How to write email auto-replies: Analysis of 100 applications to IT companies support services
In our blog, we write a lot about creating email newsletters and working with email. We have already discussed the difficulties of combating spam , the future of email , the protection of email correspondence , as well as email techniques used by the leaders of large IT companies.
Today we will talk about another important topic - the creation of auto answers from support services of technology companies. Project Officer StatusPage Blake Thorne has published a blog storyabout an interesting experiment - the project team sent 100 requests to support services of different companies to find out which auto answers they use. The purpose of the experiment is to see the weaknesses in such communications with customers. We bring to your attention the main thoughts of this material.
Unfortunately, very often support responses leave much to be desired. If the company does not make sufficient efforts to create an effective customer support system by e-mail, then its development will slow down significantly.
According to Thorne, this made the StatusPage team think about how email communication with their customers is done. Employees noticed that many large companies send out automatic responses when they receive any applications. In this way, they inform customers that their message has been received by a support service that will contact them later.
At StatusPage.io, help desk employees tried to respond to customers personally and in a timely manner to get by without an answering machine. But when the number of company customers exceeded 2,000, the team thought about the need to install such a tool.
On the Internet you can find materials about installing answering machines - Helpscout, for example, added this useful featureto your product. It was decided to conduct an experiment to find out how other companies answer their customers' questions. To do this, the StatusPage team sent 100 applications to support services of different companies. And so, what happened in the end.
You do not need to be a scientist to understand that such an experiment requires a certain level of control. You can’t just send 100 applications to support services without thinking about the technological side of the process.
First of all, it was necessary to decide which companies would send applications. This is probably the most significant part of the experiment. At first glance, it seems that one hundred companies is a lot, but to select this number from thousands of potential participants is not so simple.
It was necessary to include in the list a lot of SaaS companies, as well as a number of technology startups. Thorne writes that he wanted both small and medium-sized and large organizations to participate in the experiment. For the purity of the experiment, it was also worth considering non-technology companies and some outdated, but still popular brands. Many of them have worked to improve their support services for decades. In addition, he listed a number of hardware companies and several airlines.
The specialist entered all these companies in a spreadsheet to track which of them sent applications, and from which replies have already been received.
There was one catch in this project. The fact is that Thorne did not want to waste time on support service specialists who are already overwhelmed with work and put them in an awkward position. Moreover, he did not want to send far-fetched requests or simply empty applications.
Therefore, it was necessary to write such a request that would be suitable for all these companies and give a clear idea of his project. At the same time, support service specialists could easily refuse to participate in the experiment if they did not have time for this.
Here's what happened:
Subject : This is a test.
Immediately get down to business and warn that this message is not a real support request. I apologize for this. My name is Blake, I work for StatusPage.io.
I noticed that many companies install convenient answering machines in support mailboxes to confirm receipt of customer requests. I would like to write about this on my blog. Therefore, I decided to send several requests to different support services in order to compare the automatic responses received from them.
If your company does not have an answering machine installed, don’t worry, I won’t blame you for that.
If I get an automatic response from your support team, I would like to use it as an example in my article. Of course, I will refer to your company.
If you want to contact me directly to tell us more about your answering machine, I will be very grateful to you. Send answers to firstname.lastname@example.org (I sent this email from an account created specifically for this project).
Thank you and good luck in your work!
Blake Thorne, StatusPage.io
Submitting support requests
Thorne writes that he had to work hard to send all these applications, but he managed to learn a lot about the support process from the point of view of the client.
It was a surprise for the researcher that submitting an application to the support service of many companies is quite difficult. In most cases, in a couple of clicks, you can find the email form or support email address. But on the websites of some companies it was not possible to find either one or the other. Then Thorne randomly sent an email to support @ and help @, hoping that someone would read them.
In most cases, it turns out that the larger the company, the more difficult it is to find a way to contact its support team. Maybe just as the company grows, customer support fades into the background. But is there really no way to make it more accessible?
- For those who still haven’t guessed, support email addresses usually start with support @ or help @. Medium uses email@example.com, which is pretty cool by the way.
- One company, we will not name which one, indicated only the address of ordinary, and not electronic, mail. Annoyingly.
- It was not possible to submit an application on the site of another company without specifying your working email address in the format firstname.lastname@example.org. Seriously?
As expected, Thorne began to receive answers. The following is an exact analysis in numbers. For 100 applications sent, he received:
63 automatic answers
wow. And answering machines are more popular than it seems at first glance.
11 conditional automatic answers of the
Company, which reported that they use the answering machine only at certain times, for example, in the evenings or on weekends.
4 responses from real people
These answers amused the researcher. Here is one of them: “Is a support guy who answers very quickly, is it considered?” Commendable.
13 dead letter notifications
Sorry. I would like the clients of these companies not to encounter a similar problem.
9 companies did not react in any way
It is hard to say for sure what is the reason. The application may have been submitted incorrectly. Or maybe they read a strange message and simply ignored it. Maybe all the employees of this company were kidnapped. Who knows...
Argument against the use of automatic messages by the support service (or the argument in favor of conditional automatic messages)
The StatusPage team decided to find out which types of companies install an answering machine and which do not. The result was surprising. After delving into the study of this question, the researchers found a pattern: the larger the company, the greater the likelihood that the answers are sent automatically. But there are exceptions to each rule. This applies to both tiny startups using answering machines, and well-known companies whose support services send out answers on their own.
From Airbnb, for example, such a message was received.
Thank you for contacting us.
My name is Adrian, I am an expert at the airbnb community and the owner of Superhost housing in Vancouver, Canada. I can advise you on this issue.
Unfortunately, we do not have an answering machine - only people work here!
If you have additional questions on this topic, I will be happy to answer them.
