Updated Apr 3 2019 :: by Alex Yumashev

Here's the one little email that makes me wanna kill myself.

I am currently out of the office on vacation. I will be back in the office on Monday, MM/DD/YY. Please contact COLLEAGUE X with any requests you may have: colleague@email

Seriously? You're asking me to work as your email-router?!

It sometimes gets worse:

I am out of the office right now, if you have a question about your delivery, please contact shipment@company.com, if you have a question about billing please write to billing-dude@company.com, otherwise please send a message to our frontdesk@company.com

(side note: asking a customer to contact somebody else is among the top things you should never do in customer support)

Computers have been around for almost 80 years now. We have Machine Learning and big data, we have dancing robots and blockchain, we've had the first quantum computer since 2016 now, we have self-driving cars for crying out loud! Along with artificial embryos, 3d metal printers and neural networks.

Yet, we can't set up a basic email forwarding rule.

Interestingly, though, we are doing a great job routing phone calls. When a person's away and no one picks up the phone - the call is being routed to his/her deputy or the front desk automatically.

Why can't we do the same with emails? Just set up a very simple automation rule like this:

"If an incoming email stays unanswered for X days, forward it to front-desk's mailbox"

If you don't have some helpdesk automation installed there are still ways to do that. For example, in Outlook just go to "Outlook > File > Automatic Replies > Rules... > Add Rule...". And make sure you turn it off once you get back.

It's not the 2000s out there and we're not using Blackberries any more. OOO-emails is an anachronism.

The paradox of OOO-emails is that no one ever sets an "Out of Office" message for their personal mailbox - only for the business one. But if it's a business address - it means I'm not just contacting you personally, I'm actually talking to the company behind you. I'm not really interested if you're "out of range" I just want my problem sorted out.

So the only acceptable OOO-email is:

I'm currently out of office, but your email has been forwarded to XXX and someone will be in touch shortly.

'Thoughts on Out of Office Emails' was written by Alex Yumashev
Alex Yumashev
Alex has founded Jitbit in 2005 and is a software engineer passionate about customer support.

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