The email black hole
Have you ever sent an email to someone and then gotten no response? I’ve had several people tell me that they are surprised at how often they don’t receive replies to emails – even just a “Thanks, I’ll get back to you soon.” I have experienced the same thing and it always baffles me, especially when I send something that would warrant a reply.
I realize people are busy and we are all inundated with too many emails, but, even if you don’t have an answer to a question or have the information someone is requesting it’s important to acknowledge the email for a few reasons. 1. To let the sender know you received the email and it didn’t go into the email black hole. 2. To inform the sender of your intent for getting back to them. Here are some examples of email non-response situations friends have shared with me.
One friend sent an email to a designer who was working on a design project for her. The email had information the designer requested – copy and design specs. The designer did not respond. My friend had no idea if the information was received and when her project would be done.
A colleague sent an email to another colleague suggesting dates for an agreed upon meeting. My colleague always blocks out the dates and times in his calendar when he suggests meeting times so that he doesn’t double book himself. But the person he was trying to meet with took more than a week to respond and in the meantime my colleague missed scheduling other meetings on those dates.
A friend sent an email to a coworker asking for information about a project they were working on together. The coworker never responded and my friend was not able to meet a deadline on the project because her coworker didn’t get her the information she needed.
Another colleague sent a proposal to a prospective client who called her about a training for his staff. The prospective client had been referred to my colleague with a recommendation from a coworker, had a date and time for the training and agreed to the price on the phone. In other words, the prospect was completely on board with working with my colleague, but he didn’t respond to the follow-up email with the proposal. My colleague had no idea if the email was received, putting her in a bit of an awkward spot. Should she call the prospect to ask if he received the proposal and risk looking like a pest? Should she assume he did receive the email and will get back to her when he is ready? How long should she wait before following up with him?
As you can see, when we don’t respond to emails it can cause a lot of problems for the sender. The sender should not have to track you down to get a response. Here are some etiquette guidelines to heed.
- If you receive an email and don’t have answers to what is being asked right then go ahead and acknowledge the email and state when you expect to get back to the sender with an answer.
- If someone sends you an email with documents attached, reply that you received the information. Sometimes emails with attachments get caught in spam filters so it’s important to let people know you received them. In the case of the designer and the prospective client above, they should have acknowledged the emails and stated when they would get back to the sender.
- If the sender is proposing a meeting with dates, respond as soon as you can so that person can free up the dates that don’t work for you for other meetings.
The bottom line is to respond to people’s emails. It is the courteous thing to do.
Have you experienced people not responding to your emails? How did the non-response affect you? Have you ever been guilty of not responding to emails? If so, why did you not respond?
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