Out of the office? Or out of your mind?
Ever send somebody an email and it bounces back, telling you that the person you sent it to is "out of the office"?
How did you feel when you got it?
How about: Why are you telling me this?
How about: I didn't write you to find out what you're doing, I wrote to communicate a message, ask a question, or get information that I require.
Do you stay in touch with your customers and contacts any other time than when you're in the office?
Because email is instant, everyone feels that their response needs to be instant. In the old, old days, people sent letters. In the near old days, they sent faxes. When you got either of these documents, you never told anybody what you were doing, you just responded - as it should be with email. But it's not. And it's rude.
I get emails every day from people telling me they're at a seminar, on vacation, out of the office for two days, home sick, or worse, that their spam blocker needs confirmation.
I have three words to tell you how I really feel: Quit doing this. You're making your customers mad at you. And you look like a fool. Okay, that's more than two words. But you get the idea. Stop it. There, that's two words.
Suppose a customer is trying to place an order, and they get your stupid reply that you're "on vacation, please call Mary." And they call Mary and she's "either on her phone or away from her desk." So the customer decides to call the competition because you are unavailable.
Now you have gone from rude to stupid.
What you've effectively done is take care of yourself without thinking of others. And it's those others that are providing you the revenue that supports your business and your family, namely your customers. And they could care less where you are or what you're doing. They just want help.
I have forbidden all forms of auto-reply and spam-blocking confirmation requests in my business. In place of that, each person is responsible for figuring out what to do in case a customer emails or calls. By the way, we have no voicemail either.
There are several options for being able to serve customers when you're out of the office or either on your phone or away from your desk. All of which require thinking, communicating, and serving the customer.
I'm out of the office more than 250 days per year and somehow manage to handle and reply to more than 200 emails a day without a BlackBerry. I have a cell phone where I can receive phone calls when I'm available, or text messages from people who genuinely need me. I have a laptop with a wireless card and an internal airport device so that I can get online virtually anywhere in the world, at my convenience.
Here are some options to stay in touch, or to be accessible, when you're away from your desk or away from the office:
1. PDA device.
2. Laptop computer.
3. Cell phone.
4. Hotel business center.
5. Internet cafe.
5.5 Delegate or hire an assistant.
It's amazing to me the amount of salespeople earning six-figure incomes who complain about paperwork, when for a small part-time wage they could hire someone to completely eliminate it. People who think with their wallet, not with their brain. They pinch pennies and waste opportunities to earn thousands.
When someone sends you an email, in most cases they expect a reply within 24 hours. Sometimes, the same day.
If you're in a time sensitive business you may have to respond in the same hour, but you would already know that, and it would be (a big) part of your responsibility to make that happen.
If your customer wants an immediate response, and you immediately respond with a message that says, "I can't respond right now," that doesn't help the customer. In fact, it negatively impacts the customer's feeling about you. If customers need an immediate response then you should internally forward your emails when you're away so that they can be responded to personally, or have someone checking your email while you're away, or have a portable wireless device that allows you to receive emails and determine which messages are urgent.
MAJOR CLUE: The customer doesn't need to know what you're doing, or how you make it happen - they want a response to THEIR situation, not yours.
I'm certain that a small percentage of people reading this will not appreciate the cold slap in the face. They'll keep their idiotic, self-serving auto reply as part of their standard operating procedure. Here's the good news: There are some people who will totally appreciate it. I can describe them in two words your competition.
Want to know the reality of spam, and what you should do about it? If you'd like the AHA!, go to www.gitomer.com, register if you're a first time user, and enter the word SPAM in the GitBit box.
Jeffrey Gitomer is the author of The Little Red Book of Selling and The Little Gold Book of YES! Attitude. President of Charlotte-based Buy Gitomer, he gives seminars, runs annual sales meetings, and conducts Internet training programs on sales and customer service at www.trainone.com. He can be reached at 704/333-1112 or e-mail to email@example.com
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permission from Jeffrey Gitomer and Buy Gitomer . 704/333-1112