I’m not a great fan of email auto-responders. Most of those that I receive are completely pointless, unprofessional, or have spelling or grammatical errors. It is incredibly rare that the message is relevant to me such that I need to take action as a result.
Out-of-office replies are fair enough, but only when used sensibly – perhaps explaining the absence period and giving alternative contacts if the email is urgent. I do, though, get frustrated with out-of-office replies that are clearly left on even though the recipient has been back in the office for several weeks.
People who set up auto-responders should spare a thought for the people who have to read them! It might only take a few seconds to read, but it’s more clutter for my inbox and time taken to put down what I’m doing to check the response.
Anyway, I thought it would be useful to list (without naming names) some of the more interesting auto-responders (good and bad) I have come across (see below). If you have an interesting one let us know by commenting on this post.
“I’m sorry we are unable to respond to your email, but we will do so at our earliest convenience”
This is subtle, but does suggest that the recipient is not going to give your message the attention that you think they should… “…at our earliest convenience” (i.e. when it’s convenient to us and not necessarily in a timeframe that’s convenient to you). If I were a customer of theirs I might choose to go elsewhere.
“We’re out of the country until 5th Jan and so unable to reply to you”
Now, for a potential criminal, that message would effectively be saying “We’re out of the country so our house will be empty for a week or so if you’d like to come over and help yourself to our stuff”. Most of us wouldn’t even dream of a career in burglary, but bear in mind that it is not just your friends and trusted clients who send you emails – organised spam rings do so too. This has been highlighted as a problem on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, but can also apply to your email auto-responders.
“I am momentarily away from my desk and so cannot respond to your email immediately, but will do so on my return”
I had to laugh when I received this and suspected that by the time I had read the auto-responder, the person would have got back from the loo (or wherever he was momentarily detained), read my email, and would be in the process of replying to it.
“I am out of the office, returning on 21st November, and will respond to your email then”
But it’s mid-December now (and later by the time you read this)! For goodness sake please remember to disable your out-of-office auto-responder when you are no longer ‘out of the office’.
“Thank you for your email”
How much use is that? I guess that it does at least let you know that the email has arrived, but if you don’t receive this auto-responder message how would you know if it was because the recipient didn’t have an auto-responder OR that they did have an auto-responder but your email had got trapped by their spam filter? So it doesn’t really serve any purpose, does it?
“We are currently torn between our inbox and our gorgeous 1-year-old. She’s doing her best to help but hasn’t yet understood that more sleep for us would work better than testing every function of our laptop – so we will get back to you as soon as possible but hope you will understand if there is a little delay.”
I love this one and think it turns an ordinary out-of-office reply into something altogether more personal, but I would still like to see some indication of when they are likely to reply – preferably before the child goes to University 🙂
“Please be patient while we evaluate your enquiry. We have been really busy so far in 2009 but rest assured that we will deal with your enquiry as soon as possible.”
Something tells me that they have moved on and not closed an old mailbox down – as I received this in January 2011! I wonder how many recipients of this message in 2009 would still be patiently hanging on for a reply.
That’s all for now!
I’ll post more interesting auto-responders as I come across them. These are genuine responses that I have received to emails (and which I can remember).
Please let me know your views – Do you use auto-responders? What’s your message? What odd ones have you seen?