There are many ways that companies can use auto-reply emails in the context of providing support. Some of them lend themselves to a fantastic customer experience, while others have the potential to set your CSAT back a couple of points. Before we get into the nitty-gritty, though, let's talk about what an auto-reply email is.
What is an auto-reply email?
An auto-reply email is a triggered response based on an email sent to a company's support email address or a submitted web form. While the primary purpose is to inform the customer that a company has received their inquiry, it can also be helpful to offer other information. Auto-reply emails often include information like the team's working hours, how long it usually takes to receive a response or links to additional information that may be helpful for a customer.
Some companies write extensive auto-reply emails that include tons of information and guidance. Others prefer to keep it short and sweet and just confirm that they've received your inquiry.
When to use an auto-reply email (and when not to)
Unless you have a human being on staff almost constantly and have a swift response time, it's good to include an auto-reply in your support strategy.
An auto-reply email is something that you only need to send once. When a customer first reaches out to your team, that should trigger an auto-reply email, but not for each subsequent response. Unless a customer responds to a thread after several days of inactivity, your team should assume that they know you've received their email.
If your team does not want to send auto-reply emails all the time, consider sending them when your timing may be different from what your customers expect. A great example of this is the holiday auto-reply email that we've included as an example in the last section of this article. A holiday auto-reply can help your regular customers know if they should expect a shift in the usual trend of your responses and, if so, what that delay might look like.
In general, unless you have an almost instantaneous response time, it's good to send an auto-reply, even if it's just a short one, to let the customer know you've received their inquiry. However, if you're just sending a short reply, you can still provide some information to make it worth their while rather than just assigning them a number.
What makes a great support auto-reply email
What you include in your auto-reply email depends on your end goal for information to impart to your customer. Here are a few critical bits of information that can be helpful to add:
Inform them that you've received their email and are looking into it.
Let them know the hours during which your team works.
Help them understand how long they can expect to wait.
Provide other ways of contacting you, if you have them (chat, phone, carrier pigeon).
Personalize the content with information that you are likely to have about the customer, and provide fallbacks that make sense and sound natural.
Assist them in troubleshooting their issues on their own if they'd like to by sending links to documentation and other resources.
Give tips about additional information they can send along that may make it easier to solve their inquiry.
Always write your email to match the tone of your brand. For instance, MeUndies does an excellent job of tone matching in the auto-reply email that we've included in the examples below. Read on for other helpful auto-reply emails that you can use to model your own.
6 examples of effective auto-reply emails
These examples of auto-reply emails run the gamut from verbose to simple. While not all of them include all of the talking points from the list above, there's enough variation that you will likely be able to find an example similar to the style you'd like to create for your own company.
Goldbelly is a food subscription and delivery service. Their auto-reply email is excellent because, while the language is relatively direct, it includes information about how soon a user can expect a response and details on how to update an inquiry if needed. It also contains some links to what we assume are resolutions for frequently asked questions (order tracking and hours of operation):
Hi Food Lover,
A team member will be in touch to assist you within 24 hours. Please share your order number for faster service. Sending multiple emails regarding one inquiry will not result in a quicker reply.
To add additional comments, reply to this email. If you no longer require assistance after reaching out, kindly reply to let us know. Thanks for your patience!
We might improve this email by taking a friendlier, less direct tone. We'd also restructure the information to include "Thanks for your patience" at the end rather than in the middle of the message.
MeUndies provides a fantastic customer experience across the board, and the auto-reply email to let customers know the company has received their inquiry is no different.
We love this one because of its playful tone, which matches MeUndies' brand, but also because of the guidance to a more immediate response, information on how long a customer can expect to wait, and links to documentation for self-service:
It worked! You sent us a message and we got it. That's all this email is. To let you know that. And to let you know you should see a response from us within the next 2-4 days.
If you are looking for a more immediate solution, check out our live chat to talk to a real person.
Or if you don't want to talk to us, you can always check out our Help Page where you will find answers to a lot of questions. Not all the questions…but a lot: https://help.meundies.com/hc/en-us/
To improve this, we may use a different fallback for the recipient's first name or omit it if something in name format isn't available. We would also include a direct link to where the reader can find live chat.
Zapier is a huge company that probably fields tons of inquiries every day, so it should come as no surprise that they send out an auto-reply. We think this one is great because it acknowledges that it is being sent automatically (not by a human). It also gives detailed advice about what information a customer could follow up with to expedite the process and tips on where to find more resources if the customer wants to self-serve:
This is our helpful Zapbot confirming we've received your support request.
