"I will be out of the office until Tuesday, August 19. If your matter is urgent, please contact my assistant, Robin Hood, at 222-555-7777, or reach me on my cell phone at 222-555-9999. Thank you."
You have a Blackberry–everybody does. Use it. This is the 21st Century. We have technology that allows people to communicate from virtually any place on the planet. You’re in a service business. Act like it.
To really ice the cake, there are a staggering number of times when, within minutes of receiving the delightful auto-reply, I get a responsive email. Gee, thanks for the chance to get two emails. I really don’t get enough so you really made me feel special.
To be sure, there are places on the planet where you cannot communicate remotely. If you go to one of those places, by all means, take advantage of the auto-reply feature. And there are times–trials come to mind–when you will simply be unable to respond in a predictable or timely manner. Again, feel free to use the auto-reply. But the occasions when use of the feature is justified are very limited.
Thank you for letting me vent.