I love to receive out of-office-replies. Seriously, more often than not, out-of-office replies contain valuable information that I can use to better understand an organization or the person. All of which is useful to help me build a better relationship with them.
Organizations should discuss the importance of leveraging the information that is often provided in a typical out-of-office reply (additional contact names, phone numbers, and email addresses.) Obviously, from a B2B sales perspective, this information is valuable to the sales process. Identification of influencers is often difficult. If the reply provides another colleague as an alternative contact, more than likely they will have some influence on the opportunity in which sales is working.
If the person provides specific information as to being on vacation or attending a tradeshow, this information can be used to break the ice, create rapport, and better understand the person.
Marketing and Sales should be aligned with the importance of capturing and updating the customer database with this self-disclosed valuable piece of information. For email marketers, it might not be in your best interest to ignore or potentially worse, auto-delete out-of-office replies. As marketing sends out mass emails, they should consider the impact of having the “from address” be from a real person (department head, a sales person, or account manager). If using an alias address (info@, marketing@, etc.) a specific person should be assigned to receive the out-of-office replies and be responsible for processing the information accordingly.