Last February I wrote an article about staff being buried in email and WOW! I haven’t hit that big a nerve with the readers in some time! You all ARE buried in email! But here’s an interesting aside: In the two months since I wrote that article, I have noticed that… more companies have started using auto-response for everyday email. I know this as when our publication goes out, the auto-responses come directly back to my inbox. Another bit of intel: I’d say that well over 50% indicate they will return email in 48 hours or more.
For those managers or companies that aren’t yet using auto-response to help manage the load of daily incoming communications, I’ve come up with some practical suggestions to use as templates. Feel free to cut and paste or plagiarize at will!
Everyday comprehensive auto response: It’s not 2006. It’s not even 2013. Today, we are usually a click or two away from learning how to solve our own problems – whether it’s how to fix the washing machine or take care of the rose bushes. Our residents are no different. Why not give them access to the problem-solving website or persons right away with a global auto-response? Here are 4 examples:
1) Hello, this is Julie Adamen and thank you for your correspondence. Due to the high volume of email received I may be unable to personally attend to yours. Please see the below information and contacts that may better suit your inquiry:
- If this is an emergency call our corporate office at 000.555.1212
- For FAQs go here: << insert website here>>
- To find your community’s website, go here: << insert website here>>
- For common area complaints: << staff email here >>
- For questions concerning your assessment account: << staff email here >>
- For Architectural forms and inquiries: :<< staff email here >>
- Happy Acres residents: For gate cards/transponders/pool keys go here: <<staff email here>>.
- For our customer service staff call 000.555.1212 ext. 2, or email them at:<< staff email here >>
If none of the above fits your concern, I will be reviewing all email within 72 business hours and will respond to those that require it in the order they are received.
2) Out of office vacation: Hi this is Julie and I’ll be out of the office May 14 through May 21 on vacation and will not be checking email. See the information below so that you may be assisted with your concern or issue in my absence: Corporate office phone: 000.555.1212
Palm Dunes HOA: << staff email here >>
Bell Gardens COA: << staff email here >>
Meadowlark CA: << staff email here >>
Well Springs RV Association: << staff email here >>
Welmont HOA: << staff email here >>
New Belfair COA: << staff email here >>
For escrow/estoppel issues all communities: << staff email here >>
For billing issues, all communities: << staff email here >>
If this email requires my personal response, I will do so when I return; however, emails will be addressed in the order they were received. Thank you for your patience.
3) Out of office: Thank you for your email. I’ll be out of the office the remainder of the day attending committee meetings. Emails will be reviewed and referred to the appropriate entity or responded to by me personally if necessary within 48 business hours of receipt. If you need immediate service, call our customer service dept. at 000.555.1212.
4) In office but busy: Hello, this is Julie. I’m in the office today and will be reviewing all email by 4pm and returning those which require my personal attention. If this is an urgent matter, please contact our customer service dept. /my assistant at: 000.555.1212. ext. 1 or << staff email here >>.
By using daily auto-response, you’re 1) touching the client and 2) setting their expectations somewhere in a manageable range. Depending on what your response is, you’re also giving them the ability to answer their own questions.
How do we know if this is effective? By installing tracking links on the emails and websites you provide in auto-response! Technology has not stood still.
Loose ends and other stuff: Company policy on auto-response
If we’re going to begin using auto-response as a matter of course, you’ll need some sort of company policy about it. I’ve put together some suggested policies on auto-response for those way too busy executives here:
Incoming email responses. Auto-response is considered a sufficient for routine inquiries that do not require a personal response from the manager; however, the manager is responsible for ensuring the email inquiry is directed to the proper department/vendor/assistant or other appropriate entity.
Managing auto-response. Each staff member is to ensure their auto response is professional and current with up-to-date with information and contains no grammatical or spelling errors. If you need help in composing auto-responses, please speak with your immediate supervisor (unless your company has standard auto-response for everyone).
Emails that require personal responses. Emails that require your personal response, i.e. ones that cannot or should not be forwarded to others for resolution, should be answered within 2 business days.
A thought: Should your company have form auto-responses? Potentially. Probably. Regardless, always spot check staff auto-responses for accuracy in information as well as spelling and grammatical errors. **it happens.:-/.
Weaning clients off expecting instantaneous response to emails
Start with company-wide messages that advise of the coming changes. In addition to their name, phone number and company logo, everyone’s email tag should note the coming email response changes. “Beginning August 1st, our company policy regarding email responses will change from 24 to 72 hours. This is strictly due to the volume of communication received…”
Bring them the facts. Phone calls are down and email is up; yet the clients still expect immediate action. 60 emails per day @ 5 minutes each = 5 hours per day answering email. New managers will take exponentially longer as they process the inquiries and learn the answers. Responding to every email personally is virtually impossible.
You are advising them of a reality. It’s our job to bring clients the right information, even though it’s not what they may want to hear. This one just happens to affect your – and their – most precious asset: People.
Stay in touch with all clients. Clients only want to ensure they and their residents are heard, and their issues taken care of – that they aren’t just a faceless number. Assuage that fear as a part of an overall communication strategy at the executive level. Are you staying in touch with your clients? Do you have a regular executive message that goes out to them? Is your name, email and direct phone line (and picture) on that message and on your website? Do you pick up the phone and talk to your largest clients regularly? Or have you joined the witness protection program?
Will the clients go for it? The truth is, eventually, they’ll have to. There is no way humanly possible for every email to be answered personally and still perform the regular job of being a community manager. If that’s not the case in your office now (your staff is long-term, experienced and has their accounts wired), it will be. The clients aren’t oblivious to this problem, many are younger and in the workforce. They know it’s an issue.
Once again, folks, I’m spitballin’ here; however based on the feedback I received from the last article on emails, we must face this challenge head on. We must give employees the tools and ability to manage their incoming communications and make their work-life better. It’s a hard enough job as it is and we’re competing with everyone from Starbucks to Walmart to Bank of America (starting wage today $17/hr., $20/hr. in 2021) for staff. We ignore this issue at our own peril.
c. 2019 Julie Adamen Adamen Inc. all rights reserved
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Julie Adamen is the principal of Adamen Inc., a national consulting and employment firm specializing in the community management industry formed in 1997. She is a recognized expert in community management, community management compensation and association and management company operations. She is a prolific author, educator, motivational speaker and trainer for community managers and Boards of Directors. She is the author and publisher of online classes for managers, Community Association Management 101, a series of online classes for community association management professionals and volunteers.