All the best,
Signs of a good automatic response from customer support
From a good automatic response, you can get a lot of useful information. After reading a sufficient number of letters from support services, you will begin to notice some common symptoms. Here is what unites all correctly written automatic answers - they are:
1. Confirm that the application has been received
You would be surprised to find out how incomprehensible some of the confirmations of receipt of the application were. A message such as “your application has been sent” doesn’t mean much. Does it mean that someone will consider the problem? Are applications delivered on time? Do I need to keep this application number and take additional measures? Thorne advises not to make his customers guess. You need to let them know that the application has been received.
Case study : Stripe payment service .
The notification of confirmation of receipt of the application does not need to give extra information. Get to the point right away. A great example is the notification from the Stripe service. As you can see, everything is simple, clear and to the point.
Thank you for contacting us.
This short message has been sent only to confirm that we have received your application and will reply to you shortly.
2. Report from whom and when the client can expect a response
Be sure to let the customer know when they can expect a response. Filing an application can prettyly ruffle your nerves. People want to know when they get the answer to their question, whether they should try to use other methods to solve the problem. Remember to include special circumstances, such as holidays, in the message.
Case study : Zenefits and Postmates .
Some companies prudently include in their automatic responses information on the time for consideration of customer applications. Good examples are Postmates and Zenefits.
Hello, you have contacted Postmates support.
Solving your problems and finding answers to your questions are our main tasks. To solve urgent problems, support specialists will contact you within 20-30 minutes, in other cases - within 24 hours.
Good luck to you
We have received your request and inform you that we are keeping the situation under control. A Zenefits Support Specialist will review your application and contact you today to suggest possible solutions to the problem (pay attention to weekends).
3. Offer to use alternative support channels to solve urgent problems.
I would like to combine all support requests into one large category: applications (tickets). After all, an application is an application, is not it? Unfortunately, this is not the case. Some applications require immediate consideration, while others may wait a couple of days. You may find yourself in a difficult situation if you begin to consider all applications in the order they were received - some problems need to be addressed out of turn.
For this purpose, you can open additional support channels. Suppose you add a live chat or a hotline number to the site so that people can turn to for help in case of emergency. For example, if a company that conducts business online has a server crash at the height of the working day. If the problem is not urgent, the client will not call, but simply leave a message.
Case study : companyJustFab.
According to Thorne, it’s crucial to indicate alternative support channels in the automatic response. If the support service has a live chat, a hotline or any other way to receive requests, it’s worthwhile to clearly inform customers about them, as JustFab does.
Thanks for your letter! One of our stylists will answer you shortly. To solve urgent problems, call us on the phone [...] 24 hours a day, 7 days a week or chat in www.justfab.com .
Your Justfab team
4. Contain links to useful articles or suggest ways in which the client can solve the problem on their own
Many problems can be solved without the direct involvement of the support service. It is often quite simple to provide the client with the necessary information, and he will resolve the issue on his own. With the help of automatic replies, you can share with your customers useful materials on the topic and information on troubleshooting.
Case study : Flipagram .
In the automatic response from Flipagram support you can find a lot of useful information without even leaving your email.
Thorne particularly liked one line: “Your application is considered by ordinary Los Angeles residents who like to use Flipagram. We are pleased to talk with you. ”
The text of this letter is too large to fit in one image. Go tolink to read it in full (in English).
Bonus: Add Humor
The automatic message from the support service should be friendly and considerate (and also correspond to the nature of your company), but it can be fun. Even an automatic response from a robot can be stylish and original.
A great example is the message from Tilt .
Thank you for your appeal!
We are eager to help you, and we will contact you faster than Kanye West reaches the stage for the Grammy Award.
Usually we work from 9 to 16 TSV from Monday to Friday, but you can read the answers to frequently asked questions in the Support Center section.
Tilter Happiness Team
Thanks to the Tilt mobile application, you will spend less time on financial transactions than reading this offer.
And in a letter from Imgur support you will see a link to a photo of a cute puppy.
Thank you for contacting Imgur, your application under the number [...] has been received. Imgur support service is open from 10.00-19.00 TSV from Monday to Friday. We will answer your question as soon as possible.
In the meantime, look at this cute puppy: imgur.com/topic/staff_picks/YWVmuXw
If you want to leave additional comments or reply to this letter, follow the link below
It is important to understand that not every company can afford this immediacy. If you intend to make the answer more fun and witty, make sure that it does not contradict the policy of the company. The automatic response from Tilt is fully consistent with its image, which is based on fun and youth.
If such an email was received, for example from Berkshire Hathaway, the user would most likely consider it inappropriate.
In the end
Nobody knows better than you whether it is worth the support service of your company to use an answering machine, Thorn is convinced. There are many different options for automatic messages.
And if you decide that an answering machine is just what you need, the researcher advises you to remember one thing: it takes time to make up the correct automatic answer. Some company founders and support specialists are just too lazy to write automatic answers, and it's not hard to guess why. After all, this is just a short confirmation of the receipt of the application, so why waste time and effort writing it?
But if you think better, it will become clear that one fine day these automatic messages can lead to a large number of new customers. Thousands of people who use the product can receive these messages in their electronic mailboxes. This is the first point of contact with customers who encounter problems, and this is the company's chance to keep them or lose them forever. Do not be frivolous, you do not need to spare time for a good answer.
If you want to dig deeper, Thorne also advises you to familiarize yourself with other useful materials on this topic:
- Desk.com : How to apply business rules to send an automated message to Desk.com
- MarketingSherpa : How to Improve Your Support Responses: 5 Simple Solutions to Common Problems
- Entrepreneur : Unleash the full power of an answering machine in email
- Groove : The first thing a support team should do when they receive a request from a customer