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The Real Message Behind “Do Not Reply” Emails from Businesses

The Message Behind “Do Not Reply” Emails from Businesses

Messages and effective messaging that influence outcomes isn’t just a matter of arranging words in a proper order, it’s a combination of interdependent factors that determine how well a message will be received.

For example, what we say, how we say it, when we say it, and where we say it, all play a role. The words can say one thing, but the medium or timing says another, and the message gets muddied.

There’s one more important factor: the mechanism we provide to listen and obtain feedback in return.

A message might be one way, but effective communication, by definition, requires a two-way channel.   No one wants to talk to someone else that operates in output-only mode.  That goes for businesses too.

Nothing says a business doesn’t value it customers like a message sent from a “Do Not Reply” email address.

“Do Not Reply” Emails Tell Customers They are Not Valued

Last week I receive an email from a business telling me a subscription of sorts was coming to an end.  It began with an obligatory “We would like to thank you for choosing…” and was followed by a deadline for making a decision with various pricing options for renewal. The message was sent from a “Do Not Reply” email address.

Nothing says a business doesn’t value it customers like a message sent from a “Do Not Reply” email address.  This address physically prevents interaction and literally conveys the message, “Here are the options, we don’t want to hear back from you, take it or leave it.”


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Renewal:  A Crucial Moment in Communications

At the very moment that this company was asking me to commit to another a yearlong investment, it was also telling me it didn’t want to hear from me.  If there’s ever been a critical moment, where a business should have an overwhelming desire to hear feedback from customers, it’s at renewal time!

I wish this was a one-off case, but it’s not.  Chances are you’re nodding your head because you probably got a “Do Not Reply” email recently too.

Perhaps there are extenuating circumstances that require the use of such an email address, but these should be closely scrutinized and reviewed regularly – like a compliance checklist.

Effective Communication is a Function of Leadership

Here’s a question:  whose is responsible?

The young account manager that sent the message?  Her boss?  Sales? Marketing? The CEO?

They certainly all have a role, but I think the buck stops at the top and here’s why:  If there’s one thing twenty-three years in the military taught me – it’s that effective communication is a function of leadership.  Leaders that can’t, won’t or don’t want to listen – that fear feedback – set the cultural norm for the whole business.

It’s not a dramatic leap to say, that if internal communication isn’t two-way inside a business, then external communications – with customers, investors, media, analysts, and other stakeholders – won’t be either.

A business cannot build relationships – or do PR – without dialogic communication.  That’s how we wind up with technology tools that enable account managers to send emails to customers at renewal time that says the company does not value their business.


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Photo credit: Pixabay (CC0 1.0)

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