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Out of Office Replies

Make sure you send out the right message

For those of us who are frequently away from our offices for more than a day, it’s essential that we set up up an “Out of Office” autoresponder message to react to emails we receive.  It’s even more essential that this is done correctly.

Most autoresponder messages are pretty terse, such as:  “I’m currently away, and will reply to your message when I return.”

Although this is better than nothing, here are some tips on how to make this more effective:

  • Include Your Return Date.
    One immediate change you can make for instant improvement is setting expectations about the date you’ll return. This will stop your contacts wondering, and sending follow-up emails for the rest of your break.
  • If you”ll be away for more than a week, set the date one day later than your planned return date.
    This will give you some flexibility to catch up on all your emails. You can even impress those contacts who receive a reply from you earlier than expected.
  • State Your Reasons for Being Away.
    There’s a huge difference between a holiday and a work-related trip, and usually an expectation with the latter that you’ll at least be contactable some of the time while away. By stating that you’re on annual leave reminds your contacts that you have a life, and typically shields you from telephone follow-ups during this time.
    If the reason for your absence is something that can enhance your image, such as attending a conference or a specialised training course, include this information. It shows your contacts that you’re proactive in the industry, and creates a talking point when you’re next in touch.
  • Delegate Your Role.
    This is really important. Nobody wants to feel like there’s no other contact point for them in your organization. Give the names, positions, and contact details for each person that your contacts can speak to. A good example of this would be: “For sales enquiries, please contact Bob Smith on 1234 5678 or bob@email-address, or for technical enquiries, please contact Laura Myer on 7654 3218 or laura@email-address.”
    Be sure to check in with these contacts when you return. You may just find that some of the queries in your inbox have already been sorted out — reducing that post-break workload.
  • Keep It Brief.
    Nobody likes reading a novel-length email, particularly if it’s an autoresponse. Keep it short and to the facts, and you’ll know that your contacts have read the whole email, instead of just the first paragraph.

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