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​Set It Don’t Forget It: Out-of-Office Replies 101

Taking a vacation? Busy season in full swing? Don’t forget to set your automated out-of-office email.

You know that frustration you feel when the cable company puts you on hold or you’re tangled in a bureaucratic nightmare and can’t get in touch with the right person at an office? That frustration is the last thing you want your customers or colleagues feeling when they think of you and your company.

A surefire way to irritate your current and potential customers is to make them feel like you don’t value their business. Failing to respond to their inquiries in a timely manner definitely does this.

Naturally, the percentage of unanswered messages and unreturned calls shoots up around the holidays or if an important employee (like the owner!) leaves for vacation. But it won’t matter how many friendly voicemail greetings you record unless you have one important thing: an automated, out-of-office email message.

Today, a large portion of communications are handled online, and people take note of response times, so don’t leave them hanging.

Create a standard out-of-office reply using your email settings, and spend a little extra time ensuring you’re using the right message at the right time.

Which out of office reply should you use?

There are two main kinds of automated replies. One reply tells people a specific person is unavailable and provides a return date and alternative contact information. The other lets the recipient know that they should expect a delayed response time due to a company’s busy season or other circumstances.

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1. When a specific person is unavailable

This out-of-office reply is used most often. To preserve relationships and to avoid frustrated emails when you get back to the office after a vacation, you should always have an automated out of office message that includes the following details:

  • Which dates you’ll be unavailable for and when you will be back in the office
  • The name and information of the person to contact if the matter is urgent
Example of Professional out of office reply

2. Communicating delayed response times

Perhaps your office is experiencing a staff shortage and it’s caused a lot of reshuffling. This means that the person who normally monitors the customer service inbox or the general inquiries inbox will likely be juggling many other tasks.

Busy season, especially for seasonal service companies such as those in lawn care, landscaping and snow removal, is also a good time to let customers know you might be delayed in getting back to them.

At times like this, create an automatic email message that lets recipients know:

  • That their message is important
  • To expect a slightly longer response time due to holiday hours or a busy season
  • An estimated waiting period after which they can expect a reply
  • Alternative ways to find answers to their questions via the website, an app, or an automated phone system
Example of professional out of office email reply

People are understanding, so long as there is communication, and setting up a message like this can underscore the respect you want to convey to your customers.

Make your out-of-office reply go the extra mile

It’s natural to feel a little helpless while crafting this message. Yes, your vacation is well-deserved, but you can’t help but feel a twinge of concern about the prospective leads you won’t be able to instantly follow up with.

Here are a couple things you can do to make your out-of-office message work a little harder:

  • Include links to relevant posts on your website
  • Draw their attention to current promotions they may be interested in

You don’t want an out-of-office message that doubles as advertising copy, but you can use it as an opportunity to stand out to the reader. Just make sure you don’t forget to put the main details about when you’ll be back front and center.

Be sure to pair your shiny new out-of-office reply with a professional email signature. Check out our quick and easy how-to to polish yours up.

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