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Why Don’t Companies Answer My Email?

It’s not you, it’s them… except when it’s you.

It's not uncommon for email messages to companies to disappear into a black hole. I'll look at why that might be and steps you can take to reduce the odds of it happening to you.
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The concept of 'support email black hole'. A frustrated person looking at a computer screen with an email icon disappearing into a black hole.
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I occasionally get emails from folks frustrated that emails sent to particular sites informing them of issues never get a response.

It’s a common problem. You need help or want to report an issue with a site or service, so you send an email, and… you get nothing back.

Let’s examine some of the reasons why that might happen.

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TL;DR:

The support email black hole

Emails to companies often go unanswered because of errors (bad email addresses), insufficient information, lengthy or rude messages, contacting the wrong person, or overwhelmed support teams. Companies may prioritize resources differently or simply not care. To increase your chances of being heard, make sure your submissions are accurate, concise, and respectful.

Before you blame the company

Based entirely on my own experience running Ask Leo! for a few decades, there’s a possibility it might be your fault, at least in part.

I’m not saying that’s always the case — I’m not trying to blame the victim here — but I see it often enough that it’s the first thing that comes to mind.

What I’ve found is:

  • People regularly type their own email address incorrectly in online forms. This frustrates me no end, as I take the time to compose a reply to a problem only to have it bounce. If you don’t enter your email address correctly, the company you’re contacting can’t reply even if they try.
  • Many people don’t follow instructions. Have a look at my ask-a-question page. You’ll note some simple instructions: search first, give me lots of info, and be complete. You would be amazed at the number of “it doesn’t work” questions I get with almost no additional information. In many cases, when I do take the time to probe for more information, the answer turns out to be in an article already on the website that a simple search would have found. Depending on my mood (I am human, after all), questions with insufficient information like this are likely to be skipped completely. I expect the same to be true for other companies.
  • Some people write novels. At the other end of the spectrum, some people provide their life story in a question. Given that I have limited time per question, once I see things are headed in that direction, I may need to move on. Again, I can imagine the same is true when companies receive a lengthy missive.
  • Some people are just rude. Lengthy rants or disrespectful messages are likely to be completely ignored.
  • Contacting the wrong target doesn’t help. This is related to following instructions, but often people contact sales when they need support, email a person when they need to email a team, or assume an email address should exist when it doesn’t.1 The net result is that no one actually sees, and therefore cannot act on, their request.

Don’t do those things.

Make sure you’re contacting the right people via the right channels, that your message is respectful, and that it contains the information they need without being excessive. And make sure you’ve typed your email address correctly.

Do that, and you’re more likely to be heard.

Though you still might not get a response.

Problems at the company you’re contacting

I think the #1 reason queries go unanswered is simply that the company is overwhelmed.

Customer support is massively expensive. Even when it’s outsourced, it costs a lot of money to hire people to read and respond to a fairly constant flood of support requests. Many companies don’t have the resources to properly staff this role.

This is particularly true for free services. Typically there is no support for direct contact at all.

No response doesn’t necessarily imply, however, that no action was taken on your message. While it would be nice to get a response, it’s very possible that whatever you reported — such as a failure at the site — might be resolved without letting you know. A resolution to your problem might be all the notification you get, especially if many people report the same issue.

And finally, don’t expect instant responses. As I said, companies are often overwhelmed, and compared to keeping their service running, speedy responses may not be a priority. It’s not uncommon for responses to arrive days after the original inquiry.

Questionable choices at the company you’re contacting

There’s no escaping the fact that some companies just don’t get it.

Some simply aren’t interested in your feedback, problems, or concerns, and anything that falls into those categories is promptly discarded.

They just don’t care.

While we’d like to think this would impact their business, sometimes it does not. Often the service they provide is so good, so unique, or so entrenched that they can get away with poor or non-existent customer service and still make a profit.

Very often, people like you and I aren’t the real customers anyway. The advertisers or corporate clients may get the love and attention we desire.

And yes, being on the user end of such a service can be very frustrating.

Do this

Whether they can’t afford support staff or as a business decision, companies do what they do regardless of what you and I want.

It’s our actions that remain in our control.

  • Choose service providers that have support when support matters. This is one of the reasons I advise against free email services for anything truly important.
  • Don’t expect support from free service providers. Some have it, but most do not. Remember, you’re getting something at no cost. Part of the price you pay is no direct contact or customer service.
  • Look for, read completely, and carefully follow the instructions on “Contact Us” pages.
  • Look for support information, FAQs, and knowledgebases. Many questions are so common that the solution can be found in online articles you can find without contacting anyone. (In many ways, that’s all that sites like Ask Leo! really are — massive FAQs.)
  • Use peer support when available. Many companies set up peer support sites where users can help (or commiserate with) each other. While some companies have support reps participate, many do not.

Above all, back up your information and keep yourself secure. Many problems you might submit to a non-responsive company can be completely mitigated by taking appropriate safety measures yourself.

Wait, am I just a FAQ? Well, I do answer a lot of questions that are asked frequently. Subscribe to Confident Computing! Less frustration and more confidence, solutions, answers, and tips in your inbox every week.

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Footnotes & References

1: A good example is “webmaster@” email addresses. Technically, every site should implement that email address. In practice, however, many sites do not simply due to the large amounts of spam these known email addresses instantly receive.

2 comments on “Why Don’t Companies Answer My Email?”

  1. At Ask Leo! we read every question and answer every one we can. I answer about half the questions with links to articles that answer the question. The questioner could have looked them up themselves. Anything I can’t answer I elevate to Leo. He answers any questions he can.
    I prefer not enough information to too much. For not enough info, I send a form email asking for more info, or if it’s a stupid question such as questions about tech in movies and TV, or questions that have nothing to do with Windows or general computing, I just toss them.
    When you ask a question Please, only include information about your problem, not need to explain the history of your computer unless it gives clues as to how the problem came about.

    You can be sure every question sent to Ask Leo! is read, and if possible, answered.

    Reply

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