When preparing to leave on a trip — whether for the holidays, much-needed vacation or a business excursion — the last thing you likely think about is your out-of-office message.
However, it’s essential to keep people updated on your whereabouts, no matter if they’re a client, vendor or co-worker. Here are some tips to ensure your out-of-office messages provide the information people need.
1. Use an Auto-Responder
Have you ever sent someone an email, only to receive an instant reply seconds later announcing their absence? This is an auto-responder, sent to anyone who initiates contact.
With email being the primary method of communication between many business professionals, it’s a good idea to set up an auto-responder for the days you will be away from the office. You can create one in the settings of your preferred email service.
2. Customize Your Voicemail
If you use a combination of email and phone calls throughout the workday, you can also set up an out-of-office voice message. The process to record the voicemail is no different than a usual message, but you’ll need to change what you say.
Succinctly let people know you’re not available and what they can do in the meantime. The message will vary based on your role and necessity to operations.
3. Give Your Return Date
People like answers. If you know when you’re going to be back in town, tell people. In a voicemail, you could say, “Hi, you’ve reached John Doe. I’m not in the office at the moment, but I’ll be back on Monday, July 18th.”
If the matter isn’t urgent, the person will likely forgo the message and call back after you’ve returned. This tactic can help keep clients happy and lighten your workload.
4. Provide an Alternate Contact
In some instances, the person trying to contact you may need immediate help. In this case, you should provide an alternate contact the person can get ahold of.
Always ask your colleague’s permission before you provide their email address or phone number. Then, include a line in your message such as, “If you need assistance before I return, please contact Jane Doe, the head of Customer Service, at 555-555-5555.”
5. Add a Follow-Up Deadline
If you know when you plan to get back — and your expected workload — offer follow-up details in your auto-response message.
For example, say a colleague emails you asking a question about a team project. Your auto-reply message may look something like, “Hello, this is John Doe. I’m out of the office today, but I’ll get back to you within 48 hours.” People will feel more satisfied when they have a deadline for your reply.
6. Discuss Your Reasoning, but Don’t Offer Too Many Details
Some people like to include their reason for being away in their out-of-office message. If you say you’re on vacation or out for the holidays, people are often less likely to contact you.
Without a reason, some might think you’re in a meeting or on a business trip. You don’t have to give away the details, though. Instead, say something like, “Hi, you’ve reached John Doe. I’m currently on vacation for the holidays and will be back in the office on Monday.”
7. Keep Things Professional
Remember that your out-of-office message should always be professional. If you’re unsure whether you should include something, it’s best to leave it out.
The simplest solution is often the best. At the very least, let the person know who they’ve reached and that you’re currently out of the office. You don’t have to include any more details than necessary.
8. Avoid Spelling Mistakes
Whether email or voicemail, you don’t know who will hear or read your message. It could be a potential client, or it could be your boss. After you’ve crafted a message you believe is appropriate, inspect it for spelling and grammar mistakes.
For an email, the best way to spot mistakes is to read it out loud. If your tired eyes are skimming over errors, ask a co-worker to take a quick look.
9. Promote New Content
If you write or publish content, use your out-of-office message as a method to promote new material.
For example, your email auto-response could say, “Hi. Thanks for your email. I’m out of the office right now and will return on January 5th. Fortunately for you, our creative geniuses never take a break, and we’ve got an awesome e-book on digital marketing I think you’d like. I’ll reply to your message as soon as possible. Best, John Doe.”
10. Drive Website Traffic
If you don’t have new content to promote, you can also direct people toward your website. For example, say you want to entice potential customers.
Your message might say, “Hi. Thanks for your email. I’m currently out of the office and will return on Monday. Did you email me about boosting your company’s social media presence? Great! See what previous customers had to say on our testimonials page.”
11. Follow the Basic Template
You can never go wrong with following the basic out-of-office email template. Try something simple like, “Hello, thank you for your email. I’m currently out of the office on vacation.
If you need immediate assistance, please contact Jane Doe.” For a voicemail, you could say, “Hello, you’ve reached John doe. I’m currently out of the office, but if you leave a message, I’ll get back to you within 48 hours. Thank you.”
12. Try for Lead Generation
Can an out-of-office message really generate new leads? It’s possible.
For your auto-responder, craft an email like, “Hello, thanks for your message. I’m currently out of the office and have no access to email. If you need immediate help, please contact Jane Doe at Jane@email.com. In the meantime, sign up for our weekly newsletter. You’ll get a dose of all your favorite content sent directly to your inbox, even when I’m not here.”
13. Promote Social Engagement
Modern businesses know the importance of a social media following. Why not use your out-of-office message as an opportunity to promote your presence?
Try a response like, “Hello, sorry I missed you. I’m out of the office at the moment but will return on Monday. To keep up with all the latest company happenings, follow us on Facebook and Twitter. I’ll be in touch soon.”
14. Network With New Businesses
Sometimes you may not be leaving the office for pleasure. You may be heading to a conference or convention. In this case, craft a message that offers the opportunity to meet and connect.
Try something like, “Hi, thanks for your email. I’m out of the office this week at Industry Conference in New York City. Will you be there too? Let’s meet up! I’ll be at booth #5555 from noon to 4 p.m. Don’t miss it!”
If you want to craft a great out-of-office message, follow the tips above. Use a combination of email and voicemail replies to cover all of your bases. Tell people where you’re at, but don’t share too many details.
Feel free to tell people when you plan to be back — and don’t forget to turn your message off when you return.