Noreply@ : dumbest thing ever?

Have you ever received an email from noreply@ your-company-of-choice dot com? Of course. How many times? Hundreds of times? Thousands of times?

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Truth is, companies don’t want to hear from you. They just want you to pay and shut up.

The “noreply@” phenomenon is simple and it’s also very stupid: a company tells you something, but doesn’t give you the opportunity to reply.

By adding friction to your ability to reply (you need to waste time trying to figure out how to contact them), they hope that your desire to complain will go away. They are essentially adding an artificial cost to email. Sending emails is free. But if you want someone to read that email, you have to pay the cost of searching a website and finding the proper way to message the company back.

“But wait!”, you say, surely the most customer centric company in the world would not do that, right?. In fact, it does:

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I am still surprised, to this day, to see EVERY company on the planet trying to avoid contact with a customer. A customer with A PROBLEM that needs solving. The conclusion is obvious: customer service is broken. It shouldn’t even be called that. A better name would be: customer suppression.

A customer issue is usually a sign that something in your product is not functioning properly; often times, it means that you didn’t create an (automated) process to deal with an issue that occurs frequently.
Other times, the customer is stupid and your company has to deal with that stupidity. But let’s ignore this for now.

The perfect product doesn’t require customer support.
How can a company strive to build that product? By paying the cost of an imperfect product, which is: allowing customers to reply to your email, overloading your support team until someone in pain decides that the product needs fixing. It’s equivalent to training for a marathon, in order to be able to run the marathon.

If you really wanted to fix the problem…

If a company really wanted to fix a customer’s problem, the obvious thing would be to avoid using noreply@, and instead allowing the customer to reply to that email, so that whoever receives it has an opportunity to see what’s the context of that customer request. It is so obvious. And yet…

Why nobody has fixed it yet?

Perhaps there’s a bigger problem behind it: communications are free, in the sense that sending an email is free. Reading an email, however, is not, because it requires time it requires time, provided by someone employed or paid by the company to read that email and (hopefully) spending additional time finding a way to help you with your issue.

I’d have to guess that for most companies, providing an excellent customer service is anti-economical. But it also annoys customers that would have every right to be heard by the company.

Would a tax on email work?
Perhaps, but I think it’s too late. Many have tried, including Bill Gates in the 1990s (I can’t find a reference, but I remember reading about it). Or Hashcash.

Instead, I think that a better way would be to allow someone to PUNISH you (economically) when you send an unwanted email. It would be really simple to implement:

Dear X,

I am reaching out because of Y.
Hope to hear from you!


p.s. If this email has annoyed you, you can fine me $Z by clicking here.

The link doesn’t work; but it could send you to a simple page that subtracts that certain amount from a deposit that I made in advance.

This would be an incentive for recipients to filter email that doesn’t have a certain amount of money deposited in escrow, ready to be taken away if the message is annoying.

This is the opposite of an email tax. This is a spam tax. And it could be applied to any form of communication. It could avoid billions of hours wasted every year to handle unwanted communication.

Imagine if customer service would be managed that way. Customers can reach out, and they can offer $5 if their email is useless, or if it’s their mistake. But if the company recognizes that the customer request is legit and proper, then it would go ahead and fix it, without clicking on the link.

Many today would say: this could run on a Blockchain! Perhaps. But this simple mechanism doesn’t require a Blockchain, in the sense that it doesn’t require to be decentralized. It could perfectly be implemented by a for-profit, private company.

I have several additional thoughts about this, but I’ll stop here.
Also, if you’re curious about my take on customer service, please read this memo I wrote about Stripe’s opportunity to fix it.

Thanks for reading. Let me know your thoughts.

Tech, startups and investments. Global life. Italian heart.

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