We’ve all experienced it. Friends or family members don’t respond to your text within the usual timeframe and you either a) start to worry or b) get annoyed. To prevent this upset, users can set up an away text, so people who text them will know everything is fine.
This article includes steps for consumers who want to set up an away text message on their personal cellphones as well as businesses that want to set up an auto reply message using business texting software. This first section is for consumers who use iOS and Android operating systems. If you’re looking for business texting solutions, keep scrolling.
For consumers: setting up away text messages
For all the bells and whistles and awesome features that come with smartphones, surprisingly, they don’t include an auto reply (away text feature) built into their native texting app. However, there are some workarounds for iOS and Android phones, described below.
How to set up an away text on an iPhone
Because Apple (iOS) doesn’t allow third-party apps to send text messages to your contacts using the messaging app installed on your phone, you can’t download one that will send away text messages (auto replies). However, there are a few alternatives that will work in a pinch. They’re listed below based on their usefulness.
Option 1: Away Messages app
The App Store offers an Away Messages app ($0.99) that allows users to manually send an away message they have previously written and saved. While not completely automated, it saves you from having to type a new away message every time you want to let senders know you’re not available to chat. To get started, follow the steps below.
Step 1: After you’ve downloaded the app, open a text message and click the Away Messages app icon that appears between the camera icon and the text box.
Step 2: Go to the section labeled “Reason,” to select the reason you’re away. Examples include “in a meeting” or “on vacation.” Or, you can scroll down to the custom option to add your own message, such as “out for a hike.” This feature lets you create as many custom answers as you’d like.
Step 3: The next time someone texts you and you don’t have time or don’t feel like writing out a response, simply click the app icon next to the message box and your away message will be visible. Then, all you need to do is hit send.
Option 2: Text replacement feature
Another idea is to use the iPhone’s text replacement feature. While this function wasn’t designed for auto replies, with a little advance setup, you can write any number of away messages without needing to type the messages out each time.
Step 1: Go into Settings > General > Keyboards > Text Replacement
Step 2: In the top left corner, click the + to create your text replacement word. Here, you can type your away message, such as “I can’t respond right now, but I’ll get back to you soon.”
Step 3: In the Shortcut line, write the word that you want to automatically replace with your message, such as “away.” Now, any time you want to send your message, just type “away” and the message the recipient receives will be the full away text message you created.
Option 3: Read receipts
While this option doesn’t let you send a message, it lets the sender know that you haven’t read their message yet, so they won’t feel slighted that you haven’t responded. All you need to do is turn on the “read receipts” feature in iMessenger.
Step 1: Open Settings > Messages > Send Read Receipts
If the sender begins to wonder why you haven’t texted them back, they can check their phone to see if the “Read” receipt is shown. If not, they’ll know that you haven’t seen their text yet (unless you sneaked a peek when the alert banner popped up on your phone).
How to set up an away text on an Android Phone
The Android OS does allow users to download third-party apps to send away texts to their contact list. The first step is to visit the Google Play store.
Auto Reply App
One of the most popular (and free) texting apps in the Google Play store is called Auto Reply. It lets users create a custom away message and set the dates and times when the autoresponder message will be sent.
Once the app has been installed and you’ve set your preferences, your contacts can start receiving your away message if they text you. There are a lot of options in the settings. For example, you can decide the times you’d like your away message to be sent. It even lets you choose which contacts should receive an away message.
Here are some additional features included in the Android app:
- Set up multiple replies for incoming messages (busy, in a meeting, etc.)
- Set auto response window by time, weekdays, repeat weekly
- Only sends one response to the same contact during the specified timeframe
- Manual status lets users set the default status and turn it on/off manually
- View a report of the text messages sent
For business: setting up an away text (auto reply message)
Texting is such a convenient communication tool that customers may text your business during all hours, even when it’s closed. That’s why setting up an away text message is such a smart business strategy.
If a business can’t respond to incoming texts within a certain timeframe, even during business hours, using an automated message, also known as an autoresponder or away message, reassures customers that their message was received and that a response to their text inquiry will be forthcoming as soon as possible.
Below is an image of a text sent to a customer who contacted the business after hours. The customer immediately received a reply text stating that the business is closed but they’ll get back to them soon. It also shows the software scheduling tool the business used to determine when the reply will be sent.
When using Zipwhip’s business texting software, the auto reply schedule can be set by checking the boxes for the day of the week and adding the times a business wants the message to be sent. It can be changed easily by unchecking the boxes or updating the hours. To bypass the schedule and turn the autoreply feature off completely, simply toggle the “On/Off” button on the user interface screen when logged in.
When to use an away text message for businesses
Deciding when to use an away text depends on your business and the hours your staff is available to respond to incoming texts. For most businesses, automatic messages are used for the following situations:
- After hours
- Employee lunch breaks
- Staff meetings
- Emergency closures (severe weather, power outages, natural disasters)
Setting up an away text for other situations can be helpful as well, such as when you’re experiencing heavy foot traffic because of a promotion you’re running, or if certain hours are busier than others. It’s best to let customers know why there may be a delay in responding and when they can expect a personal response.
Set up an away text using Zipwhip business texting software
One of the benefits of using business texting software is the Auto Reply feature. Auto replies can simply inform customers that the business is closed and that a response will be sent when they re-open. Or they can also include additional information, such as a link to your website with answers to some FAQs.
Follow these steps to set up auto replies using Zipwhip’s texting software. You can also watch the video.
Use this feature to send an automated message based on specific days and times you select.
- Click Auto Reply on the left navigation menu
- Click Add Auto Reply in the General section (located on the lower half of the page)
- Assign an easy to identify name and write your desired 600-character message
- Choose when you want the message to be sent
- Click Save
Regular business hours auto reply text message
- Use this feature to send an automated message based on when your business is open or closed.
- Click Auto Reply on the left navigation menu
- Click Add Auto Reply
- Assign your weekly hours of operation and select your time zone
- Click Next
- Write your message for each type of reply: “During” and “After Office Hours”
- Click Save
Set customer expectations for response times for away texts
If customers text your business after hours, they’ll expect a response within hours of your business re-opening, so let them know if that’s not the case. If your autoresponder is sent during business hours, your message should be specific about when they should expect a reply.
Some businesses benefit from leaving an away message on for much of the day, such as insurance agents or sales representatives who have their own text line and may be assisting a customer when another customer texts them. Setting up this type of away message gives them time to finish helping one customer before starting a conversation with another. Need some inspiration to get started? Check out our auto reply text templates.
Additional tip: How to set customer expectations when using auto replies
Learn how to start texting customers with our ultimate guide
Texting is one of the easiest and most effective tools a business can adopt to improve customer engagement, increase sales and streamline staff productivity. But as with the adoption of any new tool, there are important steps to implementing a business-texting strategy effectively.
Our free e-book walks you through those steps — from choosing the right tool and training your team to marketing your new texting capability and sending your first message.
Download your free copy today! The Ultimate Guide to Texting Your Customers