I’ve been frustrated lately by email. Not how much email I receive (although that can be overwhelming) but how some people take days, if not weeks to reply to a message. I just don’t understand how people can ignore a message…it seems rude. It’s like you’re talking to someone and they aren’t paying any attention to you. We all know that’s rude. Why isn’t it the same for email?
A couple years ago, I did a customer service project for a client and we conducted focus groups about the appropriate response time for email. Back then, 24 hours was considered appropriate. So, in my frustration, I did a Google search to see what’s considered the appropriate response time for email in today’s market. Again, 24 hours popped up as what’s considered customary.
But in my research, I ran across this 2006 post from business blogger Lawrence Salberg. It might be a couple years old…but it’s on the money…”Your response time indicates your maturity level.”
Now some of you might be saying that’s just crazy talk. You get a lot of email and it takes time to reply to all of it. True – but every day, every time? I’m not buying it.
People who get a lot of email need to find some way to prioritize it. It might be by person (answer the boss first) or by project (tomorrow’s deadline over next week’s) or by subject (strategy session feedback versus cake in break room). I’ve seen people respond immediately about drinks after work or party favors and then sit on questions about accounts payable or contracts.
Everyone needs to find a system that works – really works – for them and the people they exchange emails with. The last thing you want to be in today’s workplace is email immature.