The Dos and Don’ts for crafting great Auto-Responders

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If you’re an ecommerce seller, auto-responders can be an important part of providing great customer service. That’s because customer inquiries don’t follow a schedule. Shoppers may have questions after business hours, during holidays or at any other time when you and your team are away.

Now that so many of Tamebay’s readers are also Replyco users, many of you have the ability to utilise smart auto-responders in your customer service approach. But using this all-important tool isn’t as simple as setting it up and moving on. In order to get the most out of auto-responders, it is crucial to learn exactly what they are and how best to deploy them.

That’s why our friends at Replyco are here to offer some dos and don’ts for crafting an effective auto-responder strategy.

The Role of an Auto-Responder?

Sometimes called canned responses, auto-responders are a great way to ensure customers aren’t left hanging when you can’t get back to them right away. As the name suggests, auto-responders are responses that go out automatically in reply to customer messages. They are meant to provide a sort of triage to customers until you can take the time to manually answer their questions or address their comments / concerns.

Auto-Responder Best Practices

When set up properly, auto-responders let shoppers know that their business is valued and that you are eager to help them. However, there are also a few pitfalls to avoid (some of which can even cause you to be penalised by marketplaces such as Amazon or eBay).

For starters, it is important to note that you shouldn’t use auto-responders as a replacement for direct interaction. Instead, they are meant to provide customers with an immediate reply until you are able to fully respond to them. That means the content in your auto-responder should be focused on confirming receipt of the customer’s message and assuring them that you look forward to helping them.

When To Use Auto-Responders

Auto-responders are most effective after hours, on the weekends and during holidays or other times when normal support is not available. That said, excessive use of auto-responders can hurt more than help. Use them judiciously, make your response as relevant as possible (when you can) and be sure your settings are accurate (you don’t want to be sending an after-hours auto-responder AND a weekend one — they should be turned on and off at the right times).

Auto-Responder Timing

Timing is everything. The same idea applies when sending an auto-responder. Make sure you set them up to go out at random intervals and with a slight delay. This helps to increase the odds that they will be counted toward your metrics. Most helpdesk software providers such as Replyco make this very easy to do in your settings.

Pitfalls / Language to Avoid

There are a few critical pitfalls to avoid when creating auto-responders, such as language that directly labels your message as an automatic response.

Perhaps most importantly, if you’re an eBay seller, you need to avoid the inclusion of links or contact information in any part of your message (including in the subject line, body and signature). eBay expressly prohibits this type of content in messages, and including it can result in account penalties and your reply not being delivered.

You also want to avoid sounding like a robot. Use personalised, relatable, human language. Litmus (an email marketing company) claims that emails with dynamic content are 22% more effective. This is where the aforementioned customised tags (e.g. first name, order number, etc.) really come in handy.

We’ve said this before, and it’s worth saying again; don’t depend solely on auto-responders or use them to replace interaction and customer service. A good general rule is to limit the use of auto-responders to after-hours times, weekends, holidays and unexpected / emergency situations (such as exceptionally busy days or unplanned instances in which you are forced to close).

The Basics of Auto-Responder Content

When writing the content for auto-responders, you need to think about both the subject line and the body of your message. Every section should address your customer’s needs and convey your willingness to help.

Subject Line

The first step in setting up good auto-responders is to create a great subject line. The same principle applies here as in the timing of responses. You need to avoid any language in the subject line that alludes to the message being an auto-responder.

For example, don’t make your subject line, “We’re out of the office right now,” or “This is an automatic reply to your message.” Instead, say something like, “Thank you for your inquiry / message!”

Subject lines that tend to go over well with customers include language that is direct (with words like “you” and “your”), simple and on-topic. They should also be around 45 characters or less so as to fit in the preview window of mobile devices. Here are a few examples of great auto-responder subject lines:

  • Thank you for your inquiry / message!
  • Thank you for contacting us!
  • We’re excited to answer your questions.
  • Thanks for reaching out — we’re excited to help!

Message Body

In addition to the subject line, you should avoid any overt labeling as an auto-responder in the body of your message. Keep it simple and customer-oriented. Let the customer know that their message has been received and offer some information on next steps, while also conveying that their inquiry is a top priority to you and your team. You should also let customers know when they can expect a reply, especially if you’re going to be away for an extended period of time, such as during the holidays.

For instance, here’s a good auto-responder template for sending after business hours:

Subject Line:
Thank You for Your Inquiry!

Hello [First Name],

Thank you so much for your inquiry. We appreciate the opportunity to assist you. Our office is currently closed, however a member of our customer care team will respond to your message as soon as possible once we open tomorrow morning.

Our office hours are: [Days / Hours Office is Open]

In the meantime, please feel free to browse the FAQs on our website for answers to commonly asked questions. Thanks again and we look forward to serving you!

Best Regards,
The [Company Name] Team

You can also use tools such as custom tags to personalise your message (Replyco enables users to apply a first-name-only tag, for example). And if there are certain issues that are popping up frequently, such as delayed shipping amid heavier shopping times, include that information in your auto-responders so customers know what to expect.

Building Smart Auto-Responder Templates

Creating smart auto-responder templates can help you provide answers to commonly asked customer questions in your immediate reply. This is done by looking at the message to identify words or phrases that can give us insight into what the customer might be asking about. The word “refund” would likely indicate that the customer is requesting a refund. Instead of just sending a generalized auto-responder, consider sending one with additional information about your refund policy.

Good auto-responder template content may include info about:

  • Potential shipping delays.
  • Out-of-stock items.
  • Returns / refunds policies.
  • Updated holiday hours / policies.
  • Shopping / website navigation tips.
  • Answers to any other FAQs.

Great Customer Service Leads to Satisfied Shoppers

At the end of the day, the entire purpose of auto-responders is to give attention and information to customers no matter when they message you. By using automatic replies with the other tools in your customer care arsenal, such as quick human responses to inquiries, friendly service reps and knowledgeable answers to questions, you can keep shoppers happy and coming back to your store.

And if you’re not yet a Replyco user and want to learn more about how the helpdesk software can help you take control of your inbox and improve customer service, hop on over to their website and take a tour of their features. Or you can start your no-risk, no-credit-card-required, free trial today!

3 Responses

  1. I learned years ago never to prompt communication with buyers unless you really have to- some lonely old souls take it as your their new friend for life and bombard you with messages and emails. Time is money, I can’t afford to comment on Mrs Miggins’ new dog collar when I’m supposed to be concentrating on selling.

  2. If anybody sends me an email with a subject line that includes spurious exclamation marks or feigned and childish “excitement” at the thought of my enquiry, I shall look to dealing with a different supplier in the future.


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