Let’s See How Rude We Can Be!

Imagine you are sitting at your table in a restaurant and a waiter walks up to you and describes what’s on special, and how much it all costs. Then, before you even get a chance to ask any questions, he stops talking, turns on his heels and walks away. There’s a good chance you won’t return, right? So how come we allow suppliers who use email to do this to us as customers?

Email is not the world’s best medium for communicating with customers, and there are many forms of rudeness and discourtesy that are associated with it. We all know that we must not send spam, that we should keep it short, use capital letters and exclamation marks carefully, and not use abbreviations and acronyms that readers won’t understand.

However there is one thing that particularly irritates me: every day I get a few emails with a “No-Reply” email address. My temptation is to kill the email without reading it, but of course, I can’t. Often it is an absolutely critical communication about a late payment or some change in the conditions I endure as a customer.

I don’t like it at all. And I can tell you something else unequivocally: I have never, ever received a “No Reply” email from a client or a friend of mine. They only come from companies where I am a customer, or where they seek to recruit me as a customer.

How rude can you be in a company when you send out a communication to a customer, (using a medium that was designed for two-way communication after all,) and then tell them you’re not interested in their reply? The message you are giving to your customers is this, “Listen dude, you better do this or that, but actually I don’t give a damn about what you think nor about what you want to say.”

Nevertheless, the stupidity of managers who make decisions to not allow customers to respond baffles me. In any business relationship, an email is never as effective as a ‘phone call, and a ‘phone call is never as effective as a face-to-face meeting. You need every advantage you can get with emails. It’s even worse because, as my supplier, you probably want something from me. Relationships are about sharing information, having conversations, adding value and saying thank you. That is how trust gets built.

The extreme logical side of my left brain, (and I, together with most human beings, am mostly not a logical creature,) perhaps explains why companies and managers still think they can get away with this rude behaviour. First, many business people may carefully and purposefully plan this “No Reply” because they don’t want their inbox to be bombarded with lots of emails querying what this was all about. If this is the case for you, then you probably also believe that customers are an interruption in your business, rather than the main reason for your existence. (Can you see the irony and hypocrisy of this thinking when you have just bombarded them with emails – but you don’t want them to do the same to you?)

If, in fact, the email you send to recipients does not need them to reply, my suggestion is to say so – in polite terms – in the body of the email. Write something like: “You don’t need to reply to this email, or take any other action – unless you want to.” It is a far more elegant and courteous thing to say.

Second, you may believe that most people don’t actually reply to emails anyway, so what’s the use of inviting them to do so? Again, you are wrong. Don’t forget that you need your customers more than they need you.

Thus, your brand and image are very negatively impacted by poor courtesy, you lose out on the opportunity to interact with and get feedback from your customers and prospects, and their irritation levels and blood pressure go up. That should be enough to stop any business from doing this, but if you also want more logical and rational reasons for stopping this practice, here are a few:

  • Obviously, you miss out on those random enquiries that usually lead to good sales. When someone actually takes the trouble to contact you, it means they are interested, and it’s far easier to sell to them than those who you approach. There may not be many of these, but you need every edge you can get in today’s economy.
  • The mechanics of email is also important: A “No Reply” will never be added to a user’s contact list, which means that there’s a good chance your stuff will be automatically rejected. But the opposite is also true: a proper email address is more likely to be automatically added to the “safe” lists by the internet service provider servers – provided there is interaction. By encouraging or enabling a conversation, you improve your chances of delivery.
  • In addition, when it comes to the issue of spam, most recipients will not go to the trouble of looking for an “Unsubscribe” button at the bottom of your email. It’s much easier for recipients to just reply and ask to be unsubscribed. With a “No Reply” email address, they can’t do this, and a few irritated recipients will go to the trouble of reporting you as a spammer. That has a big impact on what you send out in future.

So the big question remains: if this “No Reply” email is so desperately poor at building relationships and trust with customers, why are you still doing it? Is rude the new ‘tude?

I beg you, as readers of this column, please take the trouble to write back to “No Reply” emails – using a different email address of course – and give them a piece of your polite mind.


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