A site visitor writes…
I was the recipient of yet another “email” faux pas, the automatic reply, one that has not been carefully checked before the “enter” key was struck, to whit:
I sent an email requesting information for an article. Here, in part, the following automated reply: “… it might take some time before I can answer your email. My apologies. I will be checking my email on a regular basis though, so if it’s important I’ll try to get back to you as soon as I can.”
Emphasis is mine. First of all who will determine the importance of my inquiry? “IF it’s important …” “I will TRY to get back to you…”
The upshot of this email was first, disgust that I am not dealing with the professional I thought I was, and second, to trash the email and remove references to them from my article.
To me, this site visitor is overreacting just a bit. Why do I say that? Disgust is a pretty strong reaction to an pretty common and benign auto-reply.
Based on the text provided, to me, that’s a bit dramatic. Next, note that they indicate the “emphasis is mine”.
If you’ve been reading my blog at all, you know I’ve pointed out how difficult it is to control levels of emphasis. And to not read into something what isn’t there.
So this person is reading into the auto-reply emotion that just isn’t there. Emphasis that was not indicated — but could be perceived.
To those who complain I “harp on the issue of perception ad nauseam”, here is a perfect example of how the words you choose and how you choose to use them can be perceived differently by different folks.
I think this message was meant to inform and not to insult. But enough wiggle-room was left on the table for interpretation.
Here’s how I would reword that auto-reply:
Thank you for emailing me! Due to (insert specific reason here: my surgery, my vacation, I’m out of the office, death in the family, etc. ) it might take some time before I can answer your email. Due to this situation, I am not going to be able to respond as promptly as I usually do. My apologies.
I will be checking my email on a regular basis though, and doing my best to try to get back to you as soon as I can. Thank you for your understanding and patience.
Use Your Tools Effectively
Of course, auto-replies are not for daily use. However, using an away message to let contacts know that there may be a delay in response is a good idea. Especially when you are truly unable to respond in your usual prompt manner.
As I did above, do your best to make sure that you don’t leave an opening for the recipient to feel neglected. Certainly you don’t want them to think that they have to go through your vetting process and wonder if they will ever hear from you.
Here’s my article so you can make sure you have all the bases covered: Business Away Message Etiquette.