Customers are not always aware when their contacts aren't available over the festive season. Extended annual leave, company shutdowns and different public holidays mean not everyone is working to the same business schedule. For example, many countries don't recognise 26 December ('Boxing Day' in the UK) as a public holiday. Even within the UK there are differences; with Scotland having an extra public holiday on 2nd January.
With the potential for confusion and lost business opportunities, Simply Mail Solutions are reminding organisations to use their email's Out of Office messages to keep customers informed of staff availability and contact options.
A ONEPoll survey conducted in July 2012 found 58% of people wouldn't do business with contacts who took annual leave and didn't set up an Out of Office message. The same survey found nearly 1 in 5 business workers (18%) never used their Out of Office settings.
Businesses who don't have an Out of Office policy, and leave it to their employees to self-manage automatic replies, risk losing out on new business and harming their customer service reputation.
Make a great Out of Office message
It's important that automatic replies are informative, not too terse and provide alternative contact information if they are to reflect well on an organisation.
- Informative — How long will the employee be away? List the exact dates and highlight whether the person has any kind of access to their emails. Don't leave any confusion in the customer's mind as to whether their email will be read and actioned or not.
- Terse — Some people write their Out of Office as the last job before finishing on annual leave. Providing a perfunctory message consisting of return dates and a simple 'Regards' at the end. Try to be more descriptive with your messages. For example over Christmas an auto-reply could include 'I'm taking the opportunity to spend quality time with friends and family over the extended pubic holidays in the UK.'.
- Alternative contacts — Don't leave people with no way of contacting your business. List alternative contact names, phone numbers, email addresses or social media touch-points. If the organisation is completely closed, with no contact possible, make this clear and promise to deal with enquiry when open again.
Finally, spelling and grammar are important. Check your Out of Office for errors, and then check it a third time just to be sure. 65% of people in the ONEPoll survey said poor spelling and grammar left them with 'no faith' in the sender.
Don't lose out over the festive season
CEO of email hosting company Simply Mail Solutions, Colin Smith, gave this advice to businesses who may not have realised the impact of not using Out of Office messages
"Ensuring customers, old and new, are kept informed over the festive break means a business won't lose out on potential orders. Customers understand the need for employees to take time off, they just want to feel re-assured that their email messages are not being ignored."
Picture credit: cassie_bedfordgolf