You won’t always be available to respond to professional email inquires, but that doesn’t mean you should leave the person waiting.
By setting up your automatic email response, you let the person emailing you know that you aren’t just slow to respond or not getting back to them at all. There are some other hidden benefits you can sneak in automatic email responses that you haven’t thought of as well.
Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about creating the best automatic email response for the times you are out of the office.
Table of Contents
1. What Is an Automatic Email Response?
2. Why Is an Automatic Email Response Message Important?
3. How To Create an Effective Automatic Email Response
4. Types of Automatic Email Responses with Examples
5. How To Set Up an Email Auto-Responder for Gmail and Outlook
6. Final Thoughts
What Is An Automatic Email Response?
An automatic email response is an email you’ve set up to be sent out whenever someone reaches out to you while you are unavailable.
The email will help set expectations for when you will be able to be reached again and, ideally, what they can do in the meantime while they wait for your response.
Why Is An Automatic Email Response Message Important?
Without an automated email response when you are unavailable, anyone that reaches out will be left wondering why you didn’t respond.
A potential client you’ve been talking to might think you aren’t interested anymore. Or a sales prospect may think your unreliable when they wait for days with no response.
Both of those situations could be avoided with an automated email that keeps the sender informed.
As a busy professional, you need to know how to craft an out-of-office email that works for you even when you aren’t working.
How To Create An Effective Automatic Email Response
You’ve likely sat down to create an automatic email response and felt stuck. What exactly does a good automated response include?
Let’s look at what you need and don’t need in your response.
WHAT YOU NEED IN YOUR AUTOMATIC EMAIL RESPONSE
Your automated response will need to include the times or dates you will be unavailable. Even if you will only be away for an afternoon, you should set up a response.
In addition to stating when you are out, you should provide a brief explanation of why you are out. Your reason doesn’t need to be ultra-specific but if you are in training or on vacation, mention that.
If you will be out for an extended period, it can be helpful to have someone who can back you up for urgent concerns. You should include the colleague’s name who can be reached and if they should be contacted only for pressing matters.
The final piece you should include that most people miss is to add information about the next steps they can take while they wait to learn more or meet their own needs. You can use your automated email to connect them to resources like guides or self-service tools that are available.
WHAT YOU DON’T NEED IN AN AUTOMATIC EMAIL RESPONSE
On the opposite side, there are some things you shouldn’t put in your email auto-response.
You want to avoid giving too many details. If you are on vacation with your in-laws, you don’t need to mention that in your email. The fact that you on vacation is enough on its own.
Any unprofessional information or humor should be left out. Just because you aren’t physically in the office doesn’t give your email permission to be overly casual.
You should avoid setting an unrealistic timeframe for your response. When you return to work, you will be flooded with work to catch up on. It may take you a few days to respond to everyone. You might want to build in an extra day or two; if you give a date you will get back to them by.
If you found a colleague willing to help cover your work, your out-of-office response shouldn’t put all of your responsibility on them. Encourage inquiries that can wait to do so. Express gratitude in your email to your colleague to demonstrate that they are doing you a favor, but you should still be the contact moving forward.
Never forget to proofread your autoresponder emails for any grammar, spelling, or punctuation issues. You don’t want to leave the reader thinking about your error while they wait.
Types Of Automatic Email Responses With Examples
So, what types of automatic email responses should you be using? Below are eight types of out-of-office responders you may need at some point.
1. STANDARD OUT OF OFFICE
If you only communicate with other people inside your organization and are not in a customer-facing role, a standard out-of-office automatic response will generally be enough.
Your email needs to include when you are out, why you are out, and who is handling your duties during your absence. Don’t assume that everyone will have this information just because you work together. Even if they knew at one time, people forget things!
I will be unavailable from (mm/dd) to (mm/dd) due to (general reason for absence). I will have limited access to my email.
If you need urgent assistance during my absence, please reach out to [name]. He/she is graciously covering pressing matters while I am away.
For all other matters, I will respond within two business days of my return.
2. LEAD GENERATION
Anyone in a position that has regular communication with customers (especially anyone working in sales) should see their automatic email response as a potential lead generation tool.
Assuming your business has resources available to encourage interested prospects to sign up, you should promote this in your automatic response.
Under your standard out-of-office reply, you can let the prospect know that they can learn more information by signing up to your company newsletter or by registering for a demo, for example.
I am currently out of the office for (general reason for absence) and will return on (mm/dd).
If you need assistance before I return, you can reach out to [name]. He/she has been kind enough to address any urgent matters while I am out.
If you are looking for additional information about [company/product], did you know we send out a weekly newsletter? The newsletter includes answers to many commonly asked questions. You can sign up to receive it here [link].
Looking forward to speaking with you upon my return,
3. CONTENT PROMOTION
Another great option to include in your autoresponder if you communicate with leads and customers? Links to relevant content.
Instead of leaving your prospect or customer without any next step, point them in the direction of your most useful content. Many businesses have content developed to support their users, but your users may not be aware of it.
Include a few links for different stages in the customer journey to give your customer the ability to take some next step in your absence.
I am out of the office from (mm/dd) to (mm/dd) and will not have access to my email. I will get back to you within two business days once I return.
Did you know that we have an array of resources that may be able to help you learn more while I am out? You can access all of our content here [link].
