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Automatic Email Response: A Practical Guide with Examples



Today, many of us are already used to communicating with bots and receiving automated mass emails. At the same time, automatic email responses continue to be a matter of debate, sometimes considered worse than not responding at all. Thus, we have prepared a comprehensive guide to email auto-responses that will:

  • explain the rationale for automating email responses 

  • show when email auto responses are the most appropriate

  • guide you on how to send automated email responses in Gmail and Outlook

  • share useful templates and examples to use.   

Automatic email responses vs automated email campaigns

Note that sending automatic email responses is different from automating an email marketing strategy. The latter relates to building a chain of emails that will be sent in response to a particular user’s action like a subscription, a purchase, opening/not opening of your email, clicking particular links in your automated emails, etc. 

Similar to that, automatic email campaigns often require a receiver to perform an action - buy, click, rate, view, whatever - which will be automatically tracked in the system. Actual email responses to automated emails are not common. More than that, automated emails may even specify that email responses should be sent to a different address. 

Contrary to that, regular emails are sent to be answered. Users won’t use a system to check email delivery, and they will not know if you acted upon their request unless you inform in the follow-up email that you have. Most adults understand this well and check their emails every day, even on weekends when they are homesick. 

However, it happens that important emails come to your mailbox when you are on vacation, with limited access to the internet or a little wish to think about work. Or, responding to emails becomes overwhelming and distract from the direct responsibilities. Here is where automatic email responses come handy.     

The task of automatic email responses is to:

  1. set the right expectations about your answer 

  2. inform the senders how to contact you/who to contact with the urgent matter. 

Have you noted the emphasis on expectations here? Yes, these are modern expectations towards an email communication that make using auto email responses an indispensable practice for professionals and businesses alike — more about this further.

Email etiquette: how fast are you expected to reply 

With time, the phone has ceased to be a primary channel for business communication, email communication taking the lead. Originally, emails have been as an alternative to a phone conversation that allowed both the sender and the receiver the opportunity to compose one's thoughts at a convenient time. 

Still, smartphones and the spread of instant messengers have changed it all.  

Now, when emails are readily available at our fingertips, the expectations towards the response time have risen dramatically. The latest Boomerang’s analysis has found that the average response time to an email is 23 hours, with 50% of responses being sent in less than two hours. Another research found that the most common email response time is just two minutes. At the same time, the lack of email response within 48 hours is a sure signal that the response won’t come at all: 90% of all responses come in a day or two. 

The expectations towards the email responses from customer service are rising year to year too. The survey by Toister Performance Solutions demonstrated that while four-hour response time was the point at which 80% of customers were happy in 2014, this point shifted to one hour by 2015 already.   

Such a rise in email response expectations has risen the pressure to check the mailbox regularly and respond right away, which promotes stress and lowers productivity. 

Polite and helpful automatic email responses satisfy the modern sender’s urge for a fast response and, thus, turn out to be brilliant assistants to both individual users and customer support departments.   

How to write OOO email auto responses 

The number one in the queue for automation is an OOO or ‘out of office message’ - a message that will be sent in response to the emails you receive during the vacation or sick leave. 

Do you remember the statistics? Those who send an email expect you to respond in a couple of hours and will be rather annoyed at not getting any follow-up from you after 48 hours or more. Leaving the messages ignored until you come back is utterly unprofessional and may seriously harm your brand or your reputation. 

At the same time, checking your email and writing responses on vacations is not the best option either. The inability to rest is just one point here; you might also lack access to information and tools you use at work. This way, you can end up redirecting many people to your coworkers - something you could have done with the help of email auto responses from the very beginning. Thus, setting up an automatic OOO email response is a sign of a good tone that leaves everyone satisfied. 

Here are a few tips about how to write an OOO message: 

  • Give a timeframe or endpoint. Explain that you won’t be able to attend to the email until the designated date. There is no need to include a starting day - a person messaging you two days before the due date should not necessarily know you’ve been away for two weeks. For a date, choose a format that can’t be misinterpreted like September 8th. 

  • If it’s expected given your role, provide an emergency contact. If you value your privacy, there is no need to give your cell phone for emergency contact. Instead, provide emails of coworkers substituting you on your role or support department contacts.   

  • Keep it short. An out of office message is not something users wanted to read in the first place. Making them read a long message with your apologies and the details of your vacation or, even worse, your illness details is not a good thing to do.   

  • Be careful with humor. You will come across many recommendations to use humor in auto response messages: if you cannot respond right away, you can at least make readers smile, they say. Still, humor should be used with caution especially when you are likely to be contacted by a person from a different country or culture.  

OOO automatic email response examples

Usage details

Auto-reply email templates

A universal vacation auto response email that gives the main information: the endpoint and useful contacts. 

