Are you sitting there right now waiting for someone to respond to an e-mail? “Why don’t people respond to my e-mail?” is one of the most burning questions professionals ask today. And I bet you regularly feel like you are nagging people to get what you need to do your job – sound familiar?
How frustrated do you get when people don’t respond? You write several more e-mail and they still don’t respond. Finally, you pick up the phone out of desperation only to get voice mail. By this point you are so frustrated, you can’t even leave a polite message. They must know that you need that information to get your work done. And, didn’t they see that you needed it by yesterday afternoon? Well at least you have your e-mail to prove you did what you were supposed to do – your boss can’t blame you for missing the deadline.
The bottom line is that you are accountable for your work and when people don’t respond to your e-mail, you can’t get your work done. Or even worse, you get it wrong because you didn’t get what you asked for in your e-mail. Writing to today's busy reader is not easy.
Consider this question again, “Why don’t people respond to my e-mail?” Is it possible that, as a writer, you may be partly responsible? Now there’s a good question to ask yourself! At IWCC Training, we have asked and answered that question.
Three Tips to Get People to Respond to your E-Mail
As a writer, we often complain about readers not responding to e-mail. We tend to put all the blame on the readers and ask questions like: “Don’t they care that I need it now? Don’t they read my e-mail? Don’t they think I am worth responding to?” From our experience at IWCC, the readers are not usually the problem. As writers we need to adopt writing practices that ensure our readers clearly know how, why and by when we need them to respond.
How do you get people to respond to e-mail? The simple answer is write it right. In other words, remember that e-mail is a written document, not a chat line. You need to use all the good writing techniques you would use in a letter or report, and you need to think from your readers’ perspective.
Of all the many tips and techniques you learn in an IWCC writing workshop about writing effective e-mail, here are three key pieces of advice to get people to respond.
1. Use active descriptive Subject Lines to capture attention
Use subject lines that tell the reader what the e-mail is about and exactly when you need a response or action. You may find these subject lines are longer, but they are also helpful. They let your reader prioritize their messages and decide when they will open and read your e-mail.
Instead of: Immediate action requested
Try: Need your March expense receipts by Friday, April 16
2. Clearly state up front what you want readers to do
Readers often don’t respond because you did not clarify up front what you want or need and by when. We find that writers often hint at what they want, or bury their objective at the end of their e-mail where readers may not go. One thing we know about readers – if you make them work hard to understand what you want, they give up and put your e-mail in the later pile...or even worse, they delete it!
What is your objective? What do you want your reader to do/feel/understand/learn/know when they are done reading your e-mail? Be explicit about what you want. Don’t assume your reader will figure it out. Trust us…they won’t.
Complete this statement to clarify your objective and use your exact words in the opening of your e-mail:
After reading my e-mail I want my reader(s) to…
Instead of: I am writing regarding your expense receipts which I need.
Try: The end of the month is approaching and I need you to send me your expense receipts by Friday, April 16.
3. Give them a reason to do what you ask
Writers think that by telling the reader why they need what they need the reader will automatically comply. The truth is that we all have priorities and jobs to do. Why should I work on your priorities when I have my own priorities to worry about? Try giving your reader a reason. Tell them how they will benefit by doing what you want. By adding the “What’s In It for Me” (WIIFM) you give your reader a reason to do what you ask.
Instead of: In order to meet my month-end deadlines, I need you to send me your expense receipts immediately.
Try: If you send me your March expense receipts by Friday, you will have your expense cheque by the end of next week.
To get people to respond to your e-mail, write it right! Give them what they need in order to do/feel/ understand/learn/know what you need them to do/feel/ understand/learn/know. Put on your “reader’s hat” and think from their perspective – you’ll know exactly how to get people to respond to your e-mail.