Author Topic: When people won't respond to emails  (Read 4370 times)

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jeni

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When people won't respond to emails
« on: August 11, 2012, 11:38:52 PM »
This is a difficult one as I can't give real examples of the instances, but I'm incredibly frustrated by a lack of response to emails at work.  These are requests for advice and assistance.  Quite often phone messages are not answered either.  I am left wondering if anyone is even there, and tend to send follow up emails after a day or 2, or a week, depending upon how urgent the request is.   These can be emails to individuals or to a generic account set up for the specific purpose of queries. Phones are either not answered or messages are not returned.

I'm wondering if anyone can make some suggestions as to some lines I can include in an email to try to prompt a response, either in the first email or the follow ups.

Escalating to the supervisor doesn't work as they don't respond either!  Yes, our organisation is a little dysfunctional (hence no revealing details :))

In other cases where I'm seeking feedback or input from others I have now learnt to state that responses are required by a certain date and that the item will be closed for comment after that.  That has solved the problem of continual follow up for those situations, however I'm at a loss as to what to do in the above situations.

In a recent case one of the higher ups phoned my boss after he received my follow up email (which I'd also cc'd to my boss) complaining about my follow up and saying how busy they are, and at least my boss shut him down and said we get no response, no acknowledgement, nothing! and that even a response to say they are currently busy and will get back to the request by a certain date should be provided.  I mean how hard is it to reply to an email?

Any suggestions on some lines or phrases I can use?  I don't want to get into what to do about the organisational problems, that is a much bigger issue and out of my area of influence.


bopper

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Re: When people won't respond to emails
« Reply #1 on: August 12, 2012, 12:39:41 AM »
i guess it depends on what you are emailing about.
If it is approval or their advice, you put what you plan to do in the email and say "If I do not hear from you by August 25th, I will assume your concurrence."
If it is some input you need from them, then cc: your boss and their boss and give them a deadline.  A couple of days before the deadline, give them a phone call and ask for the status and if they have any questions.
Another idea is after you email, call them and say "I am not sure how often you all get a chance to check your email, but I wanted to give you a heads up I sent one about the TPS reports."  That way if they listen to phone messages, then maybe they will check email.
 
If you ever do contact them in person, then ask what method they prefer for correspondence and then use that.

The other thing I would do is start figuring out their average response time, and then start figuring that in your time estimates.

Also, talk to your boss and say that you are trying (all the above) and can he escalate this issue?

EMuir

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Re: When people won't respond to emails
« Reply #2 on: August 12, 2012, 08:25:37 PM »
Is it possible at all to visit the office of the person you need info from? If they meet you and see you they may realize there's a person waiting for them. It's worked for me.

Pippen

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Re: When people won't respond to emails
« Reply #3 on: August 12, 2012, 09:21:09 PM »
Is it possible at all to visit the office of the person you need info from? If they meet you and see you they may realize there's a person waiting for them. It's worked for me.

Agreed. People have so much information overload it is easy to overlook, ignore or forget about emails or else they get lost in the tidal wave of messages coming through. There is nothing more effective than actually standing at someones desk and getting an answer from them then and there. I think it saves a lot of time and confusion as well.

People also get cc'd and bc'd into things they don't really need to know about or be involved in just so it covers someone else's butt so people have got used to skimming through things and this also results in information that is relevant or time sensitive being missed.

LeveeWoman

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Re: When people won't respond to emails
« Reply #4 on: August 12, 2012, 10:16:14 PM »
At such times, I have a fantasy about getting people's attention.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5FXGXz14aJk
 


grannyclampettjr

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Re: When people won't respond to emails
« Reply #5 on: August 13, 2012, 12:58:08 AM »
When I was in mortgages, my processor had a similar problem--waiting to recieve various documents to put in files to submit to the underwriters.  The solution she came up with was to compile a daily report of what info she needed from which loan officer, and distribute it to everybody.   >:D

It worked beautifully.  Would something like that work for you?

Ceallach

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Re: When people won't respond to emails
« Reply #6 on: August 13, 2012, 01:45:38 AM »
Can you word your emails to be more simple so they're faster for the person to read and respond to?

