It’s Time To Rethink The Standard “Out of Office” Email


Sometimes we’re offline.closed_sign

Whether it’s once, twice, or twelve times per year, there are moments when you can’t be responsive to work emails, and it’s totally acceptable. In fact, research suggests it’s good for our health to leave email behind while on vacation. To fill the gap in service, we’ve been trained to set up an “out of office” email.

I’ve seen HUNDREDS of out of office emails from financial advisors and, unfortunately, they’re all the same.

Here are a few examples from my inbox:

As a financial advisor, you work very hard to develop client relationships and deliver exceptional service while you’re IN the office, but then plop a thought-less message like this into their inboxes when you’re out. Worst of all, there are typo’s in these emails! It’s a shame. Today we’re going to change that.

You can write an out-of-office email that is helpful AND delights your clients. (Tweet this!) With a little added thought, your next out of office email can serve as a simple, free, automated way to add value to your client relationships – even while you’re gone.

Here’s how:

1) Don’t be a robot.

Just because you’re out of the office doesn’t mean you’ve turned into a robot. Be sure to speak like a human. If you simply avoid writing the standard template message (i.e. the emails from above), you’ll basically have this one covered.

Part of writing like a human is writing a real subject line. Most auto-response subject lines feel completely robotic and impersonal:

  • Out of Office AutoReply
  • Automatic reply
  • out of office  (My personal favorite. No capitalization.)
  • AUTO: I am out of the office

Let’s banish these. Instead, write a subject line like a human would.

2) Share the necessary information, but in a creative way.

There are a few logistical details that are actually helpful to your clients. Here are the 2 things you should still say, with a creative “spin” for each.

a) When you’ll be back.

Standard: “I’ll respond when I return on November 2nd.”
Spin: “I’ll respond when I return on November 3rd.”

Tell them the day AFTER you return – It’s all about managing expectations with this one. The chance that you’ll reply to everyone on the day you get back is slim. If you’re set to return on the 2nd, say you’ll be back on the 3rd. Give yourself a full day to sift through your bank of emails and begin to reply. Plus, even if they’re one of the few emails you respond to on the 2nd, they’ll feel special for receiving early assistance. Awesome.

b) How to get help, if needed.

Standard: “Should you have specific needs that cannot wait for my return, please email assistant@companyname .com or call 617-555-1000 and my staff can help you.”
Spin: “If your email truly is urgent, please resend it to interruptyourvacation@companyname .com and I’ll try to respond promptly.”

That’s right – Set up an email account for ‘interrupt your vacation’ or ‘I need help now’. It encourages folks to ask themselves, “Is my email important enough to interrupt their vacation?” If so, they’ll send. If not, they’ll wait. It’s a brilliant idea used by venture capitalist Brad Feld.

3.) Demonstrate you care about them, even though you’re away.

This is the most important change for your “out of office” email, and the one I’ve yet to see from an advisor. Instilling a sense of service despite the “sorry I’m ignoring your email, dear client” message is incredibly important and powerful. Share something that will entertain, inform and/or delight the folks emailing you. Here are a few ideas, but your options are limitless:

4.) Pose ANY question.

Asking a question in your auto-generated email is a simple trick to help your clients feel calm in your absence. It reminds them that you WILL return and you WILL speak with them again. What you ask is up to you. A few ideas:

  • Have you read an interesting book recently? My Kindle is getting dusty.
  • Is there something in particular you’d like to discuss during our next meeting?
  • Are you interested in building a holiday budget? I’m considering that for my next blog post.

Here’s an example, using all 4 tips:

Subject: A quick note & open invitation…

Hi –

I’m currently away from the office, returning on Tuesday, Nov. 5th. If your email needs attention before then, please resend it to ineedhelpnow@mycompany .com and I’ll respond to it as soon as possible.

By the way, I’m hosting an online webinar next week about how to help elderly relatives with their finances – Are you interested? You can register here: (link). I’d love to see you there!

Do you have a request for my NEXT webinar? I’m always open to feedback and suggestions.

Your name

Get feedback on your new “out of office” email

Send it to me! I’d be happy to help you.
Subject: OOO Feedback

You may also like: 6 Tips for an Email Signature Your Clients Will Love
Photo credit: Flickr, Nick


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Carolyn is Blueleaf’s in-house marketing guru. She writes on The Blueleaf Blog to make advisors’ lives easier, offering practice management and client engagement tips where and when they’re useful. Outside of the Blueleaf offices, she can be found running a 10k or cooking her famous chili. Chat LIVE with Carolyn on Twitter @BlueleafAdvisor!
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