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Are Your Email Reply Time Expectations Unreasonable?

Setting email response expectations.

Do you expect those you email to stop everything and respond — like now? Are you one of those folks who after you send an email, if a response is not in your inbox within 10 minutes, you pickup the phone and ask “Didn’t you get my email?”

On the other hand, if business associates rarely respond promptly or you have to do multiple follow-ups, that says more about them than you. Time to let them know what your communication needs are.

State the Obvious

If you need a quick reply to an email, state that in the email. This is how you can inform the recipient of your needs. Of course, keep in mind you do not know their availability to actually meet those needs.

Stating that you either need a response pronto, or by a specific date, is an approach to use selectively. Only make this request if the topic is time sensitive and genuinely that important.

With that said, if that is the case, picking up the phone and calling the person directly in lieu of an email is probably in order. To make an expedited claim with every email (Are you an Return Receipt Abuser too?) will dilute the urgency of your future requests. You have heard about the boy who cried “Wolf!”, right?

Manage Expectations

Professional courtesy dictates that you respond to business emails in a timely basis. Understanding the fact that “timely” is relative and subjective means it is best to try and manage expectations.

Of course both sides should do their best to respond as soon as they can. But not all prioritize their email communications as they should. On the other hand smart business folks realize that “timely” can be a competitive tool.

For those who have to pick up the phone shortly after sending an email due to a lack of reply wondering if it was received; patience is a virtue. Rather than babysit your requests, why not work on other things and then do a follow-up email the next morning?

By taking this approach you reflect respect for the other side’s time. Because the fact remains that we don’t know their schedule or availability.

Early Bird Gets the Worm

Now that we have all the above on the table, keep in mind that in business “the early bird gets the worm.” Those who respond promptly and professionally will make a positive impression and therefore better their chances of increasing their bottom line.

By being prompt responders you show those who email you how easy it will be to have business email conversations with you. By being patient senders, we show respect for the other sides time and schedule.

Consistent delays in responding and you risk looking uninterested, unorganized and unprofessional. Which doesn’t bode well for building strong and reliable business partnerships.

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