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Tim Berry on business planning, starting and growing your business, and having a life in the meantime.

The Business Email Problem of Unanswered Emails

Yesterday I had a not-entirely-comfortable conversation with somebody I very much respect about my email habits. There are emails left unanswered in my email account, and she was suggesting that there shouldn’t be. People who write an email to a company address should be answered, she said. You can choose not to with a personal email address, but this is business email.

Hmmm, that’s awkward. I find I frequently leave emails in the main inbox because I intend to answer them. Time passes. They get a week old, and then two weeks.

"But I leave them there because I intend to answer them," I said.

"No, that’s not right. People are offended when they send an email and it goes into blank space. It doesn’t speak well for the company. It’s like unanswered phone calls, with the phone just ringing. It makes us look bad."

"But surely you don’t mean all the emails I get," I answered, "even unsolicited emails?"

"Well of course not spam," she said, "but yes, I do mean unsolicited email when it’s an individual, a person. You can’t just leave it like dead air."

This I admit was kind of a new thought to me. I’ve been thinking that I can leave emails, try to answer them, and if time passes and they fall down below view in the inbox, oh well. I mean I’m not rude or impolite to people I know — I would answer your email for sure — but these are just strangers.

"But that’s just rude," she said, as I was beginning to waver. "All you have to do is send an email — you can use a template — something like "’Thanks for your email, I’m swamped right now, but I want you to know I did receive it and I intend to look into it.’"

"And besides, you can have so-and-so manage that for you, send quick responses to some and alert you to others."

"After all," she said, finally, "that’s one of the main reasons we developed Email Center Pro. Business email is about the business, and it reflects on the business. So use the templates facility, have so-and-so help if you have too many to manage, but don’t leave emails completely unanswered."

And then she had me.

And, for the record, if you read this blog regularly you know I don’t do plugs and promotions in it, but the new management team of Palo Alto Software released Email Center Pro earlier this year, and I’m proud of this new Web app, and proud of the team. Every business should do something — and I think that something is with Email Center Pro — to manage its business emails.

One response to “The Business Email Problem of Unanswered Emails”

  1. kevin says:

    Yes. I find this an all too common problem in 2018. I use my personal email for buisness related issues, I always have, whether it’s my own or on behalf of someone else. I would safely say less than 10% of my email are returned withing a few minuets to a couple of hours. At least 70-80% of the time I have to send a follow-up just to get a response. More than half of the time I never here back.

    My cousin works for a big corporation and they have a requirement that when your away from the desk you have to turn on automatic response that tells people where you are and when you will be back, even if it’s a few minuets for a meeting or lunch or longer time periods like after work hours or when on vacation.

    There are countless numbers of work hours lost each week just because emails go unanswered. I can’t ever remember a time when I didn’t return an email on the same day or the next day. I will not leave my desk until my inbox is empty.

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