I recently put an Out-Of-Office on one of my email addresses. As you'd expect, I still have many services diligent emailing me. Many of these have "no-reply" email addresses. And every time they get my OOO, which duly bounces back.
It's not a great system. Ironically that same email had a link to complete a survey asking for feedback.
The orthodoxy is that the no-reply is necessary where the end consumer isn't intended or expected to reply. Usually, these are high-volume, transaction-centric emails. Your airline ticket, your payment receipt, even a bill. There is a pan-industry belief that letting people reply will lead to a flood of support requests.
There is also the infuriating belief that without a no-reply you'll get a lot of bounced emails. That's wallpapering over the cracks right there.
This forces people to a different communication channel. Don't talk to me about Interactive Voice Response (IVR) phone systems, pun intended. They're horrible1. If I call, it's an exception. I need customer service, not the IVR equivalent of a Zork adventure. IVRs aren't built to manage exceptions, in fact quite the opposite. So that no-reply sends you directly to a system that's built for exactly the opposite purpose.
I can't imagine the types of requests companies are so afraid of. People not being able to open the attachment, the PDF being corrupt, complaints. Even compliments. This is real feedback on your service. It could be key security information too. That transaction was fraud, or was a phishing attempt. All that information leaks away from that no-reply address.
One solution and opportunity in all this may be the use of Structured Data. I'll cover this in another post soon.
The Reply to end all Replies?
Take any domain with poor customer service and you have the potential for disruption. Many startups are built upon taking an existing idea and bolting on real service. Any rider-sharer who's taken a taxi and almost walked away without paying can attest to that.
The reply email is a change to engage with your customers. Every interaction your customer openly engages in is a way to learn. My out-of-office is junk to some, but it's valuable signal on many fronts.
If you're looking for startup ideas, try searching your email for "noreply" and "no-reply". You may well come up with some ideas.