5 Ways to Improve Your Email Replies

by jay on November 4, 2009

After my latest rant about how much I hate auto replies, a coworker suggested that I offer solutions to these email failures instead of just criticizing them.

Solutions? Instead of just complaining? What a concept!

I’m taking her advice, in the hopes that even one guilty auto responder out there takes my suggestions. So here, again, is the most recent auto responder to invoke my wrath:

Thank you for visiting our site.  Your email will be reviewed and a reply will be send to you in 72 hours.   Thank you.

This is an automated E-mail message.  Please do not reply to it.

And here, for a change, is some actually constructive criticism:

1. Don’t have an auto reply!
I’m sorry, but I just can’t do this without stating the obvious:  The very best way to improve your auto reply is to not have one. Find new ways to manage your email and respond quickly, accurately and efficiently, and you won’t have to ever tell somebody you’ll get back to them in three days.

2. Spell check, reread, spell check again.
Then send it to a friend or coworker to reread one more time. Considering the auto replies are going to every single person who emails you, you really should be concerned with not seeming like an idiot. Typos, misspellings, bad grammar all give a really terrible impression. It’s bad enough you can’t reply quick enough to warrant skipping the auto reply, do you really want it to seem like you are that unconcerned that you can’t spend a few minutes on wording it correctly?

3. Offer solutions.
Ironic coming from me, right? While I’m not a big fan of an auto reply telling me to make a phone call,  it is better than nothing.  But rather than just sending the phone number, try giving your customer  a way to help themselves while waiting to hear back from busy busy you.

Direct them to resources where they might find their own answers, like a link to your Frequently Asked Questions page or a price list. If it’s a vacation auto responder you’ve got going out, provide people emailing you with somebody to contact in your absence. It’s great you’re on vacation in Fiji, but what if I really need something? Give me an alternative to waiting until you return.

4. Don’t tell me you’re on vacation in Fiji.
I’ve been amazed at what some people put in their auto-reply. I don’t want to know about your upcoming gastric bypass and don’t need to see your fancy vacation itinerary. I’m a reasonable guy, I get that you’re out of the office for a while. I don’t need to know why, especially in that much detail.  Just tell me when you’ll be back and as mentioned in #3 above, tell me who to contact while you’re gone.

5. Don’t send from an address I can’t reply to!
If I’ve emailed you, and you reply from a “do not reply” address, you’ve lost me already. My original email reached you, but now I’m cut off? That makes no sense. When you’re already telling me you’re not going to answer my email, at least give me a way to tell you “Never mind, I’ve gone elsewhere.” Though I suppose it would be more annoying to send you that email, because I’d just get another autoreply…

I think we’ve all learned something today. I’ve learned that providing solutions *is* better than just complaining about an issue. And hopefully you auto-reply senders have learned few techniques that can make your emails a little less annoying.

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