I know there are several people that would choose to argue with me on this point, but when it comes to e-mail correspondence, there is a different level of expectations than other methods of communication. Now, I’m speaking specifically about the expectations around consumer to business e-mails, not shooting a note to your buddy or your even your boss or co-worker for that matter. My expectation is this… when I send an email to a business, as a consumer I expect a reply within a couple of hours. Realistic? Maybe not, but it is what I expect. Why? Because it’s easy and cost effective.
Maybe my expectation is more focused on the small business owner, but a counter intuitive example is frequently given by large companies like GoDaddy. I have some domains and some hosting with GoDaddy and periodically need to interact with the sales or support staff. My preferred method of communication is usually e-mail for this type of situation because I don’t want to be sitting on hold on the phone. However, if you e-mail your question, you may receive a response like the one below.
24 hours seems like far too long of a wait. I don’t have that much patience. While most companies are trying to reduce costs and push users toward the web and email, GoDaddy makes it easier to call… which is fine. That’s not a bad alternative and they clearly set expectations upfront. Where I take issue is with companies that provide an e-mail address on their website and then don’t respond for two or three days. Sometimes even longer.
Back to the small business example. I recently had some logo work done. I narrowed down my selection to two small companies. I sent a couple of questions via email to help finalize my choice. The first firm responded almost immediately and we exchanged a few emails over the course on an hour and they won the work. The second company responded three days later. Really? Three days? Did they think that I was still in the market for this need?
The interesting thing is that this isn’t the only example of this type of delayed response. If you’re going to be out of the office, use an auto responder to let people know. If you are too busy to respond, use and auto responder to let people know that too. I have seen some great auto responses that state things like “I check e-mail twice per day at 10am and 4 pm and I will respond to you then.” I have even seen one that says “I only check e-mail on Mondays.” I am perfectly fine with these replies. If you are going to stray from my expectation of a fairly immediate reply, let me know so I can call and get what I need.
If you have any questions about this post, please email me and I’ll get back to you in a few days.