Out-of-office? Here's when to send a customer support automation to set proper expectations:
- When you're out-of-office
- During holidays
- General unavailability due to known or unexpected circumstances
One of the pillars of excellent customer experience is setting appropriate customer expectations. Ideally, companies would like to service customers around-the-clock to fulfill their needs. But practically speaking, most businesses aren’t open 24/7 to respond to incoming support messages.
That’s why companies need to share their support teams’ availability to set a realistic standard of when they can service a customer. In the case of business texting, companies will use automated out-of-office or unavailable replies to accomplish this.
In this article, we’ll cover the basics of a text-based automated out-of-office or unavailable message and give tips on when to trigger one.
How to write a customer support unavailable auto-response on text
Any good unavailable automated text response requires two things — stating you’re unavailable (and why) and giving an estimated response time. Triggering an out-of-office or unavailable reply lets customers know that they’ve contacted the right place but need to wait for assistance. By the same token, providing a timeframe tells customers how long to wait.
Without either of these, customers might assume that your business is disorganized or doesn’t value their time, and time is paramount to them. A Forrester report found that 73 percent of customers considered valuing time the most important thing a business could do to provide them with good customer service.
Time is another reason businesses use text to communicate with their customers. Business texting offers companies a wider safety-net in response time expectations than other support channels due to texting’s more relaxed nature.
Here are some examples to give you a better idea of the different ways to compose your support team’s out-of-office or unavailable automated texts.
Examples of customer support automations
Above is an example of a basic out-of-office message for businesses that aren’t operating 24/7. It lets the customer know that they’ve contacted the right place, but Tiny Toys is closed. It also shares the company’s business hours, so the customer knows their availability in the future.
The holidays are a busy time for everyone, and your customers are likely more sensitive to prompt service than usual. That’s why it’s especially crucial to be transparent about your availability during the holiday season.
Like the restaurant in the example, businesses can send automations when they cannot fulfill new orders during busy periods. These types of automations help companies manage their intake without upsetting hungry customers.
While bare-bone automations like the examples above can set appropriate customer expectations, you can go the extra mile by routing customers elsewhere for more immediate assistance. Some companies will redirect customers to a self-service help center, while others might provide alternative communication methods.
The following are examples of different routing messages your support team can trigger when they’re unavailable or experiencing busier than average response times.
Examples of automations with routing
A knowledge base is the most-used self-service tool by customers — making it an ideal routing destination for companies who have one. An FAQ or blog is another self-service destination companies can send their customers to.
Here is an example of a text-based automation for an open business that cannot reply to incoming messages due to busyness. In this example, the company asks customers with urgent needs to call instead of text to filter assistance by priority.
Businesses in the medical field commonly direct patients to call 911 for emergencies.
Businesses can send their customers to an order or lead form to not miss out on potential sales, even when they’re closed for long periods during the holidays.
When to trigger automations
Now that you have a better understanding of what customer support automation messages look like, you’ll need to know when to trigger them. You can configure automations to set-off immediately or prompt them to send after a designated time limit. (Psst! These Automation features are available to Textline customers on our platform.)
When to trigger automations immediately
Companies generally trigger automations immediately when there are known delays or closures. Some reasons companies will kick-off an instantaneous response include:
- Being contacted outside of business hours
- Holiday closures
- An ongoing disruption in regular operations
- Known delays related to the busy holiday season or pandemic
When to trigger automations after a set time
In contrast to immediate triggers, businesses can send timed automations when there is an unexpected slowdown in their workflow that affects their accepted service-level agreement (SLA) or average response time.
Your SLA or average response time is also a great benchmark to determine how long you wait before activating an automation. For example, a company may shoot an automation if a customer hasn’t received a response in 10 minutes because that’s higher than their SLA.
The bottom line
Depending on your company’s support workflow, you may only need to use a standard out-of-office auto-response, or you’ll cycle through a variation of these examples daily. What matters most is that you and your customers are on the same page regarding expectations.
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