It’s the middle of summer. Your vacation starts tomorrow. Time to turn on your "out of the office" auto-reply. Yours might sound like this:
“I’m on vacation until August 6th. If you need anything before I return, contact my assistant at 800-555-1234 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll respond to your email as soon as I'm back."
Short. Sweet. Perfect, right?
Well... it doesn’t make much of an impression, does it?
No. But who cares? After all, you have a million things to do before your minivan pulls out of the driveway.
Using a creative "out of the office" auto-reply message is a fast and often overlooked opportunity to stand out from competitors, strengthen your brand, build a little loyalty, and offer some value to customers while you're sipping umbrella drinks under a grass hut.
It'll only take you 5 minutes if you just remember the "3 keeps" - keep it short, keep it fun, keep it real.
Use these 6 tips to make your "out of the office" reply out of this world:
1. Tell them where you're going. You're out of the office - great! So where are you? Tell them. It's far more interesting than saying you're not there. It's a golden chance to connect and prepare your customers for a conversation when you return. Your auto-reply could go like this, "I'm vacationing in Bermuda with my 3 kids - my 'Bermuda Triangle.' Unless my plane is sent back in time, I'll be back in the office Monday, August 13th."
2. Tide them over with something valuable. "I'm out of the office, but before I left I found this short article you'll love - '7 ways to make your home 25% more energy efficient without buying a thing.' Let me know what you think. I'm back in the office next week!" It could be an article, video, blog post, news story, or anything your customers would perceive as valuable. It proves you thought about them before you left.
3. Make 'em laugh (or at least smile.) Your personality is a big plus to your customers and a major reason why they work with you - they like you! Don't disrespect and disappoint them by using a template "out of the office" reply devoid of "you-ness." "I've traded in my suit and tie for the week for my swim trunks and beach shirt. That's right, beach shirt - I have body issues. Greetings from the Outer Banks! I'm back Monday." Or, "Who cares where in the world Carmen San Diego is - I'm jumping wakes on my wave runner on Lake Michigan. Where am I on Monday? Responding to you back in my office."
4. Be more specific. If the playful or creative route doesn't suit you, use your auto-reply as a chance to give the emailer more information and a response expectation. "I'm on vacation, but I see you're at work. I'm back Monday and will mostly be using that day to catch up. My goal is to respond to everyone by Tuesday at noon. If you need me quicker, just call: 434-555-1234!"
5. Introduce your back up. Your customers know you and love you, but they may not know your assistant or support person who will be on point while you're catching rays. By introducing your back up in a fun and personal way, your customers will be more comfortable (and more likely) to use the back up and get the help they need. "Lucky for you, I'm in Cabo for the week. Why lucky? Because that means you get to work with Sally Iver, my fellow consultant who's filling in for me while I'm away. She loves chocolate, tennis, and making customers happy. Customer, Sally. Sally, customer. Back at my desk on Monday!"
6. Allow them to connect, while you're away. "Thanks for your email. I'm in Las Vegas on vacation. But what happens on my trip, isn't staying in Vegas. I'm tweeting and blogging ideas for you to help your business grow and a few personal things mingled in - Uh, oh! Follow me @andyhorner and andyhorner.com." Post at least 1 blog post per day and 2-3 tweets. Make sure they're rich with value and watch your followers grow while you're away.
Bonus: Don't use an auto-reply at all. Have a support person or assistant reply to your emails or just respond to them yourself once a day while on vacation. Now that's out of this world! It also makes for less catch-up work for you when you return.
What’s the best auto-reply you’ve ever used or seen? Leave it in the comments below!
Also, Follow me on Twitter for more creative, practical ideas and inspiration - @andyhorner