Should brands ever use ‘do not reply’ email addresses?

no-reply email

No reply email addresses are a frequent source of irritation to consumers, but is there every a reason to use this on your emails? 

In this post I’ll look at the pros and cons of no-reply email addresses, when and how they can be used, and how to communicate the reasons to recipients.

Why no-reply is annoying

A few reasons:

  • It can increase spam reports. 
  • It implies a certain arrogance from the sender. We, the brand, can contact you this way, but don’t expect to reply to us on the same channel.
  • It turns email into a one-way communication channel. 
  • People are unlikely to add such addresses to their address book. 
  • It’s bad for customer service (see below)

When used in customer service emails ‘no-reply’ can be doubly annoying. You may have had a perfectly satisfactory response to your question and the email has answered it perfectly. In such a case, a no-reply email means you cannot let the company know, or even just thank them.

If, on the other hand, the email leaves many questions unanswered and doesn’t allow an instant response, this is just very bad customer service. Rather than being able to respond to the points in the email, customers are forced to head back to whichever channel prompted the email reply in the first place. If you want to create angry customers, this is a great way to do it.

Is the use of no-reply ever justified?

Let’s agree that, for customer service emails at least, using do not reply email addresses should be avoided. But are there any good reasons to use them?

To be honest, it’s hard to find a good reason to ever use no-reply emails. There are emails which brands can send which don’t necessarily need a reply, such as:

  • Transactional emails – emails confirming a purchase, or sending invoice details.
  • Newsletters. No need to reply, just read the articles.
  • Marketing emails. Brands obviously want a response here, but not by replying to the email.

The problem with no reply is that, even when no response is needed, it doesn’t look good.

Marketers will point to the difficulties of not using do not reply emails. For example, large organisations can generate a massive volume of incoming email, and this takes resources to deal with, hence the no-reply option.

I asked email marketing expert Elliot Ross, Founder of action rocket, for his take on no-reply emails:

Is it ever acceptable to use no-reply emails?

We always talk about “having a conversation” with customers, but starting off that conversation with “no-reply” doesn’t really work. So even if you’re using an email address that isn’t monitored, naming it something more neutral might work better.

The ideal solution, if your platform supports it, is to let people reply and then use their response management to filter out things like out of office notifications and bounce reports. That way people can reply and it actually gets picked up by your customer support team.

For emails which don’t need a response, what’s the best approach to take?

I think when it comes to customer service, some users will reply to any email. So if you can’t actually take a reply, I’ve seen brands use something like newsletter@, and then using an auto reply if people do actually reply to it.

Then that auto-reply can detail how to get in touch through the proper support channels.

Examples of no-reply emails

They’re bad, but some are better than others…

Microsoft

Here’s one from Microsoft. It does at least advise me that it’s sent from an unmonitored address. However, that message is easily lost (the highlighting is mine) in the text.

Also, though this is a billing invoice for Xbox Live, it doesn’t say so in the email. This could actually prompt me to reply.

microsoft email

Dominos

The order conformation email from Domino’s has a no-reply address, as well as a note advising respondents not to reply, but to use contact details further down the email.

Dominos

And further down, we have plenty of contact options. A do not reply address isn’t ideal here, but at least Domino’s has tried to mitigate the problem.

dominos 2

John Lewis

A better example from John Lewis here. It’s an order confirmation email, which doesn’t always need a response.

However, the retailer anticipates that some customers will have queries, so these emails can be replied to.

john lewis email

Takeaways

  • Never use a no-reply email address. There are better options.
  • Provide clear contact options on email communications to channel customer queries to the right departments.
  • Provide an auto-reply if you need to to avoid the frustration of emails heading into a black hole.
  • Answer all the emails if you can. Use response management to filter out the genuine queries.

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