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The death of the out-of-office auto-response

Do clients really believe you're “out-of-office” anymore or that you'll have “occasional access” to email?

Sep 23, 2013 @ 9:06 am

By Alex Murguia

Do any of your clients really believe your “out-of-office replies” anymore or that you'll have “occasional access” to email?

Like the food in your cupboard, every once in while you have to go through your processes and remove what is stale. Too bad we can't can our processes and donate them during the next Thanksgiving Day drive.

When one of my personal advisers or business colleagues sends me an auto-response stating that they are away from the office a few thoughts run through my mind:

1. I could have just saved those last 10 seconds of my life.

2. I don't really believe his or her email.

3. This response is either outdated, lazy, or both.

4. So what if you are away, I'm 100% confident my email made it to the back of your retinas.

5. I still expect a response and at a minimum an acknowledgement.

Although one is free to disagree with my assessment, they are my reality and I am sure many of our clients reflect the same mindset. The “out of the office” response has become a big inside joke that everyone has caught on to. It is a terrible client touch point. Some straw man arguments as to why we perpetuate it?

1. The façade of setting client boundaries. I have 3 children and am able to spend significantly more quality time with them flexibly tethered to my phone than stuck in my office going through my inbox. On the flip side if a client emails you about a significant life changing emergency and you do not respond for three days because you were “out of the office,” then you are in the wrong business.

2. The need disengage while away at conferences in order to focus on learning. I just do not buy this. I would venture to say that there has been a net reduction of what advisors take away from conferences because they are simply not paying attention. I don't quite remember when the change happened but many advisors attend conference sessions while actively working on client issues from their tablets and ultra-thin laptops. They pop their heads up occasionally when the guilt of their impoliteness strikes them.

There are many more reasons and I'm not trying to argue against a work life balance. In fact, I need to be better at that. All I am trying to point out is that the “out of the office” response has become an outdated technology artifact. No one thinks when you are out of the office that you cannot read an email. And if that is the case, why bother with the auto-response?

Please leave your comments below but be aware that I will have limited access to email over the next few days.

Alex Murguía, Ph.D. is a managing principal at McLean Asset Management & CEO of inStream Solutions.

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