Hi,

Thank you for your email. I will be out of the office till [Date] and will have limited access to email. 

If this is urgent, please contact [Name] at [Email] or [Phone]. 

I will do my best to respond to your email soon after the return date.

Best,

[Signature]

If you have authorized other people to act upon your behalf while you are away, the request voiced in an email may already have been addressed. 

Looking through all the missed emails and checking the status of requests is overwhelming, so you can use a delayed vacation auto response email that will be sent on the day of your arrival. 

Hi,

I am back in the office trying to catch up with the tasks and looking through the emails that have piled up.

I am pleased to see that many of those who messaged me used the provided contacts to get immediate assistance and had their requests resolved until now. If this is your case, please type “resolved” in response to this email.    

Thank you for your patience,

[Signature]

Here is a nice example of an OOO message when you are sick. The peculiarity of the message is that you cannot specify the end date. 

Hi,

Thank you for your message. I’m out sick for the day, and in the hopes of a quick recovery. If it’s urgent, please reach out to [Name] at [Email].

Thank you for your patience,

[Signature]

It is good to set up sickness-related OOO auto email responses even if you are going to respond to messages from home when you are sick. This will help you to set the right expectations and filter urgent matters to attend to.  

Hi,

Thank you for your message. I’m away from the office today fighting the flu. While I will be checking my inbox, I may be slower to respond than usual.

If it’s urgent, please type “urgent” in response to this email and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

Thanks,

[Signature]


Customer support automatic email responses 

It might take longer to respond to the support ticket, but the confirmation of its receipt and details about what a customer should expect next should come right away. Such automated emails are not just the necessary confirmation of the receipt, but also the chance to build relationships with a customer. 

Great customer support email auto responses: 

  • Have great subject lines. Email subject lines predict the open rate. In customer support auto email responses, they may actually present key information the customer wants to hear in a friendly, appealing form. 

  • Use personalization. Addressing customers by name is a simple move that can still matter much in terms of automation and relationship building. 

  • Show gratitude. According to Lee Resources International, only 1 in 26 unsatisfied customers actually complain. If a customer messages support, a problem exists or you have failed to provide a seamless user experience. Do thank you customers for pointing this out to you rather than stay silent. 

  • Set clear expectations. “As soon as possible” is very vague and may actually take forever. What is more, it is self-explanatory - no need to send an email to tell this. Thus, set clear expectations about when to expect your response: within 2 business hours/days, not later than in one business day, etc. 

  • Link to the Knowledge Base. When you direct a customer to a FAQ page or a Knowledge Base, you do not necessarily expect that they will resolve their issues on their own. But you definitely train them to do so before addressing the support in the future.     

Examples of auto email responses from a customer support team

Usage details

Auto email response examples

Subject lines do not necessarily have to be creative, but it is nice when they are.   

We have received your support request. 

We got your email! Here’s what to expect next…

Thanks for getting in touch. We’re on it.

We’re working on your request. Hang tight!

A short automatic reply email from a customer support team.

Thanks for contacting [Company]!

This is just a quick note to let you know that we have received your message. A member of our support team will follow up with you today to resolve your inquiry. 

Best,

[Signature]

A longer auto response email template. 

Dear [Name],

Thank you for reaching out to [Company] support desk. The member of our support team will get in touch with you within 2 business hours.

Please note that our working hours are 9am-6pm from Monday to Saturday. We regret the delay in reply over the non-working hours.

You may refer to our FAQs at [Link] for more information.

Best regards,

[Signature]


How to set up an automatic email responder in Microsoft Outlook 

There are two ways to set up automatic replies in Outlook. In some versions, Automatic Replies will be readily available from the File menu or an Out of Office Assistant (for Outlook 2007). Thus, you will only have to type out your message and choose recipients: either My contacts only or Anyone outside my organization). If Automatic Replies are not readily available, you will need to use Rules and Alerts to set up an autoresponder. 

(Source: Office Support

Here is a step by step guide to how to do this: 

  1. Create an email template: Select New > Mail Message. Then click Options > Plain Text and type a message that you want to be sent out as your automated email reply. Save the message as an Outlook Template giving it any name you prefer: e.g. ooo-reply.oft. 

  2. Create a new rule: Go to Tools > Rules and Alerts. Click a New Rule icon and choose the option “Apply rule on messages I receive”.    

  3. Select conditions to your rule: Outlook offers many conditions to choose from; for example, you may respond with automated emails only to a specific list of email addresses, if your name is in the To box, if the message was sent only to you, or when there are specific words in the subject, body or sender’s address. If you chose the option that requires details on a specific group or specific words, select those clicking a link in the lower part of the dialogue box under the Step 2 heading. Then, click Next.   

