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Why noreply email addresses are bad for business

Direct communication with your customers is crucial. Robert Rawlins argues that noreply@ addresses are a sign of bad user experience, as you don't allow your customers to converse with you

It’s 2012... There are no flying cars, no robot maids and no Judge Dredd… this is a future that would bring a sour taste of disappoint to the mouth of most science fiction writers. One exciting reality we do have though is open and engaging conversation with the companies whose products and services we spend our hard earned universal credits on ... don’t we?

Twitter, Facebook, blogs and forums have transformed the way that we have discussions with so many brands, making our opinions heard and seeking reparation for the wrongs we have been cast. Yet email, the social media from the time before ‘social media' began, often remains a brick wall, thanks to everybody’s most attentive customer service agent, Joe Noreply.

On a daily basis, newsletters, marketing emails, app notifications, billing receipts and welcome emails land in my inbox. Some are large brands setting a horrible trend, others are small businesses following a bad habit, but so many, probably through a lack of care and understanding, refuse to engage me in conversation.

They all have their part to say, pitch to push or announcement to make, but what about little old me? You know, the ‘valued’ customer? Sending emails to your customers from a noreply@ may as well read …

“Dear valued customer. Your opinion is not actually valued. Thanks.”

Not only do I feel undervalued – you’re wasting my time.

Nine times out of 10 when writing a reply I wont check the ‘to’ address, I just trot out my response and hit the send button. Moments later I’ll then receive a bounce notice, explaining that I sent my message to a mailbox that isn’t monitored.

How many people do you then think would take the time to find another way to contact you with their feedback? I wouldn’t.

Email needs to be more than just one-way communication – it needs to be conversation.

Try searching your mailbox for 'noreply' - see how many brands you recognise that aren't really interested in a conversation with you
Try searching your mailbox for ‘noreply’ – see how many brands you recognise that aren’t really interested in a conversation with you

Man to man

Instead of noreply@, allow me to converse with the people behind your business.

If you’re sending me a quote for something, let me reply direct to the salesperson that sent it. If you’re sending me a delivery booking then let me reply to the logistics manager … the more personal you can make these emails the more looked after I will feel as a customer. If you can’t identify someone personally then have my reply land into a shared mailbox or ticket system.

So long as my voice reaches the right person and they listen, I’m happy.

Replies will range from good to bad, from useful to pointless, but two things will remain; you gain invaluable, honest, free feedback and the customer is satisfied by the ease of conversation that we’ve come to expect in today’s social media society.

Man to Machine

Robot maids? Perhaps not – but messages from applications notifying me of things such as blog comments or DMs are ever increasing.

And something that’s often overlooked is that when you send these notifications, like it or not, you’re extending your applications user experience into my mail client. It only seems natural that I should be able to use that client to interact with your application, doesn’t it?

From my phone, replying to a Twitter DM email is currently an arduous process of nearly seven gestures … SEVEN! ... this unfortunately led to the worst case of ‘combat thumb’ I’ve experienced since my victory at the 1997 regional school playground thumb wars championship – this obviously in an era before health and safety banned humans from having thumbs after some kid poked his own eye out.

If I get a notice about a DM or blog comment, I should be able to reply by email, and have my reply posted directly to the application.

I can appreciate a direct reply means I then don’t visit your site, but is that additional hit really worth sacrificing the simplicity of my experience?

So listen…

Sending emails from a noreply@ portrays a bad image. It harms delivery success. It loses an opportunity to gather valuable feedback. It leaves your customers feeling undervalued, and most importantly ... it gives me an achy thumb.

You can change this; open yourselves up to conversation, allow your customers to speak directly with the thing that makes your business so amazing – the people behind it.

Plenty of businesses pride themselves on talking to their customers – but how many can say that they really listen?

Open your ears and you will hear amazing things.

It’s 2012 … There are no excuses.

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