How to Write a Perfect Customer Service Auto-Reply Email

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Cheat Sheet: The Perfect Auto-Reply in 6 Steps

Making a great first impression on every customer who emails you with the right auto-reply message.

If you’ve emailed enough businesses for support, then you’ve seen it.

The cold, impersonal, automated email that, in an instant, makes it clear that you’re not a person that the business is trying to help, but a ticket number… a cog in the machine that is their customer support operation.

That automated email⁠—the very first time a customer hears back from you when they email you for support⁠—isn’t just impersonal.

It’s also a huge wasted opportunity to build a deeper relationship with your customer.

Today, we’ll cover everything you need to know to craft a warm, personal and effective customer service email auto-reply.

The Foundation: Using the Right Tone of Voice for Customer Service

In some cases, your support email auto-reply is the first time a customer will ever receive an email response from you.

It’s their first opportunity to see who you⁠—as a business, and as a team⁠—really are.

And while much of tone is context-dependent (that is, you should match your tone to each interaction), even an automated email that goes to every customer is an opportunity to strike the right tone.

What does the tone of the email in the example tell you about the business?

Now, not all of those messages are necessarily bad.

Some of what that tone conveys could be exactly what the company wants to convey.

This isn’t an exercise done to show you that every piece of this email sends the wrong message; it’s done to show you that every piece of the email sends a message, down to the tiniest detail.

There are no “throwaway” words or lines in a customer service email.

Everything means something.

And before you start sending your auto-replies out, make sure that every piece of it strikes the exact tone that you want to be conveying to your customers.

Breaking Down Your Customer Service Auto-Reply Email

Every single element of your support auto-response message has the potential to change the impact that the email has on the customer.

Let’s break down the best way to write the auto-reply, piece by piece:

1) The Subject Line

This is the very first thing your customer will see, before they even open your email.

It should serve two purposes:

  1. Deliver the most important message (if the customer never opens the email, what do you want them to come away with?)
  2. Make them want to open the email (give them a good reason!)

To approach (a), let’s think about the most important message that’s being sent with your auto-reply.

The reason that we send auto-replies in the first place is to comfort and reassure our customers. We can’t possibly respond instantly to their request by hand, but an auto-reply tells them: “don’t worry… we’re on it.”

To that end, “We have received your support request” isn’t the worst subject line, as it does a decent job of conveying that message.

But it’s also not particularly endearing, and it certainly doesn’t make anybody itch to actually open the email.

Instead, try a subject that’s both informative and compelling, like:

  • We got your email! Here’s what to expect next…
  • Thanks for getting in touch. We’re on it.
  • We’re working on your request. Hang tight!

2) The Opener

The first line is what greets the customer as soon as they open your email.

And the very best way to greet someone?

By name, of course.

A person’s name is to that person, the sweetest, most important sound in any language.

Now, Dale Carnegie may not have had access to the latest medical research.

But as recent studies have shown, he was spot on.

As it turns out, our names are so important to us that hearing them lights up an entirely different part of our brain than any other words.

Some help desk software (including Groove) makes it easy to insert your customer’s first name into your email, so if you have the option, I urge you to take it.

And if you can’t use their name, or don’t have a customer’s name (you’ll typically be required to set a “fallback” greeting in case the software doesn’t recognize the customer’s name), then think about what kind of tone you want to set with your nameless greeting.

After all, there’s a big difference in tone between “Dear Sir or Madam” and “Hi there :)”.

The right tone for you depends on your business and your audience, but don’t ignore this critical decision. Think hard about what your customers would actually want to be addressed as (consider even asking a few of them), and use that.

3) The “Thank You”

According to a survey by Lee Resources International, for every customer who complains, there are 26 customers who don’t say anything.

Each customer complaint could mean that dozens of other customers are having the same problem and not letting you know.

That means that resolving the problem for a single customer could make dozens of other customers happier at the same time.

That’s a huge opportunity. And a huge gift from the customer who decided to email you about it.

So thank them for it:

  • Thanks for the email!
  • Thanks for getting in touch.
  • Thank you for reaching out.

4) The Body

Now it’s time to clearly convey why you’re sending this email: to let the customer know that their request was received, and that you’re going to help them.

This part of the email sets expectations for when the customer will hear back from, and how.

For example, if your support has specific business hours, this is a good place to mention that.

  • We’ll get back to you within 6 business hours (Monday-Friday 9am-6pm EST).
  • We promise to respond within 2 hours (it might take a bit longer on evenings and weekends).
  • You’ll hear from us no later than in one (US) business day.

Of course, you have to follow through on whatever you promise here.

Remember: while you can’t always promise a solution by a given time, you can always promise an update.

Delivering on that promise doesn’t just keep the customer informed about the status of their request, but it’s another opportunity to build trust.

5) The Sign-Off

This is your chance for a final “thank you,” a last opportunity to insert a bit of tone into your email, and perhaps to even introduce yourself by name.

Remember that every word you choose sends a message.

Go for gratitude and personal connection:

  • Thanks, Mary
  • Thanks again, Mary
  • Thank you! Mary

6) The Flair

The elements above are all you need to “check the boxes” of a great customer service auto-reply email.

But there’s one more opportunity to take things a bit further: add some flair.

Flair can be funny, clever, warm, inspirational, helpful or quirky.

It can come in the forms of P.S. lines, images, GIFs and email signatures.

And it injects personality and “humanness” into your automated interaction.

Depending on how you want to come across to your customer, consider:

  • A funny or quirky GIF (research suggests that cat GIFs are sacred on the internet and can only serve to improve customer satisfaction)
  • A link to your Knowledge Base (in case the customer can solve their problem more easily that way)
  • Including your business’ core values or mission in your email signature

Writing the Perfect Customer Service Auto-Reply Email

Auto-response emails seem simple and straightforward.

But, while they’re often short, there’s a lot going on in those few lines.

Taking the time to think about the message that you’re sending, in every word of your email, will help you make a better first impression on every customer who reaches out.

Len Markidan
Len Markidan Len used to head up marketing at Groove. Though he has now moved on to other adventures, he still likes popping in and saying hi every now and then.