I work in an industry where external emails come in where the senders will typically just throw a bunch of recipients' emails into the TO: and hope they get a response from any one of the parties (so they don't know exactly who would be responsible to reply, they just pick anyone in their contacts). I work in customer support. I received an email from a customer about an order they recently received. Two service people in our company were copied (in the TO:) on the email. I began doing my thing where I investigate outside of the email by contacting someone else here about it before I respond to the customer. One of the service people decided to just do a reply all to include the customer, plus the employee I was already talking to outside the email and decided to handle it himself. It's not his department and not how I go about handling things telling the customer we'll just do something without confirming it with others first. In fact, that other employee I was talking to was headed in one direction with the issue and the service person went in a complete other direction on top of handling it not how I would have. What should I do about this? How can I essentially tell the responding employee to effectively "stay in his lane"? Or should I raise this issue with my boss?

On the customer side, should I be emailing the customers who do this back and tell them to address only me when emailing about their order issues that I am here to handle?

Edit to clarify: Someone answered, "This person was in the TO field, so why shouldn't this be their responsibility or 'lane'"?

As I stated, the customer just emailed anyone here that was in their contacts list. A service technician is not responsible for responding to customer parts order issues. That is why it is not their responsibility to respond. It isn't their department.

  • 7
    No, you should not be emailing your customers to try to force them into your process. It will annoy them and make your company look incompetent. Your personnel not knowing how to handle their request through proper channels is not their problem.
    – ColleenV
    Jan 30 at 15:05
  • 5
    "Two service people in our company were copied (in the TO:) on the email. I began doing my thing..." To prevent similar problems, an "_I've picked this up" email to the other internal recipients would probably help.
    – TripeHound
    Jan 30 at 15:17
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    This person was in the TO field, so why shouldn't this be their responsibility or "lane"? You need an agreement on how this should be handled in the future.
    – puck
    Jan 30 at 15:41
  • Is there documentation of who should handle which inquiries, or is it just something everyone knows? Making it very clear who handles what is a good first step.
    – ColleenV
    Jan 30 at 15:54
  • There isn't "documentation", just roles and responsibilities within those roles that you follow. A service technician does not have the responsibility to respond to customer order issues. That is my department.
    – user143516
    Jan 30 at 16:04

5 Answers 5


Here's the thing about communication: Nobody knows you've seen and read the email and that you're taking action unless you inform them. I see this time and time again.

Boss: "Customer is upset because their issue has not been resolved."

Employee: "I was working on it."

Boss: "Did you communicate that to them?"

Nobody knows that you're taking action and that they shouldn't take action unless you inform them of that. When the email comes in, reply all saying "I'm looking into this and will get back to you as soon as possible." You don't need to have an immediate answer or solution, but you need to acknowledge that you've seen and read the email and are looking into it. If you don't communicate that then nobody knows that.

Additionally, determine who is responsible for taking action in these situations and communicate clearly to the rest of your team regarding who should, and should not, reply to such emails.


It doesn't matter if the customer even included an intern or your printer-queue in the TO: or CC: (As you mentioned they will add any contact in the hope of getting their request sorted out).

What does matter is a proper support system that ensures that support-requests are deligated, tracked and resolved. This also involves notifying your customers (through your website, in person, print-media or manual that comes with your product/service) where to turn to when they need your support (usually a [email protected] address or the like).

Additionally to setting up a proper support system it is important to notify, educate and train the involved employees to follow the proceedures of such support system.

While I do understand that you dislike that the responder took things into their own hands and took an approach you disagree with, they at least get the benefit of the doubt for having taken the initiative.. ;)

Effectively it boils down to missing policies and a proper support handling system - which is definitly not the responders fault (or even yours if you don't have the power/position to introduce such a system/policy).


If you are not that persons boss, bring it to someone higher up in your chain of command. Then they bring it up higher in their chain of command. Until it hits the person responsible for both of you in their hierarchy.

They need to decide how this should be handled. You report it to your manager and let them handle it from there.

  • Of course, things can also be resolved amicably where as both your manager and their manager agree on what should be done. But the main point is, yes, you should bring this up with your manager. Jan 31 at 3:19

Seems like you just need a policy: have a point person or persons responsible for customer interactions, everyone else hands off. Regular training, and enforcement if needed, for repeat offenders.

If someone gets an email without the said point person included, instruct them to include the point person and move on.

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    The name of the designated point person also needs to be communicated to the customer, otherwise the customer will continue with their shotgun approach - which puts unneeded stress on the policy.
    – Peter M
    Feb 1 at 16:30

If I'm still be if the recipients of a question, and I think I have the knowledge/ authority to answer it, I'm likely to answer without even looking at who else it was sent to, copying everyone so they can correct my statement if necessary. That isn't meddling, it's just being an engineer.

If the relationship with the customer is sensitive, or if the individual has been giving bad answers, tell your coworker that answers need to come through the appropriate team so a consistent message can be delivered.

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