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What’s the best way to handle e-mail when customers will be out of the office for extended periods of time?

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Addressing e-mail received while out of the office for extended periods of time can be one of the most frustrating phenomena in business today. People subscribe to receive e-mail communications that are relevant and useful to them in their day-to-day job but, when those messages stack up in the in-box for whatever reason, the recipients don’t reap the benefits of those communications. And what do they do with all of those messages? They sort by “from name,” highlight and delete. And depending on the volume, they may potentially be annoyed with the organization that sent the e-mail, which could be detrimental to future interaction.

I recently returned to work after 12 weeks of maternity leave, only to be greeted by more than 1,600 e-mail messages. Of all the e-mail in my in-box, only 190 were client related, with the remainder being e-mail marketing communications that I have registered for over the years. Then it struck me: The U.S. Postal Service will hold mail, why can’t marketers? Provide an option on your unsubscribe page, or host the option separately, allowing your recipients to temporarily pause or suspend delivery of your e-mail communications over a specified period of time. You may even choose to send an e-mail to the recipient on their return date with an archived list of messages missed while they were away, with links to the articles allowing your recipient to catch up on what they missed in their own time.

The experience would allow recipients to enter a departure and return date, giving them control over the amount of your e-mail in their in-box upon their return. This is not only good news for your recipients but also good news for your conversion rates. You have now systematically removed a nonresponder from the system, which will be positively represented in e-mail conversion rates.

Kara Trivunovic is director of strategic services for Premiere Global Services, eMarketing Solutions (www.premiereglobal.com).

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