Whether you use an email client like Microsoft Outlook or a web-based program like Gmail, most likely you will have a feature called an autoresponder. This is a terrific feature that helps other people to know that you did receive their email, but you aren’t able to reply personally right away. Yet, too many times, this feature is way overused, or used improperly, and it can cause a negative perception of you and your business. (note: this is different from the autoresponder feature found in email sending programs like AWeber, Constant Contact, MailChimp, and others.)
Let’s be frank, here: I personally hate it when I receive an autoresponse to an email I’ve sent, and I am willing to bet you do, too. Usually, I dislike them because they are too long, too complex, and they tell me what I already know. Oddly enough, almost every autoresponder I’ve received over the last few years use the same phrases – there must be a “Annoying Autoresponders For Dummies” out there or something.
First off, don’t tell me that “I have received your email.” Well, duh. That’s why I’m getting this autoresponder! And the second most common phrase is, “I’ll read it as soon as possible.” This statement alone is pointless, and as a recipient, it’s kind of aggravating. I know you’ll read the email as soon as you can, but it would really help to know WHEN that would be. If my email is time-sensitive, knowing that you will (or won’t) be reading it in time will be very beneficial to me.
You wouldn’t be using an autoresponder if you were not so busy, or not in the office, right? (Right?) So, help your recipient understand that. “Because of Hurricane What’s-Her-Name, I’m unusually swamped helping clients to get home from their trips. It’s taking me a bit longer than usual to respond to email, but I will make my best effort to respond in a timely manner. Thank you for your patience and understanding!”
If you’re the funny type, you can use that to your advantage – humor is good at cheering up people who are cranky because, hey! They just got an autoresponder! Basically, saying the same thing as above but in a humorous way can help people with that patience and understanding you’re asking them for.
Please, if you do nothing else in this article, do this one. BE BRIEF. Mike Marchev has a saying, “Be Bright. Be Brief. Be Gone.” Please, listen to Mike! I don’t need to know your entire lifestory that led up to this moment that you sent me an autoresponder. Really, you should be able to convey your point in five sentences or less. Tell them it’s an automatic response, tell them WHY they’re getting it, and tell them what they should expect because of it. That’s really all you need. Remember: be like Mike!
(Mike has NOT approved this message. But I think he would.)
Steve Cousino, ACC, CTA, LS has been a travel professional since 2005 and currently operates Exclusive Events At Sea (http://www.exclusiveeventsatsea.com) focusing on themed group cruises, and Journeys By Steve (http://www.journeysbysteve.com) specializing in premium & deluxe cruise vacations, and personalized experiences in Italy and the British Isles. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.