Canned responses/templates are important for businesses and individuals who receive many emails daily, or for people who often have to send out many of the same emails. People who don't have the time to respond to each inquiry, or write out each outbound email, will find that canned responses can streamline their productivity.
This guide will discuss what canned responses are and how they affect business operations. This guide will also provide details on enabling the canned responses feature of Gmail and how to create one from scratch. After that, the best practices for using and managing those canned responses will be discussed so that it's organized and not confusing, especially for those that are either new to using this feature or for those sharing canned responses with a team.
Note: Gmail has renamed "Canned Responses" to "Templates". We use the two terms interchangeably in this article.
What is a Canned Response in Gmail?
A canned response is a ready-made template that people use to respond to any appropriate inquiry that is repeatedly asked. For example, a business owner looking to expand and scale their business may be receiving partnership offers and news about their respective industry. Or, there may be several inquiries that can potentially lead to more and better opportunities, so they need to reply to these emails as soon as possible.
Business owners need not manually type their responses for each email with canned responses, saving them a significant amount of time that they can use for other productive activities.
Who Benefits from Canned Responses in Gmail?
Most people who benefit from canned responses are those who get a lot of important emails daily. Customer service representatives and after-sales agents, for instance, need to attend to a lot of customers every day, especially if they are running a rapidly growing business.
When you're in sales or customer service, you are often asked about a new product or assistance regarding a technical issue with the product. You are compelled to reply immediately to impress upon your potential and existing customers that you are serious about attending to their needs. Besides maintaining a good relationship with your customer, HR staff who need to answer routine employee inquiries and technical support also benefit from canned responses, especially if the company has many employees.
When to Use Canned Responses in Gmail
Businesses often send canned responses to internal and external customers asking questions. Most of the time, canned responses are extremely useful in responding to more customers and clients in a short period. Canned responses are ideal for receiving multiple inquiries and responding to them quickly. When the volume of such messages increases, it becomes necessary to automate the process.
Uses of Canned Responses
The most important thing to remember is that canned responses must be general but editable to fit the customer's needs. That said, the most general, canned responses can be used to answer basic FAQs, such as questions about the product's availability and instructions.
Another thing that canned responses are used for is the elimination of typos. No company can afford to send out manually typed responses prone to typos that even the most detail-oriented person is susceptible to.
The Rule of Threes
Sometimes, you'll find yourself repeatedly responding to the same question and providing the same answer. Automate the process by creating canned responses if you find yourself doing that. That is what the rule of threes is about.
In an example of multiple customers asking the same question, you can apply the rule of three by realizing that if three or more customers are asking the same question, then you can make a template to use as a canned response so you won't have to worry about manually typing the reply again in the future.
Enabling Canned Responses in Gmail
To enable canned responses in Gmail, you have to access and configure some things in the Settings tab of the Gmail website. Below is the step-by-step process on how to enable canned responses:
- Click on the Setting icon (the gear icon) at the top left corner of the website, then select "See all settings" from the menu.
- Click on the "Advanced" tab.
- Scroll down further and find the "Templates" section of the page, then click on the "Enable" button.
- Finally, scroll down further to the bottom of the page and click on "Save changes".
Creating Canned Responses in Gmail
Now that you've enabled the canned responses, the next step is creating the canned responses yourself. This part will give you an idea of fully utilizing the potential of canned responses.
Composing a Canned Response in Gmail
- Personalizing the canned response
Personalizing is an important aspect of canned responses. You may save a lot of time sending out generalized emails to answer customers' inquiries, but from the customer's point of view, it's pretty easy to spot if an email is an automated message or crafted to answer their question. To personalize a canned response, you have to put a space in the email that mentions the customer's name, so they'll know that you have read their email and didn't simply skim it and reply with a half-baked response.
- Setting the tone of canned responses
Businesses must use a tone consistent with their brands and be distinct from the customers' perspective. Canned responses must be engaging enough for people to read the email. Bland replies containing walls of text typically end up in the customer's spam inbox.
