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Respond to Email Quickly, But Don’t Trick Yourself

Respond to Email Quickly, But Don’t Trick Yourself

It’s important to respond quickly to emails from clients, vendors and partners. However, I’ve noticed lately that a few people are tricking themselves into thinking they have satisfied the original email’s request, when in fact they haven’t. As a result they drop the ball. I call this the “checking the box” syndrome.

Here’s what happens: I send you an email asking for something. It could be a question, a file I need, whatever. In an effort to respond quickly and show me that I’m a priority, you email back immediately to let me know you’ll do it right way. Then I don’t hear from you for a while – sometimes much longer than it should be. A day or two later I email again asking when I can expect to get what I need. You email me back, apologizing and explaining that somehow you thought you had already sent it.

See what happened? Your initial email response “checked the box” in your mind. Your brain thinks that the act of responding to my email has satisfied the request. But in fact, you didn’t send me what I needed. You just confirmed receipt of my first email and said you’d get back to me. Then you dropped the ball.

I’ve observed this behavior more often lately. Do you trick yourself like this? If so, I suggest one of the following solutions:

  1. If the request is small, simply forego sending the initial response and instead just complete the task.
  2. If the request will take more time, than an initial response might be helpful. But make sure to put the task on your to-do list so you don’t prematurely “check the box” and leave people wondering.
Looking for more advice? Check out Simple Business Advice, the book.


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by Matt Smith // Author of Kill the Noise, and CEO of Modmacro℠ an award-winning web design and marketing firm that partners with select small businesses and non-profits.

Opinions expressed by contributors are their own.