If you have an urgent question or concern, you can reach out to [name].
4. TRAFFIC-DRIVING OUT-OF-OFFICE
Maybe you don’t have content that is a good fit for your recipient. You can use your automatic email response to drive traffic to another area of value in that case.
You could link to pages that include testimonials or case studies. Or, if your backstory is important, link to your about page.
Think about what pages your customer needs to see as they move through their decision and point them in the right direction.
Thank you for reaching out, but I am currently unavailable. I will not have access to my email from (mm/dd) to (mm/dd) due to (general reason for absence).
In the meantime, have you checked out our [case studies/testimonials/backstory/etc.]? You can do that here [link].
I look forward to speaking with you upon my return, but you can reach out to [name] if you need assistance before then.
Maybe you aren’t out of the office for personal reasons but are out for a business training or conference.
Use that information in your out-of-office responder as a chance to connect with other professionals in your industry that might be there or know someone there as well.
You might be surprised and form a new connection from it.
Plus, it never hurts to let leads and customers know you work hard to stay up-to-date on what’s happening in your field to better serve them.
Thanks for reaching out! I am out of the office attending [name of training or conference] from (mm/dd) to (mm/dd).
Are you also attending [name of training or conference] or know someone who is? I’d love to connect. I’ll be at [booth/table/general area they can find you].
If you need something before my return, please reach out to [name]. He/she is kindly covering my duties while I am out.
Otherwise, I will get back to you within two business days of my return.
6. SOCIAL MEDIA ENGAGEMENT
Don’t just use your email signature to state your title and address. Include links to relevant social profiles as well.
If you are a personal brand or B2B professional, you’ll want to include your LinkedIn account. But you may also have company-level social accounts you can include.
Choose the top 2 or 3 most active social channels for you or your company and encourage your recipient to follow them in your auto-reply emails.
Thanks for reaching out, but I am out of the office from (mm/dd) to (mm/dd) due to (general reason for absence).
[Name] is available to assist during my absence if you have an urgent need. If not, I will get back to you promptly upon my return.
Curious what’s new at [company name]? You can follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter to stay up-to-date.
Looking forward to speaking soon,
7. CASUAL OUT-OF-OFFICE
Not every automatic email response has to work to fuel the business, though. Depending on who will likely be receiving your response, it might make sense to take a friendly, more casual approach.
This is typically only used when your communications are all within your organization.
Your automatic email response should fit your industry, so only use a casual out-of-office message if it fits the company culture.
Sorry, I missed you, but I am currently unavailable. I won’t be checking my emails from (mm/dd) to (mm/dd) due to (general reason for absence).
Hopefully, nothing urgent has come up, but if it has, you can reach out to [name] while I am gone. (He/she is the greatest!) Otherwise, I look forward to helping you once I return.
I hope you are enjoying your week as much I am enjoying mine!
8. FAMILY LEAVE OUT OF OFFICE
There may come a time when you need to go on an extended leave for family reasons (for example, parental leave or a sick relative).
You don’t have to give more details than you are comfortable with, but you will need to make it clear that this is an extended leave. In these emails, it is important that you provide an alternate contact that can be reached until you return.
I will be out of the office and unable to check my email for an extended time due to an urgent family matter.
I am sorry that I’m unavailable to assist you, but in my absence you can speak with [name] regarding [project] if needed. [List additional projects/roles as needed]
For all other emails, I will respond promptly once I’ve returned.
Thank you for your understanding,
How To Set Up An Email Auto-Responder For Gmail And Outlook
Let’s take a look at how to set up your automatic email response in two of the most common email services.
SETTING UP YOUR AUTOMATIC EMAIL RESPONSE ON OUTLOOK.
Many companies use Microsoft Outlook as their email service. Setting up an automatic email response in Outlook is easy.
Step 1: Go to File, then select Automatic Replies.
Step 2: An Automatic Replies box will pop up. You can choose to start sending automatic replies immediately or enter a start and end date. If you start sending automatic replies without setting an end date, you’ll need to come back and manually turn off the automatic response.
Step 3: There will be tabs for Inside My Organization and Outside My Organization. You can enter a message in only one, the same message in both, or a different message in each. The right choice will depend on your role. Keep in mind that when you choose to send a reply outside of your organization, it will reply to all emails, including any email marketing lists you are on.
Step 4: Select OK when you are finished.
SETTING UP YOUR AUTOMATIC EMAIL RESPONSE ON GMAIL.
The setup in Gmail is slightly harder to find but still a breeze to set up.
Step 1: Go into your Gmail Settings by clicking the gear.
Step 2: Once you’re in Settings, you will look in the General tab.
Step 3: Gmail calls its automatic response Vacation Responder.
Step 4: Update your Vacation Responder to “Vacation responder on” and give it a first day to start. You can choose the last day, or you can come back and manually turn off the responder. Enter your subject and message. You can then choose to only send to Contacts if you desire. Keep in mind; if you leave it unchecked, a response will be sent to every email address you receive an email from.
Step 5: Select Save Changes when you are finished.
That’s all it takes to start sending automatic email responses in Outlook and Gmail.
Now that you know how to create the best automated email response for any situation, you’ll never leave someone wondering.
Plus, you may be able to push some of those senders to take further action before you respond.
Just use one of the templates in this article and never waste another out-of-office opportunity again.
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