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Out of office emails – time to review the strategy

As a marketer who sends email campaigns from an active email address, I see a lot of out of office messages. Actually a huge amount of out of office emails.

I see the expected ones like “I’m currently on maternity leave and won’t be back until the end of 2017. Here are some alternative contacts…” And then there are the holiday ones “I’m currently on leave until the end of the month for urgent items, please contact Fred…” and the “Peter is no longer working at Company X etc” email.

But then there are a lot like this: “Thank you for your email. I'm away from the office today and will only have intermittent access to my emails during that time. You're welcome to contact me on <mobile> if your query is urgent.”

Or

I'm out of office in meetings until early afternoon. I will return your email as soon as possible, however if the matter is urgent, please call my mobile.

Or

I'm out of office for the day with limited access to emails. For urgent matters please reach out to Samantha, Sue, or Deb.

Out of office emails when someone is away from their email for one day or less. Really?!

To me, this implies that that recipient would typically respond to all emails in less than a day.

Not only do I think a standard response rate of less than a day for all emails is unrealistic, but I also think it’s unnecessary to turn an out of office message on for such a short duration. What type of expectations are you setting for a regular day if you’re apologizing for a delay of less than 24 hours when you are out?

It’s not that we are really ever too far away from phones and emails, but we shouldn’t set ourselves up for even more pressure with regards to response times.

Sure, there are always going to be some roles where you are a priority responder and need to get back to someone immediately, but I can’t imagine that would be the norm for a marketer. I’m seeing over 20% of out of office messages of this nature.

Perhaps these people are leaving their out of office messages on all the time to reduce expectations from people? In which case, perhaps they could be a bit more creative with their messaging.

We saw a great example from Daniel Smith at an event earlier this year when he showed a way to use an out of office message in a more interesting way. Take a look:



If you need some ideas for how to spruce up your out of office emails, here are some of the more humorous options I found courtesy of the www:

"I am away from the office right now. Unfortunately, I will be back tomorrow.

"You are receiving this automatic notification because I am out of the office. If I was in, chances are you wouldn't have received anything at all." 


"I will be out of the office and returning
next week. I have incredibly easy access to a phone and email, but I assure you, it will not be used for work purposes."

"Thank you for your message, which has been added to a queuing system… You are currently in 352nd place, and can expect to receive a reply in approximately 13 weeks."

"I will be out of the office for the rest of the day without access to email. If this is an emergency, please call emergency services.I am currently out at a job interview and will reply to you if I fail to get the position."

Check out the source for all these messages and more here and here.

Or if you want something a bit more professional with an add-value option, try something easy yet effective like this:

"I'm out of the office this week but in the mean time, did you know we have a monthly newsletter? Yep, you heard that right! A monthly dose of all your favorite content sent right to your inbox. To ensure you don’t miss out on all the good stuff, sign up for our newsletter here."

As marketers we should be lapping this up and leading the way by using out of office messages cleverly. There are more professional options you can look at here as well. 

I'm going to be taking some proper leave in a few weeks and am looking forward to trying a more creative out of office message then (something I rarely ever turn on!)

What does your out of office email say about you?

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