Avoid Using Auto-Reply Messages Like the Plague

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These days, do you hear anyone complaining that they don’t receive enough email?

“I wish I had more pointless messages coming into my overcrowded email box,” said no one ever.

This is why I am against using auto-reply messages for any reason other than their intended use: as an away message (and even then, we know it’s a bit misleading because most people stay connected even on vacation).

To give you some perspective: Last week, I received approximately 4,200 messages. Of them, about 250 were auto reply emails. That’s almost 250 extra emails I didn’t need to see.

Just some things to think about:

  • Don’t bother with the “I have received your email and will get back to you soon” messages. Just get back to the sender soon, even if it’s just to tell them that you need some more time. Emails are pretty sophisticated…if something bounces back and doesn’t go through, the system will notify them.
  • If you an auto-response, that means the recipient has to receive one of your automatic messages every time they email you. That includes multiple emails for attachments, corresponding with you while you’re online, or sending a follow up message if they forgot something. That also means they’ll be getting twice as much email from you: half will be junk (the auto email), the other half will be something they might actually want. People will avoid emailing you to avoid that many more unwanted emails.
  • Be concise. If you absolutely must have an auto reply (out of town, buried in work, etc.) be very concise and provide optional contacts where they can get help.
  • Have a sense of humor: If you are going to be using an away message, at least make it worth sharing. If you are heading on vacation, give someone a reason to smile when they get your message. Check out Gozmodo’s The Most Cleverest Vacation Auto-Reply-E-Mail I’ve Seen for an example.

You may not think of it as such, but your communications are part of your brand. Do you want to be known for having annoying, redundant messages sent every time someone corresponds with you? I didn’t think so. You want to be known for being clever, responsive, and respectful of others’ email boxes. “Do unto others” and all that. Start with your email.

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