not necessarily sorted by importance:

        1. Are your products expensive enough to ditch/not use no-reply?
        2. Is your customer base small enough? Hint: if you have e.g. millions of customers, no-reply is a must.
        3. Is your support center large enough to ditch no-reply?
        4. Have you calculated/extrapolated/estimated/thought of how much would it cost to not use no-reply?
        5. Have you thought about what would happen if would not use no-reply AND still be unable to answer your customers?
        6. Do your outbound e-mails contain anything that your customers can reply to? Sending something like "we have a new product called X and you can find it clicking here" generates no relevant replies.

        Now, think about this: no-reply is an effect. The cause for its existence is a multitude of factors and only one of them is "we don't care about our customers".

        • Is your customer base small enough? Hint: if you have e.g. millions of customers, no-reply is a must.

          It's not the absolute size as much as the ratio of tier 1 support personnel per customer.

      • by zifn4b ( 1040588 )

        Obviously you should follow your own advice. Customer retention is probably one of the highest priorities of a call center especially for smaller businesses. If ditching the no-reply helps me keep my customers, then BYE. And we did. instead we use logic and filters to direct emails to the people who can provide the best answers. 20% growth over the past 4 years must mean something is working.

        I didn't criticize you, I criticized the blog post that was obviously written by someone who probably has no clue what a CRM system is let alone how to configure it effectively. Did you actually TFBP? You obviously have somewhat of a clue. I know every business is different that's why CRM's like Salesforce are very customizable to meet those needs. The author of the blog post has no clue about any of that though. They are just complaining about no reply emails because they just apparently don't like th

    • Man, which company's call center do you work for? I want to make sure I never do business with them.

      • by zifn4b ( 1040588 )

        Man, which company's call center do you work for? I want to make sure I never do business with them.

        You won't be doing business with much of anybody then. You'll cut off your nose to spite your face. I'll quote the song Cracker: "Get off this, get on with it, if you want to change the world, shut your mouth and start to spin it." You want to change the customer care landscape, get involved and change it then. Until you do that, I dismiss your rhetoric as comments from the peanut gallery.

        • Not really. There are a few exceptions, where I must do business with companies that treat their customers like shit, but the vast majority of the time the companies I do business with treat me with at least a minimum amount of respect, because if they don't I just do business with someone else instead. Over time, that's weeded out most of the bad guys.

          For the most part, there's still plenty of competition that is hungry for additional customers.

    • First of all, no-reply emails are a means to notify a customer of something. They are one-way. They are not meant to be responded to like text message notifications of upcoming appointments or Amazon shipping notifications.

      If something is important enough to trouble someone with a message, surely it's also important enough to follow up if the recipient needs clarification of something or to make some sort of change. If it's not that important, why are you wasting their time with sending an email in the first place?

      And before you get on your high horse about how hard good customer service is, I have worked for a variety of businesses from tiny little startups to literally one of the biggest in the world, and to date I have nev

    • If you notify your customers about something then you can rest assured that there are some of them that do not fully understand your notification or will have further questions. So they will mail and/or call you anyway via other means which is also why most service announcements that I have seen also contains a "for further questions send a mail to xxx@xxx.com", so the main question is why the reply address then is a no-reply instead of the xxx@xxx.com so that those people could just reply to the mail sent.

  • My company doesn't want your opinion on our policies but still want your money. Signed, Anonymous CEO
    • by Holi ( 250190 )
      Funny thing is you actually need us, we don't need you. There are 1000's of companies selling the same crap. If customer retention means so little to you then I gues I won't be seeing you around.
      • by green1 ( 322787 )

        depends on the industry. Try to get a company to care about their customers when they have a near monopoly.

  • by davidwr ( 791652 ) on Friday August 25, 2017 @03:09PM (#55085365) Homepage Journal

    Dear customer:

    Thank you for your reply.

    We value your input.

    This is an automated reply to let you know that your email is 276,709th in line to be answered, and we will get to it as soon as possible.

    Your estimated wait time is, well, you don't want to know. You really, really, do not want to know.

    Sincerely,

    Marvin, your robotic email automated response robot.

    • This is an automated reply to let you know that your email is 276,709th in line to be answered, and we will get to it as soon as possible.

      By itself, this appears a step in the right direction. If I know your company's small army of support staff answered, say, half a million messages last week, I know to expect information on which I can act in three business days.

      But then Marvin blows it with this refusal to provide any sort of scale for how quickly the queue moves:

      Your estimated wait time is, well, you don't want to know. You really, really, do not want to know.

  • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Friday August 25, 2017 @03:12PM (#55085385)

    I saw the title and worried this was going to be about eating babies.

  • What is this "âSreply" technology? Is it like "AI"? I need to invest in this!
  • Assuming someone is being paid to read all of your pointless questions.
    Trust me, there's going to be a fuck load of pointless questions...

  • There's a reason they don't do that anymore: they're tired of being spammed into oblivion by spambots just because they have an accessible email address.
  • The problem with a mailbox for actual replies from email marketing emails is those damn out of office replies.

    Someone has to sift through hundreds, or thousands every send to find the actual messages.

