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Email TipsHere's a thought... What’s the Point of Out of Office Replies?

I receive a steady stream of requests asking how to setup the Out of Office Reply in Outlook.  The short answer is that this facility is not possible with ordinary POP email – but can be used with Exchange Email (like our Xmail service).  We do also offer an Auto-Response facility for our POP email customers (see POP plus)  However it got me thinking about a fundamental question…  What’s the point of Out of Office Replies?

After sending the Easykey Ezine I invariably get a torrent of Out of Office replies (or OOORs).  Do I really need to know that “Priscilla is away in New York for 4 days and has limited access to emails” or “Simon is in meetings this morning but is available after 2:00pm”.  Granted if I am away for 4 weeks in Borneo in a place with no Internet access, and no-one in my company knew I was there, you might appreciate some sort of a message.  But if I told you I am out delivering a training course for the day - would you be surprised? …and would you really need to know?

Ironically it’s most likely that the folks using the technology to send me an automated OOOR are the very same people that can seamlessly pick their emails from multiple locations including their iPhone or Blackberry.  Surely if it’s really important they will be able to ping me a quick reply?  And if it can wait am I going to feel snubbed? – I doubt it.  In fact I usually view the mindless auto-response is the quintessential lazy snub, symbolic that your company really doesn’t care about me and my message.  I might also form the impression that you are probably not happy with your job.

It smacks of the irony when I am waiting for 20 minutes on a telephone help line listening to funky lounge music regularly interspersed with the message “Please Hold, Your Call in Important to Us” … Surely if my call was that important to you it would have been answered within 3 rings!

Just for the record – even when I am in the office – there are only specific times of the day I will read and respond to emails.

How Available is Your Company?

What companies do you like to deal with?  One thing I really appreciate is companies that foster the personal touch.  I feel that they are always available for even the smallest query.

Surely if you are out of the office and you have the software to create an OOOR – you might also be able to work out a way for somebody else to handle your business emails and to respond on your behalf where possible?

By the way an OOOR is a great way of confirming your email address to spammers.  Think about it – sending them an automated reply could trigger a counter auto response adding your address to 10 more mailing lists offering you medication, shares and unbelievable prices for genuine Rolex watches.

Look before you Leap

So I propose you think carefully before you think about using your Out Of Office Reply.  Why not do this instead…

  • Use Your Smart Phone to respond to urgent and important emails
  • Delegate somebody to check your emails and give them authority to:
  • Respond personally on your behalf
    • Deal with any requests themselves or delegate to other work colleague
    • Delete any emails that are SPAM or irrelevant
    • Move non-urgent matters into a folder called Follow Up When Back
    • Text You for matters that are truly URGENT
    • Put emails that have been dealt with into a Dealt With folder

After saying all that and you a certain that you really do need to set an Out Of Office Message I suggest you read these:

How to create an Out of Office Automatic Reply in Outlook

POP Plus – Enhance POP email with an Out of Office facility

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