Here are a few things we'll need from you to help our humans help you faster! If you haven't already included any of these, please reply back to this message with the following:
A link to the Zap you're working on Here's a GIF showing you how to get the link
1 (or more!) screenshots that show us what you're seeing
A link to a single Task from your Task History if applicable (click and send us the URL to an individual entry)
Our current response time is around 24 hours, though we will get back to you faster when possible!
In the meantime, you might also want to check out the resources on our Zapier Help Center to see if we already have what you're looking for.
Have a great day,
- Your friendly neighborhood Zapbot!
The only thing missing from this email is what the support team's hours are and other methods for contacting the Zapier team.
This Appcues email ticks most boxes for information a customer may need in an auto-reply email. Beyond just including the specific details on how long a customer can expect to wait, the Appcues support team also proactively mentions alternative resources someone might want to check out on their journey using the product and information that may help debug:
Thank you for reaching out! This is an auto-reply confirming that your inquiry has been received.
Our regular office hours are 9 am - 6 pm Eastern, Monday - Friday and we aim to have all inquiries responded to within 24 hours of receiving the request.
In the meantime, we have some helpful resources to get you started:
Appcues Help center http://docs.appcues.com/
Find inspiration and Really Good UX at our blog site http://reallygoodux.io/
Check out one of our Webinars at https://www.appcues.com/webinar-series
To provide prompt and full support for technical issues, please have the following information available:
The name of the flow(s) you're experiencing an issue with
Any feedback or findings from the flow diagnostics tool: http://docs.appcues.com/article/281-flow-eligibility
Screenshot of the debugger, the flow diagnostics page, and/or any errors or issues you are seeing.
The Appcues Support Team
This is an excellent example of an auto-reply email that includes tons of information. Perhaps the only thing that could make this better would be better organization of the information the team is presenting or a link to alternative sources for receiving support.
As we all know, customers tend to stop paying attention when met with a wall of text. When writing your auto-reply email, try to make it quick to skim and easy to read, and present the most important and relevant information right at the top.
Guru's auto-reply email is a bit different from some of these others because it is very short and sweet. The risk with a concise auto-reply email is that it can make the customer feel reduced to just a number rather than a human with a problem, but Guru does a great job of balancing a short response while still helping the customer feel seen and human.
They do this by providing information about when a customer can expect an answer and giving a method for getting quick support if it's wanted:
Thanks for reaching out to Guru, the wiki that works for you. Our team will respond to your message as soon as we can. Our normal operating hours are 8am-8 pm EST, Monday through Friday.
Reminder: You can initiate a live chat with our team directly in Guru's Web App or Extension by selecting your avatar and then clicking "Contact Us".
Guru also gives instructions on initiating a live chat, while the other companies on this list do not include a link or directions on reaching out anywhere besides email.
Help Scout uses auto-reply emails to help our customers during times of high volume or when something may delay response times like if we are experiencing an outage or some of our team members are out for a holiday. Here's an example of an auto-reply email we used during the holidays:
Thanks for getting in touch with Help Scout’s support team!
From Thursday, December 23rd to Monday, January 3rd, the team will be working reduced hours in observance of the holiday season. While we will be checking in on the queue and scanning for urgent issues, we appreciate your patience with any delay in reply.
If you haven’t already, please take a moment to search our Help Docs – they’ve got tons of great product info and answers to many frequent questions.
If you are experiencing a roadblock issue like being locked out of your account, please reply to this email with the word “urgent” in the body, and the next person online will take a look as soon as possible.
Help Scout Support
You'll note that we include the period when customers can expect a slower response, how to escalate the conversation if needed, and how to use our self-service functionality.
Auto-replies during specific times or seasons are a great option if you don't want to have an auto-reply email set up all the time but do need some additional information every once in a while to ensure that your users have a great experience.
Help your customers feel heard and supported
The most substantial benefit of implementing a strong auto-reply email is helping your customers understand that you've received their inquiry and giving them the tools they need to expedite their usage.
Whether you set up an auto-reply email to respond to every first inquiry or only during certain times, ensure that you treat your users with humanity. Address them like people, and try to proactively help them as much as you can through other means. Ensure that you are responsive and helpful, and your customers will be grateful to know you’re on the case.