Your out of office message just lost you a sale

Out-of-office messages are great – when they help your prospects/customers/colleagues instead of making them want to tear their hair out.

“I will be out of the office at a conference the week of 3/26 with intermittent access to email. If you need to reach me urgently or have a question, please contact …”

Intermittent access? What is that? I looked up the definition of intermittent and it means: Occurring at irregular intervals; not steady. Usually, the word is used to talk about rain. Perhaps, she means that she expects that her internet service at the conference will be irregular, spotty (with intermittent sunshine).

Then, “if you need to reach me urgently or have a question…” What?

Here is what I want to know as the recipient of this out-of-office: When will I get an answer to my question from you?

And another:

Hello and thank you for contacting the ABC Company. I will be out of the office Wednesday afternoon, March 28th, Thursday afternoon, March 29th and Friday, March 30th thru Tuesday, April 3, 2012. I will have very limited access to voice mail and email. If your needs are immediate please contact …at …. or by email at ….
I will return to the office on Wednesday, April 4th and will follow up with you.”

At least, I got a hello in this one!

If you have limited (albeit “very”) access to voice mail and email, it means you will hear my message and then SCREEN it. You’ll decide if my message is – or if I am – important enough to respond to. Waaaay better to just tell me when I will hear from you. Believe me, if you get back to me sooner, I’ll be a happy girl, and won’t bring up that you weren’t supposed to get back to me until the 4th.

Next up…

“**Please Note I Am Out Of The Office***
Please contact …if you need assistance and she will help or assign to the appropriate Sales Manager. She is at …. or ….”

You gotta love the asterisks around this one. Not.

This one really gets me though because I’ll be “assigned to the appropriate sales manager”. Assigned? Am I homework? (Could she at least have said, helped?)

I’m thrilled with the grammar (or lack thereof) too: She is at (the phone number was listed). Try: Her phone number is. Please!

“I will be out of the office Wednesday, March 28th through Friday, March 30th travelieng on business. I will respond as soon as I am able.
Have a great day!”

Do I care if you’re traveling (yes, that is traveling not travelieng!) on business or pleasure? No! I only care to know when you’ll get back to me or how I can easily get an answer to my question.

You’ll respond “as soon as you are able”? When will that be, that you are able? I’m Sue but I have a friend named Able.

Finally, here is one that I love (thank you Keith Levey!):
“Thanks for your email. I am returning Wednesday, March 28th, and will respond to your message then. And if you need me, my cell is …..”

Courteous and clever. And the truth is that most people won’t abuse his kindness at providing his cell phone. After all, we know when he’ll get back to us so we can wait.

You know what I love about this? It’s job security for me. But I’d be happier (okay, that was a lie!) if words were used thoughtfully because when you change your words, you change your world.

Any ridiculous out-of-offices that you care to share? Your comments, please.

By the way, if you recognized your own message, I mean this with only the greatest amount of love (and with fingers crossed that you’ll change your message next time). 😉

3 replies
  1. Dave Lutz
    Dave Lutz says:

    Sue, I’m not a fan of out of office messages at all. In today’s world, a better approach is to reply personally to urgent requests while traveling…asking if it’s OK if you get back to them by X date. If your travel or time off doesn’t allow for this option, planning ahead and giving a colleague access to monitor your incoming calls and correspondence is another more personal touch.

    • speakersue
      speakersue says:

      Hi Dave, Thanks so much for taking the time to respond. Your first suggestion is the absolute best way to handle out of office! I’m not a huge fan of the colleague monitoring the email because sometimes writers say things to good friends that will be perfectly understood by the friend, but not the colleague. Admittedly, we should never write stuff that wouldn’t be okay for anyone to read, but we do. Something innocuous like, “Did he agree to go to South America with you?” (are we talking about a pitch you made to your boss, your boyfriend, your son?) could lead to all sorts of office speculation! (And though we’re good friends, I may not know your exact travel schedule.) For me, Keith’s solution is perfect because it shows his true willingness to do the right thing – – and gives the writer, the control. Thanks again!

  2. speakersue
    speakersue says:

    Here is an example of a truly enchanting out-of-office message. Not only is this thorough, but Gary has conveyed much more than information, but a desire for the client to want to have the next communication! Bravo and brilliant!

    Gary Lo, Director of Sales Hong Kong, uses this:

    Thank you very much for your important email.

    Please be advised that 4, 6-9 Apr are a public holidays in Hong Kong and I’ll be out of office 5 Apr on business. I shall respond to you on 10 Apr 2012.

    You can count on our support via Name, Sales Manager on +852 35523985 or email for any immediate assistance you may need on 5 Apr.

    Rest assured that our enchanting Langham hospitality will bring sweet memories to you.

    Warmest regards

    Gary Lo | Director of Sales Hong Kong | Langham Hospitality Group


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