UPDATE: I thought about this a bit more and realized that this is one of the things taught by Tim Ferriss the author of The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich . His philosophy is different in one huge way. He gives you a person, or several, to contact if you need something specific or immediate assistance. He is removing himself as a bottleneck for information but he is also empowering his staff to solve problems. I could right an entire series of blog post on the importance of having assistants and staff so I won't go into it now.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that these autoresponders are fine IF you still give people a way to get the information they want.
While this is irritating when it happens to me I just smile knowing that this person will not survive the next 5 years in the business. Technology is making it so easy to be available and able to respond from wherever you are. If you really are so busy that you can't shoot back an email from your smartphone (if you don't have a smartphone we really need to talk) then hire an assistant to do it for you. You can even outsource it to a virtual assistant or an MBA in India for a few bucks an hour.
"Your e-mail is important to me. Typically I read and respond to e-mail between the hours of 11:00am - 12:00pm and then again between 5:00pm - 6:00pm"
Is their e-mail important, really? What part of, "I'll get back to you when it's convenient for me", says, "You're important"? I see these "auto responders" a lot when I will e-mail a colleague about something going on in our transaction or just question in general. My first thought is always, "People still use these?" Here's why I say this. In the late-90's when e-mail was quickly becoming the staple of communication between individuals and smart phones with e-mail support were but a far away thought, there was a need for auto reply. In some cases it helped the individual sending an e-mail to know why you might not be responding to their instant communication form immediately and it let them know that their message didn't fall into an e-mail black hole. But just as times have changed, it seems that some agents don't want to change. With millions of today's of our potential buyers and sellers receiving and responding to e-mail directly from their phone, can we really afford to basically tell them, "You're going to have to wait."? Every time I see auto replies like, "I check and respond to e-mail within 24 hours" I seriously cringe.
There was a time that a 24 hour turn around was acceptable; it was right around the time that we attached those shoulder cradles to our land line handsets to take long calls. The truth is, we now have a window of 30 minutes or less response time and frankly with the advancement of instant notifications, it's going to get shorter. Put yourself in their shoes. You're excited about your first home that you've been approved on. You log onto the web, start your search of homes that are available in their price range and then you find it, the perfect house. It's everything you want, you want to see it now so you click the link on the "Contact Me" section of the site. You type all of your information in and ask when you can see it. You click "send" and in 2 seconds you get a reply that tells you, "Thanks for writing me about your home needs! Typically I check mail once a day and when I do, I'll get back to you. Remember, I love referrals!!"
I always wonder if those agents that have these types of auto replies wonder why they usually wind up splitting the commission with another agent. If a person that takes the time to fill out one of your lead generation forms or makes that first contact, they're typically expecting a quick response. If you won't do it, they'll earmark the property they want to see and contact the agent that will get back to them quickly. It's not uncommon for a person looking to sell their home to e-mail numerous agents at the beginning and talk to the first few that respond. If they receive an e-mail that says you will respond on your time, those typically get deleted. Their thought process is, if you're that unavailable at the before you've listed their home, how are you going to be if you did list their home?
"But Eric, I make myself available for those people that are my clients." Great, but what about those people that want to become your client and you've essentially told them that they haven't made "that list" yet?
The truth is, if you can't do it, there are some hungry agents out there biting at the bit to provide that extra level of service and include a 20-minute response time as part of their normal business. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that you have make yourself available within 20-minutes of a buyer or seller contacting you. What I am saying is that it isn't that hard to simply personally reply or call that person to explain that you're with a customer, getting ready to walk into a closing, or simply having lunch and you'll be happy to call them back shortly. Doing this, eliminates that impersonal, cold e-mail that they get with an auto responder and it lets them know that you are an agent on top of their game.
Do yourself a favor, go back into your auto responder and uncheck that box, you'll be glad you did.