Time to Ditch Your Customer Service Auto Reply Emails for Something Better

persona typing on laptop demonstrating customer service email automation

When customers take the time to write emails to your customer service, they expect a quick reply. How fast? 15% of American consumers expect a reply within 15 minutes, and 28% expect a reply within half an hour. Yet the average customer service email response time is 12 hours and 10 minutes.

Back when auto-reply emails were first introduced for customer service, they were a novel concept. You could acknowledge the receipt of an email with an instantaneous automated email reply to set expectations about when the customer could expect an answer. Your generic email might also offer contact information for escalation or cases of emergency. These automated responses still do help customer service agents in enhancing the customer experience.

Consumers expect email replies within 15-30 minutes.

Today, however, email virtual assistants give you a huge leap forward in resolving customer issues more quickly and accurately – and satisfying customers faster. This new technology is completely redesigning the way companies think about email automation in the contact center. Email virtual assistants improve both customer experience and agent experience. Plus, they can save your call center thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.

Here’s How Email Virtual Assistant Technology Works:

  • Email virtual assistants use natural language processing (NLP) technology to identify the issue or issues described in the email. There may be multiple issues, and the virtual assistant should be able to identify – and correctly code – each one. For instance, a customer might complain about a missing part and a late delivery. Both issues are important to the customer.
  • Next the assistant applies artificial intelligence (AI) to automatically generate an email response. The response is based on actual replies from top-performing human agents. Because this step relies on AI, the technology can “learn” from edits that human agents make. If agents continue to add new language into emails, the technology will begin to adopt that language.
  • An email virtual assistant can also attach goodwill compensation to an email. This is done by using a goodwill calculator that each company sets up based on predefined parameters.
  • Finally, agents spend less than one minute reviewing and sending the personalized, automatically generated email, as opposed to five or more minutes crafting an individual response.

Both customer service automation technologies – auto-reply emails and email virtual assistants – help companies respond to customer inquiries. But as you can see, they are very different indeed. An auto-reply email is a passive, generic response that may tide a customer over until a real answer arrives. Or, it could possibly generate additional emails if your contact center is behind and doesn’t send a response in the time described.

By contrast, email virtual assistant technology proactively assists agents by providing a customized email response to the specific issue or issues described in the customer’s email. While not instantaneous, email virtual assistants can be almost as fast. From an agent’s perspective, the virtual assistant can virtually eliminate your email backlog.

Email virtual assistants are powered by smart technology with a tracking system that allows you to understand how accurate your automatically generated emails are, and how many emails are being generated. They can be integrated with almost any CRM system, so the emails can automatically be attached to the customer cases in your CRM system. The technology not only enhances the customer experience and the agent experience, it also saves thousands of dollars on operating costs. It’s a win-win all around.

How Email Virtual Assistants Stack Up Against Auto-Reply Emails

Customer Service Auto-Reply Email

  • Sends an automatic reply to an incoming customer service email
  • Serves as a stop-gap until a real answer can be provided

Email Virtual Assistant

  • Identifies problems, issues, or requests expressed in an email
  • Codes the problems, issues, or requests appropriately
  • Drafts an email response, based on the best responses written by human agents
  • Uses a goodwill calculator to figure and attach appropriate goodwill compensation
  • Enters the queue for an agent to review, and edit the email if necessary, before sending

Pros and Cons of Email Response Options



  • Sets an instant expectation about when a real answer might arrive
  • Provides contact information for escalation


  • Doesn’t assist the agent in responding to the email
  • Doesn’t shorten the time it takes to respond to emails

Email Virtual Assistant (EVA)


  • Can provide a nearly instantaneous reply to enhance customer satisfaction
  • Helps wipe out an email backlog
  • Allows agents to review and edit emails before sending
  • Comes with an analytics dashboard to track throughput and accuracy
  • Decreases coding variability
  • Promotes consistent answers, and consistent application of goodwill
  • Provides quicker responses to customers, improving satisfaction
  • Configurable to work with most CRM systems
  • Saves money for your contact center

It’s finally time for companies to re-examine your contact center automation tools. Astute is proud to be a pioneer in email virtual assistant technology. Our Email Virtual Assistant solution comes integrated into the Astute Agent CRM system, or can be a stand-alone tool integrated into your Salesforce, Dynamics, or other CRM platform.

Two key benefits make Astute’s EVA stand out. First, she can be turned on or off at will. For instance, you can turn on EVA during a seasonal spike, over weekends, or whenever you have a backlog of emails. Also, you only pay for each successful interaction!

Watch this short video to learn more about how EVA works, and schedule time to see a demo.

View this video on YouTube.