Autoresponders: A Viable Supplement to Customer Service

14 December 1999
Most gaming sites offer some kind of automatic response system for customer e-mails. Often called autoresponders, e-mail responders or autobots, they're designed to enhance customer support with a quick response to "Frequently Asked Questions" or other customer concerns.

Effectiveness depends upon how well you utilize autoresponders as part of the customer support package. Also, the benefits come from being able to send out standardized information, according to Jason Park, director of development for, a web-hosting company. Additionally, customers who e-mail in a technical question are able to receive some tips that may solve their problems, while personnel review the actual question in-house.

Effective use of autoresponders begins by looking at what you want to accomplish with their use and what your customers are expecting from your e-mail support.

Park believes that "probably 50 percent of websites have used or are currently using autoresponders." provides autoresponders as part of their webhosting package. They have about 15,000 customers, most of who use one or two autoresponders.

As with all good things, a little bit goes a long way. Autoresponders are no replacement for providing accurate detail on your website nor can they replace the services of a customer service representative who will tailor their answers to the customers' needs and level of understanding.

With those caveats in mind, following are some features to look for in autoresponders:

  • The ability to name different autoresponder accounts, such as "," "," "," or "" You can track the most troublesome areas while providing your customers with information targeted toward their question. With the information you've gained, you can update your website with better answers if you see a need.
  • Make sure the autoresponder allows you enough space to send out the necessary information. If your service doesn't provide unlimited space, you may not be able to provide the requested information in adequate detail.
  • You should also have an unlimited opportunity to update or change the autoresponders. For example, you have updated your software and need to adjust the "Frequently Asked Questions" letter to reflect the newest features of your gaming software. Make sure that the changes are easily accomplished with your autoresponder service.
  • With receipt notification you can personalize the autoresponder, making it a better response and providing a more pleasant customer service. "It also helps to say that the answer is coming in an autoresponder," said Park. "You can put a positive spin on it, giving it added value." Customers who receive such a response may think it's a personal response. If you don't answer their questions fully, and don't follow up, it could backfire and make your customer support personnel look like they're falling down on the job.
  • If you're using the autoresponder with banner ads, be sure you can find out which ad has generated the most responses. It then becomes a fact-finding tool showing which sites are generating the most leads for your banner ad campaign.

Autoresponders can be a useful tool to automate some services for your site. Information about the service can be found on the Web, from third-party resellers and even webhosting providers. You'll just need to compare the costs and services you receive with each service.

Vicky Nolan joined the IGN staff in October 1999. She's best known for inventing fire, the wheel and swiss cheese. She can be reached at