Every single touch with another human being is an opportunity for your company to shine. It’s a chance to differentiate yourself from the competition. And the out-of-office reply is the single most overlooked opportunity a remodeler has to be remarkable.
Now, the amount of mileage you can get on this will certainly vary. If you’re new to our community you’re (hopefully) getting at least one week away per year. But for some (like many of our Roundtables™ members) you’re taking three to six weeks of vacation per year.
Whichever applies to you, one thing we demand of everyone is that you unplug completely. Don’t reply to emails. Don’t even check your email. Let your team handle it.
Of course doing so requires you set-up an automated reply so the emailer doesn’t think you’re ignoring them. So let’s discuss how you can turn this simple message into a marketing opportunity.
Does this look familiar?
I will be out of the office until August 18th with limited access to email. If this is urgent, please contact John Doe at John@example .com or call (555) 555-5555.
I’ll bet some variation of this message is your out of office reply. How did you feel reading that? Not too warm and fuzzy, huh? Do you think this company cares about their customers?
What about the person that sent it? Does he seem like he care’s that he’s not able to reply to you? First off, I think we would all call B.S. on the “I’ll have limited access to email” comment. Unless you’re off climbing Mt. Everest, you have your phone. And phone = email access.
So now you’re just a liar.
It’s actually pretty amazing. All the work we put into building relationships and this has become the standard message when we are away. You can do better than this — much better.
The Subject line
I just did a search on my inbox and found 2,281 emails with the phrase “Out of Office” in the subject line. How exactly is that standing out from the crowd?
Be different. Be unique. This is a fundamental branding concept.
Remember, every touch is an opportunity to show off your brand.
Try writing like a human. Imagine you’re sitting on the beach and you had to manually reply to the email when it came in. I guarantee you wouldn’t write “Out of Office Reply” in the subject.
“Thanks for the email!” sounds more human, don’t you think? Or what about, “Sorry, I forget to tell you …” That sounds more personal, doesn’t it?
Great! You’re already making a fantastic impression and the emailer hasn’t even opened the email yet.
*Note: Customizing the subject line can be a real challenge with some platforms (like Outlook). Gmail is the easiest I’ve ever worked with.
You’ve got a couple important things you want to get across: 1) When you’ll be back and 2) how they can get help.
1) When you’ll be back: Everyone feels the need to put the actual date they return here. This is bad! Your first day back is going to be nuts! You’ll be playing catch-up all day long. How do you expect to get back to everyone that is waiting for a reply?
Add a day or two to your vacation date and give yourself a fighting chance. If you’re actually able to get back to someone sooner, great! This is a perfect time to under-promise and over-deliver.
2) How to get help: Sure it’s important to give another contact just in case the emailer needs immediate assistance, but let’s be honest: we all assume that the vacationer is still reading his emails. So why not underscore the fact that you will not read the email under any circumstance. Consider this:
Since I will not be checking this inbox, please send any urgent matters to StopSpendingTimeWithYourKids@[mycompany] .com and I will get back to you as soon as possible.
A custom email address like that is sure to make the emailer think twice about bothering you with something trivial. I wish I had come up with this little gem on my own but, full disclosure, a few years ago I read about a VC that did this and it really struck a chord.
I’ve used a variation of this tactic myself and the response was great. Besides leaving a great impression I received a lot of compliments on having “such an honest message.”
I even had someone actually use the emergency email address one time and guess what . . . she started the email with an apology! She was very upset about a screw-up (I mean mouth-foaming angry!); and yet I had her apologizing to me.
It turned out to be a great way to diffuse the situation — I got back to her immediately and she was so grateful that I stepped away from my family-time to address the problem that (even though we screwed up) she apologized a second time for the interruption.
(I don’t even want to think about how this situation would have gone down if she had received “the standard out-of-office” from me.)
Hey, you’re off on some tropical island sipping margaritas and these poor people are knee deep in the daily grind. The least you could do is lessen the sting. Give them a free download, a funny video or something else to brighten their day (preferably something that promotes your company). Use your imagination and have fun with this.
Bringing it all together
Let’s see what our out-of-office mail looks like now:
I’m so sorry. I must have forgot to mention that I will be away on vacation until August 20th. I promised my family that I would not be working (not even a little bit) so I won’t see your message until then.
But, I know that sometimes disaster strikes. So, if it’s really that important, please resend your message to StopSpendingTimeWithYourKids@[mycompany] .com to alert me at once. I will get back to you as soon as I possibly can.
If it’s not that urgent (but still timely) you can reach my assistant, John Doe, at (555) 555-5555. Otherwise, I’ll get back to you when I return on Wednesday, August 20th!
By the way, we’re going to be at the Laurel Home and Garden Show from September 12th thru 14th. Think you’d like to come? If so, click here to print out a free pass to the event. I hope I’ll see you there!
Talk to you soon,
So? How are you feeling about your decision to work with this company? I think there’s little doubt that you made the right choice.
What about you?
Are you one of the .01% that don’t use the typical auto-responder? What have you done to make your out-of-office message special? I’d love to read your comments below.