Do Not Reply To This Email

How many times have you received a beautifully designed and written email telling you about some wonderful new product or service that ends with "Please do not reply to this email"? The message is clear, this is one-way communication. Please consume this information we have sent along, but we're not interested in your response.

In our social-media age, this strikes many people at best as odd, at worse rude. We're used to interacting directly with friends, co-workers, and the companies we do business with immediately, and in the medium we're using right now, whether phone, email, Twitter, or Facebook.

So why do companies do this? We can imagine how it happens. I'm the marketing director for this new campaign and my job is to craft the message, get the online ads designed, and get the message out via a whole host of channels that didn't exist 10 years ago. Crafting that email and blasting it out to the email list is one of those channels. What would I possibly do with all of those email replies?

Meanwhile, the customer relations department of the same company is trying to get my feedback any way they can. When I go to the website, they send me to a survey when I'm done to ask how I liked it. After I visit their store, fly on their airline, or purchase something in the online store, I get a follow up email asking me to take another survey. Just tell us how we did!

So it's not that companies don't care. They just don't seem to have a way to pull these efforts together. Meanwhile, we continue to receive that negative message "Do not reply to this email."

Fortunately, it doesn't have to be this way. Request Tracker (RT), our open source support and issue management system, provides an easy way to bridge these worlds. The solution looks something like this.

The marketing group prepares their email campaign as usual, but before they hit send, they contact customer relations and ask a simple question: if we get replies, what email address should they go to? Every major email marketing platform allows you to set a reply-to address so when the recipient hits reply in their email client, the email gets sent to the right place.

Now we have an email address to send any feedback to, but where will it go? On the other end, customer relations sets up an RT instance to receive email sent to that email address. This is just like the system you might have to receive "" but it's going to receive email to the custom email address set up for the latest marketing campaign.

RT fully supports email interactions from any email client, so it will receive any replies back from customers. The first thing RT will do is automatically send back a nicely designed and worded HTML reply saying the email has been received and we're currently taking a look. You've already done better than most of your competitors because you allowed the customer to reply and you acknowledged that you received it!

Now customer relations can have staff review the replies using RT's web interface and sort them according to the type of reply it is. "Love this new product, where do I get it?" goes to sales for follow-up. "I'm having problems with the last one I bought from you" goes to customer support. "Please remove me from your list" goes back to marketing so the user can be properly unsubscribed from the list.

RT makes this easy for staff sorting through these responses. You can set up multiple queues, one for each department, and organize responses in each. RT can also send a message along to another system inside the company via API or by simply sending along an email. Now the appropriate group can follow up in a way that works with their existing workflows.

After a few weeks, the RT system is now full of valuable data on the email reply rate from the ad campaign. Each reply has been flagged with key information about the type of response, so you can generate reports on they number of sales type inquires vs. complaints or problems. Now marketing and customer relations can sit down and figure out why a certain email campaign resonated with customers but another didn't. Each new campaign can get a new email address and new queue to easily keep them separate. Or re-use the same email address for each and use other information to track the associated campaign.

Customer relations is now getting valuable feedback in a form that is very easy for the customer. They just had to hit reply, which is the normal response to an email. And most important, you've sent the message "we care what you think" rather than the all-too-common "Do not reply to this email."

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