    Yes, mail rules can be setup to filter OOO emails from outlook, because all emails have a predictable subject line. Gmail for Business, on the other hand does not and let's the user set their own out of office subject line.

  • Requires companies to EXPAND their workforce to have people to reply to the emails ... and the whole point of automated emails is so they can cut staff.

    The two efforts are polar opposites.

  • Terrible idea (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ilsaloving ( 1534307 ) on Friday August 25, 2017 @04:00PM (#55085789)

    Lets enumerate all the problems with this, shall we?
    -spam
    -customers who reply with inappropriate things, like requests for support on a sales announcement, or other nonsense
    -Out of Office replies
    -SPAM
    -Probably plenty of issues that didn't immediately pop into my head.
    -unsubscribe requests

    You then have to hire additional staff just to sift through the quagmire of emails to discard or route the emails to more appropriate destinations.

    The convenience to the customer is minor. The burden on an organization to deal with such a system would be massive, possibly insurmountable.

    • From a customer perspective, what is wrong with asking for support in response to a sales email? If you want me to buy something and I need support on what I already have, seems that the path to a sale is to help me. Using a sales channel for support is what customers are going to do one way or another unless your support is gold standard.
      • Quite often the Sales and support are two separate divisions of the company, hell they can often be separate companies or even a 3rd party reseller that doesn't do the support. All accepting the email would do would ensure the response takes many times longer than had the customer found the right channel to use.
    • by bazorg ( 911295 )

      One important issue that did not pop into your head immediately was that an email ping pong match with 10 incomplete single line answers from the customer takes much longer than what is reasonable to spend in a busy b2c environment.
      If people aren't willing to spend the time in a phone queue, the customer service may equally not want to have their people tied up with a single customer query. Lengthy dialog will only be possible with chat bots doing the interaction.

    • by tepples ( 727027 )

      customers who reply with inappropriate things, like requests for support on a sales announcement, or other nonsense

      Replies to an announcement should go to the keyword filter. If it looks like support, send it to support.

  • that's the unasked question about customer service. People will _always_ say yes. But when it's time to vote with their wallet more often than not it's really 'no'. There's a balance to be struck there. I think it was Sprint (mighta been Verizon) that once got a list of their top problem customers, the ones that called in almost daily, fought every little thing and in fact cost the company money, and asked them all to find a new carrier since it obviously wasn't working out between them. There are just time
  • but nobody would read them.
  • The people running big companies, especially big near-monopolies, think that they get to unilaterally define the terms of all communication. They want the customer to think long and hard before they dare to ask for something to be made right. This is done by making it as painful as possible to talk to a representative and if you are lucky enough to actually get to speak to a person it will likely be someone with no authority to resolve a problem and who will just hide behind the excuse that the "their syste

    • You're right.

      It amazes me (well, maybe it shouldn't) as I look through these posts, that these are the same folks that work at these companies who are calling everyone else an 'idiot', but are then the same 'idiots' that have 'dumb ' questions, they may need an answer to, and wonder why they can't reach someone. Its pretty easy to say all questions are dumb when one is an expert on a subject.

      I feel like a huge portion of time goes to simply managing the relationships with the large companies. It takes we

  • by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Friday August 25, 2017 @04:15PM (#55085937)

    I wonder if the submmiter and editors are aware that a title like this usually implies a reference to Jonathan Swift's satirical essay, A Modest Proposal [wikipedia.org]? Because, despite we customers being food for companies, I'm failing to see a connection of TFS or TFA to the essay (synopsis below):

    Swift suggests that the impoverished Irish might ease their economic troubles by selling their children as food for rich gentlemen and ladies.

  • Post your email here so we may properly reply to you.
  • I'd be happy if they just responded to their damn mail in the first place. There's a large percentage of places that I've used the form to contact the company or the email address that I've found on their site to get in touch with someone from a company asking about a product that I want to buy or use and I never hear back from them. It's at least 50%. Why do these companies bother with the forms or email addresses if they don't answer messages?

    For example, I wanted to know where my property line was so I c

  • You're assuming that companies want to talk to their customers. They don't. The best customer is the one who pays the bill and makes no noise.

    By making it increasingly difficult to contact companies for any kind of support or assistance, they've muted their customers. Why would they want to undo this?

    Are you under the illusion that companies actually care?

    • Just an addendum:

      We're talking about companies that turn over employees fast, pay rock bottom wages and even go as far as to bring in foreign workers so they can pay even less. They don't give a flying f about their employees, you really think they want anything other that their customer's money?

  • The problem is that if you respond to their email there is an assumption that you want somebody to read your response...and respond to your response. That can get expensive in a hurry for the company who may get thousands of support emails a day.

    A lot of effort (and $) goes into trying to deflect support calls with automated attendants, FAQs, user support communities, chatbots and even old-fashioned support articles or <gasp> better design. But of course some support calls (and emails) still happen.

    If
  • This wouldn't have been a problem if it hadn't been for companies polluting the email system with endless advertising to begin with. If it had just remained a channel for communication, accepting emails would not have been a problem at all.

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