Jan 5, 2010

Keep your team or client up to date!

A few minutes ago I received one of the automatic notices from ProZ that I mostly ignore for lack of time. This one turned out not to be a project RFP but rather an update thanking the masses who had responded and expressed interest in the project. What the details of the original job notice are I don't know, nor do they interest me. I thought the courtesy expressed by Mr. Duck of ICON Linguistics, LLC was rather nice and out of the ordinary, but what really caught my attention was his novel approach to keeping the interested parties informed.

The company set up a temporary mail address with an autoresponder. When someone sends an e-mail to this address, an automated mail gets sent back with current details of the product status. What a nice idea!

I have used an autoresponder on one of my business group mail addresses (translation à simmer-lossner.com) for the clients who want confirmation that a message has arrived at our mail server. On rare occasions, that server at our hosting company has swallowed the mail, but in general it's a reliable indication that the communication has succeeded. Many of us also use autoresponders to indicate planned holidays or absence from the workplace. But these messages are all attached to regular mail accounts used for correspondence. Although the idea of an e-mail address used strictly for information is surely not original (similar arrangements have been around for faxes for ages), this is the first time I've encountered it

Some possible applications relevant to my way of working might be
  • Project update for a customer or team (seldom)
  • Quick advice for particular procedures (like the old fax info centers). For example, my up-to-date advice on converting PDFs for translation work might be sent as an autoresponse via PDF@information-now.com or whatever.
  • Availability. It's a nuisance to keep things like my ProZ calendar updated, and we get frequent calls just to find out if we might be available at some particular time. Although I'm generally pleased to talk to the callers, often we're both quite busy, and if a quick e-mail to capacity@supertranslator.com tells them what they want to know and saves everyone time, all the better. In our office we work as a team, and customers often want to know Monique's availability for certain things and mine for others, so for us it would make sense to have information for both of us on that autoresponder.
I'm sure there are other good uses of this idea. Somewhere in my endless folders of information I even have an eBook from some marketing guru that focused entirely on the value of autoresponders for business. I read it a few years ago with some interest, but I don't recall seeing anything like what the outsourcer did here, and I finished the eBook thinking that I was pretty much covered for what I could really use. Now I have a few new ideas, so thank you once again, Mr. Duck :-)

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