- Using visuals: Photos, screenshots, and videos
Certain concerns need to be addressed with visuals. For instance, a customer's problem navigating the website of a subscription-based online service is best provided with screenshots on how to fix their problems since it's usually hard to give out instructions without practical advice.
- Using links
Links are a great way to get to the bottom of a customer's problem. The link may lead you to an article that fully explains how to fix a problem; the email is not the best place to upload a complete how-to guide.
- Proofreading your canned response
Finally, ensure that your canned response has no typos or grammatical errors. Canned responses should be able to minimize your proofreading time because you don't have to manually type the response yourself and double-check their content each time. By proofreading your canned response right from the beginning, you can rest assured that you won't have the same problem in the future.
To create your first canned response, follow the instructions below:
- Compose a new message.
Write a new message as you would when writing a new email to someone. Make sure you fill-up the "Subject", "To", and "Email body" fields to ensure that you're on the right track.
- In the bottom right of the email draft box, click on the three dots beside the trash icon.
- Hover your mouse over "Templates", click "Save draft as template", and click "Save as new template".
- To locate your canned responses easily, enter a unique name in the pop-up box field, then select "Save".
- You may now access your canned response through the "Templates" menu item.
Using Canned Responses in Gmail
Once you've succeeded in creating your personalized canned response, it's time to learn how to use it, as well as keep your templates organized and shareable with teammates.
Inserting Canned Responses
When you get an email where you think you can respond with a canned response, open the message and select "More options" at the bottom right of the box.
Hover your mouse to "Templates" and select the canned response you want to insert.
Sending Canned Response as an Auto Reply
- Create a new filter. Go to "Settings" and select "Filters and Blocked Addresses." Click on this and find "Create a new filter" in the middle of the screen.
- Select your criteria for an auto-reply. You can set up different criteria, including who it's from, the subject's keywords, and the email body itself.
After setting up the criteria, click "Create filter".
Click the "Send template" check box. From here, you can choose which filter to send as an auto-reply.
- Finally, select "Create filter" to save your settings.
Sharing Canned Responses with your Team
Sharing canned responses in Gmail with your team through Google Keep is possible. Here are the steps on how to do it:
- Log in to the Google Admin console using an administrator account
- Go to Apps
- Go to Google Workspace
- Select "Keep"
- Click "Service status"
- Click "On for everyone" and then click "Save"
Pro Tips for Using Canned Responses in Gmail
You still have to consider a few more things in using canned responses. This section gives you some insights on the best practices of maintaining and organizing your templates to save time finding the right canned response to a simple inquiry.
Naming Your Canned Responses Effectively
Naming your canned responses can help you save time finding which of the saved templates are meant for customers and which are for clients and partners. Effective labeling is important for organizing canned responses and points you to several options to respond to common questions.
Providing a Consistent Look and Feel
Much like how you would set the tone of your emails, the screenshots and other visuals you provide in the email must be consistent. People get more engaged when content and the navigation experience are consistent and easily recognizable. It's important to leverage that and optimize your canned responses in a way that is not bland and all over the place.
Focusing on the Message's Goal
Canned messages are pre-set responses to the most common questions, so there's no reason for you to struggle with how to respond to these questions. For instance, you don't have to insert some advertisement about your new product when the customer only wants answers about a specific issue—no need to beat around the bush-focus on the information the customer wants from you.
Avoiding the Loss of Canned Responses
When saving several canned responses, people tend to misplace some of them in a huge pile. When you have too many canned responses, they become prone to accidental deletion because they're sometimes determined to be duplicated.
For this reason, and others, it's important to organize the templates. One way to do that is to categorize the responses, ranging from responses to clients, potential customers, suppliers, and employees. If a canned response applies to more than one category, e.g., clients and potential customers, you may store them in both categories. Much of this organization process ties back in to having a good naming process, as mentioned before.