This morning I had an email from a business guy asking about how and when one should use Return Receipts (RR). His inquiry was due to one of his associates making this request with every single email that they sent.
Why do Return Receipts even exist?
Personally I think this feature is pretty useless being they can be easily declined. Return receipts are a way of knowing that an email has been opened on the recipient’s computer.
It does not however, mean the opened email has been read. While your confirmation may indicate that the email was “read”, there is no way to guarantee that an email has been read.
Return receipts may be useful in select and rare business communications. For example when one individual wants to confirm that a important communication has been received by the recipient.
However, the problem with Return Receipts is some misuse them. For example on non-critical not time sensitive emails just to “know” the email was received. Don’t be surprised if contacts may become annoyed at this request, feeling it is intrusive or a form of babysitting.
Situations where I can see using an RR the sending of time sensitive or legal communications. In important cases such as this communication is key.
What you do is explain in advance to the other side that you are going to request an RR to confirm their receipt due to the importance of the communication. Then nicely ask that they accept your RR to confirm they did receive your email.
When Return Receipts become annoying…
As we know, in the work environment there is no expectation of privacy. If a supervisor wants to confirm you have received a certain email (of course not every email), simply acknowledge your receipt and go about your business. If you feel there are other reasons behind these requests, contact them to have a sit-down to discuss your concerns.
Now, if a coworker is using RRs for non-critical communications, here again, ask them why. If they cannot provide a valid reason, you are under no obligation to acknowledge your receipt. Not withstanding any company policy to the contrary of course.
Do you communicate with someone who has this feature on for every single email? Send them a nice email with a “Did you know…..” informing them that this is not a feature to be used for every single casual email is the best approach.
Explain that RRs are more for special situations where it is important (not curious) to know an email has been received. Your patience and explanation will help them understand how to better use this feature.
Know that Most RRs will be Ignored
The recipient has the right to determine when/if they want to read an email and reply to it. RRs should be reserved for those instances where it is critical to knowing the email was received/opened. And even then the recipient is under no obligation to accept your request.
I have RRs turned off completely. This due to the number of requests without notice, from folks I don’t know and/or for what I deem as non-critical.
That said, when advised in advance on an important matter and I can understand why there is an RR requested by the other side, I oblige. However, due to my settings, they would have to ask me to turn acceptance on in advance or I’ll never know one was requested.
You don’t know if your RR will even be seen. How many other folks have the same settings in place and will never see RR requests?
The Bottom Line for Return Receipts
Use RRs for legal issues and important company matters where you need to have some sort of proof or “paper trail” that the email was sent and subsequently opened. Ask in advance if it is that important. Simple!