Down with Do-Not-Reply Emails

As much as email has evolved and progressed these past few years, with segmentation, personalization, and dynamic content, it’s shocking that do-not-reply emails still regularly show up in our inboxes.

Can anything be less customer friendly than that?

A do-not-reply email is any email you can’t reply to. The sender usually lets you know you can’t reply to it by using a dotnotreply@ email address and/or including text in the body of the email telling you not to reply to that email.

Reasons against do-not-reply emails

There are many reasons to do away with the do-not-reply. Let’s start with the most obvious: It’s just downright rude. It puts you ahead of the customer in importance, never a good place to be if you’re in business. I’ll even go so far as to suggest it dehumanizes your customer.

It’s also old-fashioned, unnecessary, and out-of-step with modern day marketing. If customers can write on your company’s Facebook page and get an immediate response, or tweet your company with the same expectation, shouldn’t they be able to immediately reply to the email you sent them? If they can be on your website and instantly chat with a company representative while there, is being able to reply to an email so outrageous?

It could also affect your open rate. The From address is the first thing people typically look at when considering whether or not to open an email. They will ask themselves, “Do I know this person?” or “Is this from someone I want to hear from?” Granted a transactional email is more likely to get opened because it is expected, but that do-not-reply@ email address as the From name might dissuade someone from opening your message, and cause them to delete it instead. Using a “Do Not Reply” address is just asking for a spam complaint.

Next consider the tone of the email, if the recipient opens it. How friendly is a message that loudly states or even starts with, “Do not reply to this email”? The unfriendly message is loud and clear: “We are sending you this email but you can’t reply to it because what we have to say matters more than what you have to say.” Does language like that help you build brand and customer loyalty?

The lost opportunity to build customer loyalty is another reason for doing away with do-not-reply. People have had enough of generic, one-sided communication, especially online. Maybe you won’t lose a customer because you used a do-not-reply address. But maybe you’d increase the loyalty of one if you didn’t. Plus you’re missing out on the ability to engage them deeper, create goodwill, and build brand. Let them reply with a need that you respond to immediately, and they will remember.

You could also be missing out on some golden nuggets of customer feedback. You never know what you might get. It might be a thank you, a testimonial, or some critical feedback.

The real message of a real email

The best email marketing gets delivered, opened, acted upon. It also helps to build brand and goodwill. A do-not-reply email simply can’t do those last two for you. Consider the company that sends a real email instead of do-not-reply. By doing so, they are subconsciously telling customers:

  • We are real people at the other end of this email.
  • We recognize that you are real people on the receiving end of this email.
  • We do want to hear from you.
  • We want to make it easy for you to do business with us.
  • We want to save you time and hassle by letting you immediately reply to this email.

Alternatives to Do Not Reply

Of course, the obvious alternative to a do-not-reply email is not to use one at all and use a live, monitored email address instead. The best email service providers provide a feature called Reply Mail Management (RMM). Reply Mail Management automatically manages replies, including those from auto-responders (like Out Of Office), unsubscribe,  or other requests in response to your email. Then, using the conditional configurations you assign, RMM automatically matches and forwards the message to different users or email addresses depending on the nature of the message.

Using RMM, messages that appear to be out of the norm for unsubscribe requests or auto-responders (like OOO) can be directed to your Customer Service, who can reply directly to the sender. RMM can accurately handle more than 90% of auto-replies, keeping them neatly out of the inboxes of your staff.

However, if you simply can’t get around using do-not-reply emails, consider making these three changes to convert your “don’t” email into a user-friendly one:

  • First, change the email address from “donotreply@” to something less negative, such as “unattended_inbox@” or “unmonitored_mailbox@.”
  • Second, in the body tell them what to do instead and make it easy. For example, your email could say: “If you reply to this email directly, we might not get it. We do want to hear from you, so please send your reply to replies@company.com or call us at 888-888-XXXX instead.”
  • Third, if you must use a “do not reply message,” place it well “below the fold” in the body of the email, so it does not appear in the preview pane.

Remember, all of those people at the receiving end of our sends are human. And perhaps that’s really where the do-not-reply argument takes us, back to remembering they are people too. Every email marketer who can keep that top of mind will have a leg up on the competition that doesn’t. Being sure all email received is monitored or at least softening the blow of a do-not-reply email means taking a big step toward humanizing your email marketing.

About the Author: Marco Marini is the CEO of ClickMail Marketing and an acknowledged expert in email marketing with over a decade of experience in the field. Follow ClickMail on Twitter: @ClickMail

5 comments

  1. I just tried to unsubscribe to Mojo Themes updates and not only couldn’t you reply, they did not have an unsubscribe button. They had a link to unsubscribe, but that went to their website and I could not find anywhere to unsubscribe. I finally had to send them a request through support. Awful.

      1. That’s pretty much the option I took as well (after jumping through the same hoops as judi), marked them as spam and blocked their future emails.

        Love this article btw, feel the same way about it, “do not reply” for me is like starting a conversation with someone and every time they try and say something you tell them to shut up. Email is a two way conversation, not a one way pipe, the channel must be open both ways.

  2. Scott, I couldn’t agree more with your post. Here is a blog article I recently wrote about the same topic:
    http://www.d50media.com/who-needs-email-replies/

    I can personally attest to having worked at both a large Health Insurance company and with clients in the Legal space who have benefited greatly from the practice of receiving replies to outbound messages.
    The latter of which was strongly opposed to doing so until I convinced them otherwise.
    Recipients, in this day and age as you said expect a dialog, not a loudhailer approach.

    To give specifics, the health insurance company averted some PR disasters and the legal services company actually closed leads via email replies.

    Not just the right thing to do but simply another response mechanism which could yield conversions.
    In the event you find yourself in the business of having to sell this. It should be a no-brainer but often operational folks will point to large senders e.g. Amazon who have Do Not Reply email addresses.

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