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The Argument Against 'Do Not Reply'

September 19, 2012  
"You walk into your local Sprint store to pay your monthly invoice," writes DJ Waldow at Waldow Social. "You [go] to the counter and hand the Sprint employee a check that covers the full amount due. The Sprint employee takes your check and says, 'Please do not reply to me. Replies to me are routed to an unmonitored device.'"

As an offline scenario, it sounds shockingly impersonal. But it's standard online practice. And a recent payment confirmation from Sprint—with multiple "do not reply" instructions—got Waldow thinking about possible implications.

Does anyone care? He concedes that many subscribers may not notice a "do not reply" notation. And even if they do, notes one of Waldow's colleagues, is it sufficient cause to find a new product or service? Probably not.

Does it lead to inadvertent CAN-SPAM violations? Are there legal ramifications if a recipient wants to unsubscribe, sends this request in reply to a "do not reply" message, and it goes unread? Another of Waldow's colleagues thinks not: "While [CAN-SPAM] identifies a reply message as an [unsubscribe] option, it doesn't state that the recipient gets to pick the option or that the sender [must] support all options."

So if subscribers don't really care, and CAN-SPAM has no objections, why should we worry? "Simple," says Waldow. "By not providing an easy, simple, clear way for your email subscribers to contact you—via an email reply—you are missing out on possible opportunities to engage with a customer."

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  • by Dela Quist Wed Sep 19, 2012 via web

    Missing the Po!nt
    Interesting you choose not to share the counter arguments of which there are a few, and to be fair to DJ covered by him in his post. What is wrong with informing a customer that a particular channel is not manned either some or all of the time?

    To use the Sprint analogy why do you think they and everyone else signposts their opening hours on the store front or have recorded messages telling you that the office is closed between 6pm and 8am?
    To prevent us from wasting a journey visiting when it is un manned or holding on the line for 20 minutes as the phone ring unanswered of course!

    No one in their right mind would accuse Sprint of missing out on an opportunity to build and strengthen relationships with their customers because they let people know when the store is closed.
    Unless you can afford to or do monitor and respond to every single email address that you use, “Do not reply” is a good way to manage customer expectations and stop them having a bad experience just like an out of office message

  • by Mark Wed Sep 19, 2012 via web

    I said much the same thing in an earlier post.

    It's a very pol polarising issue. There are arguments for it, but I think anything that prevents a customer, especially a paying one, from communicating with you leads to lost business.

  • by Jim Thu Sep 20, 2012 via web

    This is a source of great frustration for me personally. When I get these emails, especially from someone I am already doing business with! I want to reply, or send a note and that is not possible in many cases. Often there is not even another customer service email to use. THAT makes no sense. You contact me, but I am not allowed to contact you without a lot of effort to go through a poorly designed web site to find contact information.

    I would think if you had something significant to email me you would want my feedback!

  • by Quinn Fri Sep 21, 2012 via web

    I’m not fond of Do Not Reply for the reason that it has the unintended appearance of rudeness. Similar to the article’s Sprint scenario, it would be like a face-to-face meeting where one speaker says what he wants and then when you open your mouth to respond, the other person who just got finished speaking sticks his fingers in his ears. I would like to see a Do Not Reply followed by a link to a way of contacting the sender of the email so I can respond.

  • by Aidsman Wed Oct 24, 2012 via web

    @ Dela Quist, Missing the title of the art!cle.

  • by Matt Trifiro (SVP Marketing at Tue Oct 30, 2012 via web

    there is a great discussion on Quora on this topic

    In today's world, there is no reason to not allow replies. You can feed emails into a customer support / ticket-tracking system and use a team approach to respond.

    My team sends out hundreds of thousands of emails each month and we always include a reply address. We get some of our best customer engagement through replies to email campaigns.

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