Out of Office

What Does OOO Mean? Understanding Out of Office in the Workplace

In the workplace "OOO" stands for "Out of Office." In this article, we'll take a closer look at what OOO means and its implications for businesses.

As a manager of a large team, it's important to have a clear understanding of the different acronyms and terms that are commonly used in the workplace. One such term that you may have come across is "OOO," which stands for "Out of Office." In this article, we'll take a closer look at what OOO means and its implications for businesses.

What Does OOO Stand For?

OOO is an acronym that stands for "Out of Office." It's a common phrase used in business emails and calendar invites to indicate that the sender will be away from work and unavailable for a certain period of time. The phrase is often used when someone is taking a sick day, going on vacation, taking a leave of absence, or working remotely.

From a practical point of view, you might be wondering what does OOO mean in business? Let me give you an example. If an employee is going on vacation, they may set an OOO message on their email and calendar to let others know that they won't be able to respond to emails or attend meetings during that time.

What Does OOO Mean in an Email?

In an email, OOO is often used in the subject line or body of the message to let the recipient know that the sender will be unavailable for a certain period of time. This is typically done by setting an automatic email response that is triggered when an email is received. The OOO message will typically include the dates that the sender will be away, a contact person for urgent matters, and an expected date of return. To learn how to set up an OOO autoresponder in Gmail, see this article I wrote here.

So what does OOO mean at work and what are the implications of setting an autoresponder? Since we know that including OOO in an email autoresponder (especially in the subject line) tells the recipient that whoever they are trying to reach will be away from the office and unavailable for a certain period of time, it's important to have a plan in place to ensure that the team is able to continue working effectively during the employee's absence. I'll also explain further down in this article on why it's so crucial to have an OOO plan in place and I'll also link to an article I wrote that teaches you how to create a proper OOO workflow for your team to follow. But first, let's discuss why traditional OOO autoresponders are ineffective at letting customers know you are away.

Are Generic Autoresponders Effective?

The short answer is No.

The long answer is a little more complicated. From a customer-facing perspective, if you manage a customer success, support, or sales team, these autoresponders are disheartening to receive and can actually negatively affect customer experience. Allow me to explain.

First, it's important to distinguish what I mean by generic autoresponder. The easiest way is to show you. Check out this example of an OOO email autoresponder I received a few of weeks ago when trying to get a hold of my account executive at a service that I pay for. I hid some elements for privacy:

out of office

You can quickly see how this was a negative experience for me as a customer.

1. It's not personalized to me. Because autoresponders in Gmail or Outlook are "catch-all", meaning it's the same templated email that gets sent out to everyone that's trying to get a hold of you, everyone gets the same message. The "Automatic reply" in the subject line does not help the cause either. It makes me feel like I'm not important enough to be responded to by someone at the company who's at work, ready and willing to help me.

2. It makes me feel like I'm not a priority. Because I receive the autoresponder within seconds of sending my email, I immediately think "oh great, my issue is not being solved today". It's a disheartening experience having to reiterate the problem I'm having to Kate's backup, which is Hari in this case.

3. It puts the onus on me, the customer, to get help. Because I'm not routed directly to Hari, Kate's backup, the responsibility has shifted to me. I have to copy Hari's email address, start a new email thread, and copy and paste my original message. This is a frustrating experience for me as a customer.

4. I don't have a working relationship with the backup. How do I know Hari will be able to solve my issues effectively? I've never worked with Hari and they may not know the intricacies of my account (in this case, it's a SaaS service that I pay for). If Kate is away, there's no way she'll be able to loop Hari in on the nuances of my relationship with the company she works for.

5. What if Hari is OOO too? Believe it or not, I've once had to copy and paste my issue to 4 different backups because the first 3 people I contacted (who were all backups of each other) were all out-of-office. Using generic autoresponders does not account for your backup being away or having a heavy workload.

So now you're probably asking yourself: is there a solution to generic autoresponders and the frustrating customer experience they can cause?

Fortunately, there is.

Snoooz - out of office assistant

The Solution to Generic Autoresponders

A revolutionary new way to personalize every outgoing email autoresponder to each of your individual customers is using an out-of-office management platform like Snoooz. 

Check out this autoresponder you can create using a platform like Snoooz:

Out of office message

Let's compare this personalized, dynamic OOO response to the generic OOO response we analyzed earlier. I'll talk about it as if this is a template you are using for you own team members and one of your customers is reaching out to your team with an issue.

1. It is personalized to your customer. This response has a dynamic tag @Sender which will address your customer by their first name. It is a nice personal touch that makes your customer feel like they are being prioritized, which is something I will discuss in my next point in greater detail.

2. It makes your customer feel like they are a priority. Not only can responses now address customers by first name, these OOO templates can be set up so that they do not read "Automatic Reply" in the subject line. They also do not have to be sent within seconds of the customer sending their initial email — the response can be delayed by a few minutes so that it appears as though the recipient wrote the email themselves. Both these things are small but mighty and can help greatly with optics and can also increase customer satisfaction. 

3. The onus is no longer on your customer to get help. Mentioning in the email response that you have spoken to your colleague about the issue, that you've copied them on the email, and that your at-work colleague will respond shortly creates a sense of reassurance for your customer that their issue has been received, it has been discussed, and someone will get back to them. Your customer no longer has to worry about reiterating their issue to someone else in a new email thread if their main point of contact is away.

4. Your customer can trust the backup to handle their relationship with your company. Mentioning that you have spoken to your backup in the email template helps create a sense of ease for your customer. They will understand that, no matter who they talk to at your company, there is always communication taking place and that any issue will be able to be resolved promptly.

5. If your backup is OOO, someone else will be selected. Using an out-of-office management platform like Snoooz allows you to create round robin backup queues, so that if your backup is also OOO, it will route the email to another team member that is at-work. This will also dynamically insert their name in the email response if you use the @BackupName tag, like I did in the example above. You never have to worry about customers being told via OOO responder to seek help from someone who is unavailable. 

As we can see from my example, personalized email autoresponders can be incredibly effective at improving your customer facing out of office experience and overall customer satisfaction. However, autoresponders are just one piece of the OOO puzzle. You need to have a holistic OOO workflow in place to be able to manage OOO employees effectively.

Why Managing OOO Employees Effectively is Important

As a team leader, It is important that you have a clear plan and workflow in place for managing your employees who are taking time off work. It is important for several reasons:

Maintaining Productivity

When an employee is away from work, it's important to ensure that their responsibilities are taken care of by someone else. This helps to maintain productivity and prevent disruptions to the team's workflow.

Ensuring Customer Satisfaction

When an employee is away from work, it's important to ensure that customer needs are still being met. This is particularly important for businesses that rely heavily on customer interactions.

Preventing Burnout

Allowing employees to take time off work is important for their well-being and can help prevent burnout. By managing time off work effectively, managers can ensure that employees are able to recharge and return to work refreshed and ready to tackle new challenges.

Proper Communication

It's important for employees to communicate their absence effectively with their manager and team mates. This includes blocking off their calendars, setting an email autoresponder, among other important tasks they should complete before taking time off. Failure to do so can negatively affect customer experience.

In conclusion, as a manager of a large team, it's important to understand the implications of an OOO message and have a plan in place for managing employees who are taking time off work effectively. This includes ensuring that productivity is maintained, customer needs are met, and employees are able to recharge and return to work refreshed.

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