  4. Choose to auto respond: Tell what to do with the received message choosing the option “to reply using a specific template”. Click a link that says “a specific template” in Step 2 in the lower part of the dialogue box and choose the template you have created.  

  5. Set exceptions: After the previous step, Outlook will ask you whether you want to set any exceptions to the rule. The options will be the same as you had when selecting conditions. For example, you may choose not to send automated email responses to the messages that have the word “urgent” in the subject or the body. 

  6. Finalize the creation of the rule: Name the rule (e.g. OOO auto response), select a “Turn on this rule” option and click Finish. This will direct you back to the Rules and Alerts dialogue box with your OOO auto response rule at the top of the list. Click Apply > Ok to finish. 

A good idea is also to send mass email in Outlook to notify everyone about your upcoming vacation. The template will be close to the one you’ll use for a vacation automated email response. Still, this will give your contacts a chance to bring up any urgent matter before you leave. What’s more, when they know that you won’t be able to respond, they’ll send emails to the provided contacts right away or avoid sending emails to you until you are back. This will definitely ease your turn to work later.    

How to auto respond to emails on Gmail

Follow these instructions to set up automatic response emails on Gmail: 

  1. Turn on Canned Responses: Select Gmail Settings (the gear icon) > Advanced. Enable the option Canned Responses (Templates) and click the Save Changes button.

  2. Create an email template: Click New Message and compose a message you would like to send out. Select More Options (three dots in the bottom right corner of the New Message box). Choose Canned Responses  > New Canned Response. Give your template a name and click Ok to save it. 

  3. Set up automation: This is accomplished with the help of Filters in Gmail. Go to Settings > Filters and Blocked Addresses. Click “Add a new filter” link and define the criteria for when the email auto response will have to go out, e.g. a specific word is used in the body. Then, choose what to do with emails that meet these criteria - tick the box next to “Send canned response” and choose the template you have created from among other options in the dialogue box.  

5 ways to achieve more with automatic email responses 

Yes, the essence of automatic email responses is to actually provide a much-anticipated response and to set further expectations. Still, there is so much more you can do with your automated responses. Here are 5 ideas you will love to try. 

Usage details

Automated email response examples

Lead Generation 

Hello [Name],

Thank you for the email. I’m currently out of the office until mm/dd with limited access to email. If your request is urgent, please contact [Name] at [Email or Phone].

In the meantime, I am convinced that you can get much insight into what we do getting hands-on experience with the [tool or product] our company is proudly developing. Here is the [link] to the Free trial you can start today.  

I am sure to get back to you upon my return on mm/dd.

Best,

[Signature]

Content Marketing

Hi [Name],

Thank you for the email. I am out of the office right now and will be able to respond to your email only upon my arrival on mm/dd. In the meantime, I have a marvelous ebook/white paper on [Subject matter or Title] that I think you would enjoy. 

Best,

[Signature]

Traffic Generation

Hi there,

Thanks for reaching out. Unfortunately, I’m out of the office till mm/dd with no access to email. If your request is urgent, please contact [Name] at [Email or Phone] or the support team who will take care of you.

Did you email me about [Service/Product]? You will find extensive information about how it works at this [link]. We also share valuable insights on the corporate [blog]; in particular, [Specific post] has been marked as very helpful by 1k of our readers.  

Hope to get back to you as soon as I can.

Best regards,

[Signature]

Networking

Hi there!

Thank you for reaching out. I’m out of the office attending a great conference [Date]. If you happen to attend it too, I’d love to connect! Follow or tweet me [Twitter_Handle] for thoughts on the conference. 

Any urgent matter can be handled by [Name] at [Email or Phone]. If we fail to meet at the conference, I promise to respond to your email soon after I’m back to the office. 

Best,

[Signature]

Social Media Engagement

Hi!

I’m out of the office and will be responding to my emails when I return on [Date].

To keep up with all the latest happenings at [Company name], follow us on Facebook / Twitter / LinkedIn / Instagram / Pinterest. I’ll get back to you soon after returning to work on [Date].

Thanks!


Conclusive thoughts 

Automatic email responses may be not something senders would like to receive in the first place, but they are much better than the lack of any response for a longer. People hate to be guessing, and automating replies is a good way to set the right expectations. This is particularly helpful when taking time off work and when responding to support requests.

 

 


Author

Mathieu Picard

CEO, Anyleads, San Francisco

We are the leading marketing automation platform serving more than 100,000 businesses daily. We operate in 3 countries, based in San Francisco, New York, Paris & London.

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The perfect product to generate high quality leads from B2B to B2C.

  • Access / extract from more than +15M B2B companies.
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  • Send all the data to your CRM via Zapier.
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Extract emails, phones on the page of websites and download it to Excel or CSV.

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