Advisors: What Your Out Of Office Says About You

Out of Office

As we roll the calendar to August, many of you will be taking a few days (or weeks) off. While I’m sure your clients (and possibly prospects) won’t mind, they will notice if you leave them hanging. Over the last few years, I have noticed a trend – not the worst thing in the world – but a trend that can force your client to second guess themselves, and you.

Emails: New and bounced

This blog has been publishing two posts a week for over seven years and of course, that means thousands and thousands of emails to all of our subscribers go out and a few come back with an out of office message.  I never really paid attention until one of our interns recently showed me some of her favorites so we looked closer then wondered if anyone has thought these through.

  • I am out all day on Friday July 27th meeting with my clients.  If you require immediate assistance, please contact <person> at <number.>

If you were his client, would you wonder if you were being left out of a meeting or event? Is his business so small that he can meet with all in one day?

  • I’ll be traveling out of the country returning June 4th In the meantime, call the office at <number> if you need anything. Enjoy your summer as it fly’s by.

If I am a client and I read this, I have a few issues notwithstanding the grammar and spelling.  One of my most important advisors has left the country and left me a generic office number.  The tone is a bit impersonal and implies indifference to my relationship.

  • I am out of the office and will return next Monday.

Boring and to the point, but not helpful. What if this advisor’s client needs to discuss an issue, needs a distribution or has a specific question regarding their account.  Nothing. The reply did have a two paragraph standard disclosure, which made it even less helpful.

First, let me say that if one of these was yours, I apologize for using it to make my point but hopefully, we can use this as a learning opportunity.

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A better way?

Creating a better client experience is the goal of many advisors.  The best advisors I know try to look at their offering, communications and image from the clients’ perspectives instead of their own.  I know it is a little thing, but consider what your client would need to see in your out of office message. My guess is they want some specifics about who to call or email. Maybe they want to feel important, or at least to feel someone cares. What can you do to send that message?

  • Prepare them first:  In my experience, the best firms prepare their clients before an extended absence (or even a short one). The communications could be via blog, social media, email or in person during a service meeting. Those firms put together a who to call organizational chart or list of important contacts.
  • Schedule your time:  Some advisors never really leave the office behind and if that is you, fine.  If you know you will answer emails or voicemails on the trip, be specific with times. For example, one advisor I know went to Italy.  With the time zone changes, he toured, dined and relaxed all day.  Since 10:00 p.m. in Rome is 4 p.m. on the East Coast, he checked with his staff each day before going to bed. If you want to completely shut down, make sure you delegate to someone who can make decisions on your behalf.  Make sure you communicate what you are going to do with your time.
  • Anticipate the questions:  Think about the types of questions you get or are likely to get while gone. For many, a simple link to your website (or custodian’s website) may answer the account questions. Maybe post a link to your recent blog post on a current topic that client’s are asking about.
  • Be specific on the email:  You are going to be out – who is your go to for any questions? Put the name, email, phone number (and title if possible) in the message. Let them know that your designated associate and your firm are on top of any issue in your absence.
  • Promote(?): Many of the OOOs are designed for clients. What about the prospects and new clients?  While you have their attention, why not mention a recent award, a new paper or service, repeat your firm’s value proposition?  Who knows when the message may strike a chord with someone.

Simple and confident

It seems so simple but the out of office message can add value to your clients when you are not there.  Done wrong, it shows you are sloppy and may not pay attention to details. Done right, it is reinforcement that you’re professional and trustworthy.  It can reinforce their decision to work with you.

We are now in the first week of August; there will be many OOOs over the next month so I’ll be paying close attention to them. I can’t wait to see the changes you may make to yours. Enjoy your time off!

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John Anderson

John Anderson

John Anderson is the creator and lead author of Practically Speaking blog and Managing Director of Practice Management Solutions for the SEI Advisor Network.

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