By John Pollard, Consultant to Return Path
Mailbox providers are increasingly measuring the levels of engagement that subscribers have with your email in their filtering decisions. One of the best forms of engagement that a subscriber can have with you via email is a simple reply. Why a reply matters is that in the eyes of a mailbox provider a reply means the subscriber (in most cases) has a relationship with you as a sender which in turn helps the mailbox provider have more trust in your brand and email program. When a mailbox provider has more trust that email coming from you is less likely to be spam, your email has a greater chance of reaching the inbox.
Here are seven reasons to encourage your subscriber to reply to your emails:
- It is a great way to differentiate yourself from your competition. Loyal customers can be hard to come by so beat the competition with better customer service.
- For smaller businesses, there is a general expectation of a closer relationship from your customers so take the time to read and reply to every email. When building your business, take every opportunity to make customer service convenient to develop loyal customers for the future.
- If someone clicks on the reply button and sees the ‘No Reply’ alias (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org), it sets a negative tone with the customer that you may be difficult to contact and that you don’t want to hear their questions or issues with your product or service. In addition, use a service oriented alias such as 'email@example.com' instead of 'firstname.lastname@example.org'. Customers generally won't add a ‘No Reply’ address to their contact list or address book.
- If a customer does reply to your email without noticing the ‘No Reply’ alias and either gets no response or a bounce back error message, then it can contribute to a negative experience and may cause a customer to unsubscribe or click on the ‘this is spam’ button on future promotional messages.
- Replies allow you to receive an ‘out of office’ message, which confirms that the address you are sending to is a real person and not a spam trap.
- Some mailbox providers (e.g. Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail) may automatically add the reply address to the subscriber’s contact list if the subscriber replies. If your ‘from’ address is added to the customer's address book or contact list, future messages are more likely to bypass spam filtering and go in to the inbox.
- Some subscribers will reply to unsubscribe from an email stream or update their information. If the unsubscribe request isn't honored, they may perceive future messages as spam. If they notify you about a changing their email address and you don't acknowledge it, their old address will become inactive, and potentially, a spam trap.
If you have a ‘No Reply’ policy or use a ‘No Reply’ email address, at the very least set up an auto-response message with specific instructions on how the customer can contact your company to answer their question. Or, be very explicit within your email content about how the customer can best reach you with updated information or questions.
Increased engagement helps your email reach the inbox, so take steps to encourage your customers to reply using email. The added convenience is a great way to serve your customer and giving them an option to reply to any email to resolve their problem or get their questions answered contributes to a positive customer experience. In the end it is about serving your customers better, and the better experience they have with you through email may help to keep them as a customer in the future.