I was surprised to see a client mention this to me the other day:
“I wanted to say thank you for being so prompt and thorough and ‘on top of it all’ with your responses. That seems to be a rarity in business these days.”
A rarity? Really?
My surprise was not that I was prompt. I pride myself on being prompt with clients. The surprise was that it seemed like a rarity. Why?!
This topic falls under the umbrella of communication that I alluded to in a previous blog about critical skills in running a voiceover business. One of those tips includes email communication so I wanted to elaborate.
How Prompt Is Prompt?
Please don’t get me wrong. I get it. Folks are busy for a whole host of reasons. Works happens. Emergencies happen. Life happens. There are times when a quick reply is just not possible. People have more pressing matters to attend to. So do I. But how prompt is prompt? What is prompt to you or me? It varies of course.
Of course there are extenuating circumstances that prevent replying. I would not expect anyone to pull their car over or step away from dinner that instance. However, Grammarly’s Email Etiquette says replying within 24 hours is a “common courtesy.” Longer than that is preceived as “rude.” We should always consider normal “business” hours and days as well. I would not expect replies on a weekend or holiday.
In my voiceover work and project management role in website development, I always tell my clients that I am usually same-day reply. I also tell them that if it’s more than a day, then I am really busy. If it’s more than two days, then something either happened to me, or I didn’t get it. Aside from a holiday or busy weekend, I have adhered to same-day replies.
Communication Has Never Been Easier
Communicating with others has never been easier. Cell phones put email, texting, message apps in the palm of your hand. There really is no excuse. I currently manage three email platforms, Whatsapp, Slack, texting, and even Facebook Instant Messenger for work and other professional purposes. I also have all of these on my phone. There is NO excuse that I cannot reply to anyone at anytime. Unless of course, I don’t have phone service/internet, or I’m sleeping.
But to let a message and a professional request go unanswered just opens the door to speculation from the sender that they are not important enough or are just being ignored. How else are they to know otherwise?
Some messages may simply be missed. With crazy filled inboxes, yes, messages can get lost in the mix. However, the lack of prompt replies on a regular basis is simply unprofessional.
Clients Deserve The Courtesy Of Prompt Replies
If someone were to ask you,”Would you rather be quick or accurate?”, what would you say? My answer is always the same, quick. Urgency seems to me to outweigh accuracy. I want to show urgency to clients. I want to make the client feel like they are my only priority to help them get their project done. Clients have timelines too. Quick answers can help them make decisions and manage their projects so much easier. They deserve the same prompt reply that I would expect from others. I consider it a professional courtesy that I extend to everyone.
Another reason I prefer urgency, is that you can still be accurate. You do not need to sacrifice accuracy. Being accurate is great; however, the sense of urgency is lost forever if that answer is delayed. Speculation and wonder creep in the longer a request or question is delayed. This doesn’t mean your answer has to be wrong. Even if you need more time for a more accurate response, a simple acknowledgement that a message is received and being followed up with is a comfort to the sender. It is peace of mind knowing their request did not float off into email-land somewhere.
A Professional Courtesy Deserves To Be Reciprocated
Seeing an email lingering in my inbox unanswered drives me nuts. I can’t stop thinking about it until I can address it. Perhaps it’s part of my OCD, but there is another reason. Professional courtesies tend to be reciprocated. In many of my activities, I try to lead by example. If I extend the courtesy of prompt replies, then hopefully I get it in return. I expect it more with co-workers and internal communications than I do with clients. Do I expect it all the time. No. But it is nice.
I know I am not changing the world with this post. But if basic professional courtesies are dwindling, perhaps a friendly reminder is necessary. We’re reminded about everything else online, so why not this? If you have any comments, let me know. Just don’t delay, ok?