I often judge professionals by their responsiveness, or lack thereof. Communication is a key component of providing exceptional client service. When I say “client”, I don’t mean just the external person you are servicing. Client’s should be anyone you interact with, both internal and external. Are you as responsive to your internal client as you are to your external client?
I sometimes send emails with a quick question and it takes hours, or maybe days to get a response. I dread sending emails to people that I know aren’t going to respond quickly. It requires more effort and follow-up on my end when a simple response would make things a lot easier. I’d rather someone respond quickly and tell me they will get back to me as opposed to no response at all. I just appreciate the acknowledgement. I’ve heard people make reference to others being “too persistent”. It’s likely that the reason someone is perceived as being too persistent is because they have sent you an email that you haven’t replied to. If you are reading this thinking, “I am so busy, I can’t possibly answer every email quickly”, I encourage you to think again.
I was listening to a podcast where a business woman was talking about how many emails she gets on a given day. Her role requires her to work with people across the globe, so she is getting emails all hours of every day. She found herself responding to emails as soon as she woke up, through the workday, into dinner, up until she went to bed. That doesn’t allow for a good work/life balance and leads to burn out. She decided to change her method and started blocking out one hour in the morning and one hour at the end of the day specifically for emails. It gave her more time to focus on other tasks while also enjoying time away from work. She still checks her emails and responds to those that are ‘urgent’, but the majority of her emails are answered twice per day and she hasn’t received any feedback regarding a lag in response time. She found a way to please her audience by ensuring she responds timely while also giving herself the time she needs away from her emails. If someone who gets hundreds of emails from people across the globe can do it, so can you.
Here are five tips to help you get off the “unresponsive” list –
- Organize your emails. Flag things that require follow-up and use folders to file other emails
- Follow the 24-hour rule. Reply to all emails within 24 hours, even if you don’t have the answer
- Set expectations. When replying to an email that requires you to gather more information, let the sender know when they can expect a follow-up from you. Don’t leave them hanging
- Use your calendar. If the reminder email flag doesn’t work for you, put a reminder on your calendar so that you don’t forget to follow-up
- Be proactive. Even if you need extra time, be proactive and send an email before the person has to send you another reminder or request for status update
We can’t control how quickly other people respond but I’m hopeful that if we all work on our responsiveness, other people will be encouraged to as well. Do you have any other tips on how to be more responsive? Send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear from you!
– Jenna Whelan, VP Consulting and Research Services