Email Etiquette When You Have No Time to Answer
Most small business owners are buried in email. This is discouraging since they don’t always get to answer the important ones. Business etiquette suggests that each email should be replied to within 24 hours.
Letting messages go unanswered for longer than this can have a profound negative affect on relationships in their business. The sender is worried that the email was not received or a “no answer” means a negative reply. In many cases, it means neither of these things.
Proper email etiquette is critical because business fortune rise and fall with the economic times. You meet the same people on the way up as you meet on the way down. In other words, today you need something from me and tomorrow I need something from you. If I never returned your email when you needed me, what do you think will happen when the roles are reversed?
Here is how to answer every email within 24 hours, especially on a busy day.
1. Use auto responders. Set up an automatic response from your email system notifying senders with how long it takes on average for you to respond to email. By setting this expectation, the sender knows their email was received and approximately when they will hear from you. The key thing is to then stick to the promised timeframe when answering.
2. Be short. Don’t reply with a novel or something that should be said in a personal phone call or in person conversation. By keeping replies to a few words or a single sentence, it takes less time. Remember, it also becomes more difficult to read long email replies on smartphones.
3. Ask for numbered questions. This makes it much easier to reply where you can copy the questions from the emails and briefly respond to each one.
4. Deadlines. Look for a timeframe in which a reply is expected. Then set a follow up for this date to consider the reply at that time. Place email in specific folders for different categories or customers.
5. Got it, later. If you have no time to reply to it now. Type “Got it, will reply”. In fact, this can be set up as a short cut with a few strokes on your desktop or handheld device. These text expanders can save a lot of time. Then set a follow up so you can reply later.
6. Don’t add to the mess. Forget reply all. This just adds another email for someone else to read.
7. Keep anger out. Never reply when you are mad. It burns a lot of energy and can have unintended bad consequences. If you must express yourself, type out a reply to yourself and read it 24 hours later before considering sending it to the intended recipient. Phone or in person conversations are always more productive than angry emails.
8. Turn off notifications. Set particular times during the day you can actually focus on answering emails without multitasking. You will accomplish a lot more and be effective.
9. Use Rules and folders. Set up rules within your mail system so that specific emails with particular titles go into special folders so you can review those first or within a set timeframe. This prevents you from looking at a monolithic inbox, which can be overwhelming.
10. Schedule for the future. Many email programs will let you schedule for the future. Answer it now and have the system send it later.
Communicating effectively in a timely manner is always the best way will build the relationship capital that you need for your business success.
Barry Moltz helps small businesses get unstuck. He applies simple, strategic steps to facilitate change.
Barry has founded and run small businesses with a great deal of success and failure for more than 20 years. He is a small business speaker, radio host and author of four books. As a member of the Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame, he has spoken to audiences of up to 20,000 people. He is a regular guest on business radio and cable TV programming.