By: Jim Roddy, President & CEO at the RSPA
Trade shows are back (hooray!) plus summer vacations are right around the corner (did someone say hooray?) which means we’re about to be inundated with auto-reply out-of-office emails. If you’re like most businesspeople, you’re probably on autopilot when setting up your auto-reply, hurriedly typing a note before you head out.
But is that the best way to treat everyone who’s going to email you over an extended time period – including potentially upset customers, inquisitive vendor partners, and prospects scoping out your organization? Take a moment now to review your most recent auto-reply message and then ask yourself:
- Does your message actually help the reader? Are you clearly and quickly pointing them in the right direction for assistance while you’re out?
- Is your message uplifting? Is it engaging?
- Is your tone positive?
- Does your message align with your brand?
The email below is similar to one I’ve received from VARs, ISVs, and vendors over the years:
I will be OOO with NO access to vmail and NO access to email. I will reply to your massage upon my return.
That curt email flunks all the questions above – unless your brand aims to communicate you’re too busy to be bothered. For contrast, here’s my most recent out-of-office auto-reply based on best practices I’ve been taught over the years (and will share with you in a moment):
Thanks for reaching out – sorry I’m not able to reply personally.
I will be out of the office March 31 and April 1. I will respond to your message as quickly as possible upon my return April 4. If the matter is urgent, please contact me via my mobile phone or connect with one of my RSPA teammates.
In the meantime, you can check out this exclusive report from the RSPA. Thanks to the many VARs and ISVs in our community for making this possible!
Have a tremendous day,
Let’s analyze this email one section at a time so you can craft your own best practices auto-reply:
Friendly greeting: Communicate to the recipient that you appreciate them contacting you, and be upfront they’re receiving an automated message instead of your typical personal, thoughtful communication.
Logistics: Share the exact dates you will be away followed by the date they can expect to hear back from you. Double check to ensure your dates are accurate; nobody will return to work April 91th.
Provide alternative communication routes: Even if I’m on vacation, I welcome customers with urgent needs to reach out to me on my cell phone. But note that I don’t list my mobile number anywhere in this message. I don’t want spammers obtaining that information via my auto-reply, and my existing contacts should already have that information in my prior email signatures.
I also include a link to the RSPA staff directory so the user can determine who is the best person for them to contact. You might have only one or two people you want to direct emailers towards which is fine. Be sure to include their work phone number and email so your customers can reach out via their preferred method.
Share an insight: You publish quality content and success stories on your website, right? And that information might help the person reaching out to you, right? So include a line or two (plus a link) pointing readers to that information. This is also a prime opportunity to include an upbeat message as well (e.g. Thanks to ______ for making this possible!) Even if just a handful of folks engage with your content, that’s a win.
Signature: Just because this is an auto-generated message doesn’t mean you can’t end it with a personal touch. Be sure to include your name at the end just like you would a normal email. And include your typical email signature (sans your mobile number, of course).
Proofread: After following these guidelines, be sure to proofread your email. I’ve seen impossible dates (e.g. April 91th), received messages in February that says the person will be out for Thanksgiving, and noted more misspellings than I can kount.
In summary … if you slap-dash your auto-reply email, why shouldn’t the reader assume you shortcut other aspects of your business as well?
The beauty of this best practice system is that after you create your first professional auto-reply message, all you need to do for future messages is copy-and-paste, change the dates, change the content section and link, and you’re on your way.
So, this year, hit the road with peace of mind knowing whoever reaches out to you will be cared for – and that you and your company will be presented in a first-rate manner. Happy travels!