When we make a telephone call and leave a message, we know it may be a few hours, or (unfortunately) a few days before we receive a return call. It is just what we have come to expect. However, with an email message, we have come to expect something more, perhaps because the entire thing is sent and delivered at the push of a button. The recipient knows instantly what we are in need of … and given our desire for immediate gratification, we expect a response just as fast.
It doesn’t happen like that, does it?
Email has made communication much easier for us, so much so that messages are sent off at a moment’s thought; questions, pertinent information, jokes, things to be aware of but require no action, causes to support … there is no end to what comes through the in-box. And therein exists a problem of its own — our email in-boxes are so full of stuff that they often aren’t looked at, let alone acted upon. Delete, file, follow-up on, follow-up with, answer, respond to … these are some of the things that should happen with email.
Please note the last action — respond to. What does that mean? Quite simply, it means let the recipient know you received it. When a person sends an email message and receives absolutely no response whatsoever, there are questions: “Did it go through? Was there a problem with my information/request? Is the recipient not interested?” We start imagining all sorts of negative reasons as to why we don’t hear back, when it is just a matter of the other person being occupied elsewhere.
So do us a favor, please. When you receive an email, send a timely response — within 24 hours. If what is needed will take longer than that, don’t put off responding until you are ready — the sender is probably going nuts. Instead, send a quick note: “Received your email and will be in touch on ‘Friday’.” You have just let the recipient know when to expect to hear from you, while at the same time, you may have saved yourself from receiving multiple “Did you get my email?” messages.
It is a matter of thinking about the other person for a moment, perhaps remembering how you feel when you are in that position, and taking quick action.
It’s simple courtesy.