Ahhhh, it’s that time of year – the time to drag your bathing suit out of storage and swap your work shoes for flip flops. Oh yes, we’re talking about vacation season.
At least, that’s true for most people. For small business owners, summer travel is a little more complicated. And while we’ve already shown how you can take a vacation from the office, many entrepreneurs have a slightly more day-to-day concern when it comes to vacation: their email inboxes.
Email is one of the most important – and inescapable – elements of office life. Accordingly, we all know the drill: when you won’t have Internet access for more than 24 hours, it’s time to set up an auto-responder. It reads something like this: “Thank you for your message. I’ll be out of the office and without email access from August 10-15, and will reply to messages by August 17. If this is urgent, please call 800-xxx-xxxx.”
But an auto-responder is just a Band-Aid: it doesn’t address the real problem.
The Email Mountain
Auto-responders are both good and bad. They’re good because they’re a way to let business contacts know that 1) you’ve gone radio silent; 2) you’ll be gone for a set period of time; 3) they can expect a response by a certain date; and 4) there’s an alternate contact if they have an urgent need or request.
On the downside, the thought of an unanswered inbox, piling up day after day with work-related emails, will be a source of stress throughout your vacation. Your mind won’t let you relax when it’s worrying about what if. And when you’re on vacation, the last thing you should be doing is letting work stress you out. The whole purpose of being away is to refresh and rejuvenate.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. An auto-responder doesn’t resolve the problem of thousands of emails accumulating in your inbox. An auto-responder doesn’t answer your emails for you. And when you get home, and wade through those emails (and everything they entail) you’ll probably need another vacation!
Besides, an auto-responder isn’t a point of contact for customers. And an auto-responder doesn’t handle emergencies.
But you know who does? A business-grade virtual assistant.
Vacation Email: Leave it to Your Business-Grade VA
A business-grade virtual assistant is the answer to your stress, to your customers’ needs, to your overflowing inbox, to your office emergencies, to keeping the business ticking over while you are away – the answer to all of it.
While you’re on vacation, your VA can:
- Filter emails: She’ll sort the spam from the personal from the business-as-usual from the need-an-answer-yesterday. Tell your VA how you’d like her to filter your emails, and it’s done.
- Answer standard emails: In many cases, emails fall into a standard question-and-response format. For example, a customer emails about a common troubleshooting question or shipping clarification, and you answer with the common troubleshooting solution or email tracking info. Have your VA answer these types of emails on your behalf, with the layered benefit of not only keeping your customers happy but also whittling down the bulk of your vacation inbox.
- Answer non-standard emails: One of the benefits to working with a business-grade VA is that you’ve built your relationship over months or years. She understands your company and you, and she also understands your clients. Chances are, your VA knows how to answer many non-standard, non-emergency emails (especially if she has a background in customer service). For peace of mind, set up a trial run before vacation, to help your VA get the hang of answering any kind of email that comes your way.
- Forward urgent/emergency emails: One of the most stressful aspects of going away is the nagging, ever-present worry that you’re missing something important – an urgent order, an SOS from a valued customer, or an emergency notice from a provider. Your VA can free you of that worry: she’ll call, text, or forward the email to a private address to alert you to pressing concerns. You’ll never have to worry that you’ve missed something again.
And that’s not all. Your business-grade VA can do a lot more than run email defense during your absence: she can handle customer service, handle website administration, coordinate e-commerce, keep your marketing activities and projects rolling, and more – almost anything you can delegate during your time off, your VA can handle during your time off.
So go on, then, give vacation a chance and come back refreshed and ready to move your business forward.