As I think back to my time working with correspondence, and even my time as a ski patroller and soccer coach, one of the main themes that always stuck out was the importance of responding quickly to inquiries (or in the case of my brief patroller career, injuries) and setting appropriate expectations.
A constituent writing to your office, just like someone hurting on a ski slope, wants to have a quick response and wants to know that their correspondence has not fallen into a black hole. Too often Congressional offices ignore this imperative and take days and sometimes even weeks to respond to constituent questions. Of course, sometimes it DOES take days (or even weeks) to get an answer to a constituent question, especially at this time of year when everything is coming fast (or maybe you are a new office and have to create an entire library from scratch!). Questions also often involve controversial issues or are just plain complicated. That’s where an auto-response can turn an interaction that is confusing and frustrating for the constituent into one that makes sense and leaves them with an overall positive impression of your office.
What makes an effective Auto-reply? It needs to accomplish two basic tasks: acknowledge that the constituent’s message was received and let them know when they will receive a thorough response later–Bonus points if you can also provide some relevant information on the constituent’s topic. Be sure to NOT set expectations that you can’t meet. If it might take up to a month to respond then say that, even if you would really like to get that down to one or two weeks. No one will be upset if you respond earlier than they are expecting.
Let me show you a quick example I wrote based on some effective auto-responses I’ve seen used.
If you want to fully utilize our product functionality, you can also set up different auto-responses to correspond to what topic the constituent selects on the website. If you’re interested in finding out more about that, please contact email@example.com and we can help you with the setup.
Still reading this? Wow, I think you need a reward for making it this far down. Check out this picture that has absolutely nothing to do with auto-replies!
Now that we have a good response what do we need to do to add it to the system? I’m glad you asked!
First, let’s add the letter to the system. An auto-response is a bit different from a normal letter, though, so you will need to have administrator access. Find the wrench icon in the upper right and click on the System Tables option. If you don’t see it then you probably don’t have access and will need to give us a call at 202-355-9339 or email our support at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Find the e-mail template link on the left and then select the “new template” option. Auto-responses are actually considered templates so that is what we will be creating.
Simply change the type to Auto-reply and enter your response text in the editor.
To put your Auto Response in place, you will need to add it to the correct import profile. That’s just a fancy way of saying that we need to make sure we are responding only to the e-mails which come in from the website. The mail system can receive messages from several sources, and in order to keep those straight each source has a different import profile.
To access them, you will again need administrator access, just click on the wrench icon again and then select “Import Channels.”
Then find and select the import channel labeled “Form Mail”.
Scroll down to the Auto Response section, and you will see the newly created option. Just select it, press save, and viola! You’re almost done.
Don’t forget to send in a test message so you can make sure the final product is perfect! If you have any issues with these steps, please do not hesitate to contact our support team at 202-355-9339 OR email@example.com.
Thanks for sticking with me and please let me know if you found this informative, have suggestions for future topics or just want to say Hi! Just e-mail our team at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can give our main line a call at 202-355-9355 and someone will get you to me.
Until next time,