A few days ago we discovered a Google Feature called “Canned Responses”. We found it perfectly handy when you need to send similar email responses out to a number of people. This easy-to-set-up tool allows you to save an email as a canned response and use it over and over again without needing to copy and paste. You can create as many canned responses as you need. This feature is not an automatic reply like the typical ‘out of office message’. It’s a way to have different saved responses directly in your Gmail account. At the end of this post, you’ll find some tutorials.
We know from our own experience at RareConnect.org, that the number of emails patient associations can send on a weekly basis can be considerable. Mostly, these are emails from patients living with a rare disease or their families, requesting more information about their illness, asking for the name of a specialist or stating that they suspect they have an illness and need guidance in order to obtain a diagnosis…
Although it is satisfying to be able to help these people that are going through really difficult times, who we deeply empathize with, sometimes patient associations are overwhelmed with requests. There are many things to do day to day in an association, and sometimes they do not have the necessary staff that also have their jobs and their families.
Please do not misinterpret us, we stand by more personalised communication when it is necessary, and we believe it is much more effective in these cases. However, to answer frequently asked questions that are easily answerable, using automatic replies can be useful, not only for the sender but also for the recipient. It is much faster than writing the same message over and over again, even if copying and pasting from another source. This way the sender is more productive and the recipient receives a message that has been carefully written.
Important! Review these messages regularly to ensure they are up to date, that the links work and the instructions continue to be valid.
Canned responses are also a double-edged sword if used as an easy solution when they truly do not fully answer the patient’s questions. Before using a canned response, we must ask ourselves, “Is my response going to answer all the questions that the patient/family has posed?” If no, this is when we should edit the body of the email removing some parts and adding others.
It is important to give each reply a personal touch; such as addressing the patient/family by their name, thanking them for getting in contact with you and signing off in the appropriate manner. One way of ensuring we do not forget to insert the correct name is by marking the sections that need to be adjusted for each recipient in bold or different colour so that they stand out and so that we remember to change them.
What’s your experience with the Canned responses? Do you use them?
Does your organisation receive lots of patient requests? How does your organisation deal with all the emails?