Can you put a fixed deadline / specific question at the bottom?   e.g.  "Can you please let me know X by this date?"

Beyond that, if you're making it as easy for them as possible, and escalating to a supervisor doesn't work, then I'm not sure.   

The reason for my suggestions is that one of my pet peeves is people who send emails that create problems/work.  For example, one of my staff emailed me and said "are you sure X person's ID number is right?"   seems a simple enough question!  However, what she should have said is "X person's ID number is listed as X however I think it should be Y for this reason....".   That way, I could look at her reasoning and give a quick answer based on that as to which was correct.  Instead, she was requiring *me* to do the legwork and check what the ID number was listed as, and what it should be.  All information she could have provided.   (My initial reaction was "I don't know, is it?"  but of course that would be unhelpful!)    So I do think senders can try to think about what they say and how they can make it as simple as possible for the other person to respond to them.   That way they're more likely to get a useful and timely response.   
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jeni

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Re: When people won't respond to emails
« Reply #7 on: August 13, 2012, 06:21:02 AM »
Thanks everyone for your replies, some further info below in response to questions.

I've solved the issue of waiting for input by stating a deadline and closing off after that, so that's not an issue.  In these situations I'm emailing asking for advice and assistance on processes that affect my job.  For example, I need access to a PC application, or I need advice on what to do in a certain situation regarding processes. I'm usually very specific, as in 'I need access to xyz for this reason and here is my permission', or 'I need to do xyz, what is the correct way to do it'. We are in separate buildings so I can't go visit them.

So I guess I could try putting a deadline, perhaps something like 'I need to complete this task by x date, therefore I need your advice by x date'.  How does that sound? Though I figure they will simply ignore it anyway.  I suppose I should escalate to my boss for her to handle, but I shouldn't have to do that.



lowspark

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Re: When people won't respond to emails
« Reply #8 on: August 13, 2012, 10:08:24 AM »
I agree that if at all possible, follow up in person. When you are standing at their desk and asking politely for a reply, they can't really ignore you. If that's not possible, then use the phone. Don't leave a voice mail if they are not responding to those. Keep calling back or talk to their admin to track them down.

No, you really shouldn't have to do any of that so it may actually come down to what Ceallach was suggesting. If your emails are not getting the attention they deserve, is this a company wide problem or specifically your emails? It might be a good idea to get with the non-repliers and ask what you can do to make it easier for them to reply.

I agree with the PP who said that putting a face with a name goes a long way to smoothing over business rel@tionships. 

Bexx27

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Re: When people won't respond to emails
« Reply #9 on: August 13, 2012, 11:14:15 AM »
My only other advice would be to make sure you have a detailed subject line that includes the meat of your request. Instead of "document for review" as the subject line, use "please review attached document and sign by 6pm tomorrow."
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Deetee

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Re: When people won't respond to emails
« Reply #10 on: August 13, 2012, 11:32:01 AM »
Thanks everyone for your replies, some further info below in response to questions.

I've solved the issue of waiting for input by stating a deadline and closing off after that, so that's not an issue.  In these situations I'm emailing asking for advice and assistance on processes that affect my job.  For example, I need access to a PC application, or I need advice on what to do in a certain situation regarding processes. I'm usually very specific, as in 'I need access to xyz for this reason and here is my permission', or 'I need to do xyz, what is the correct way to do it'. We are in separate buildings so I can't go visit them.

So I guess I could try putting a deadline, perhaps something like 'I need to complete this task by x date, therefore I need your advice by x date'.  How does that sound? Though I figure they will simply ignore it anyway.  I suppose I should escalate to my boss for her to handle, but I shouldn't have to do that.

I completly agree with your suggested changes to the email. I also suggest a follow up email a couple days before the deadline that you have set and then one on the day of the deadline you have set. Set the deadlines for your conveniance. Also add a note to the effect that "if you no longer are in charge of this info please let me know the new contact info immediately". After the three polite emails escalate to your boss.

I get the impression that you feel that this approach is somehow impolite. If this were a social setting it would be. But it is completely appropriate for a business setting.

rashea

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Re: When people won't respond to emails
« Reply #11 on: August 13, 2012, 11:45:33 AM »
I think it would help if you know you have multiple requests to send a reminder email piling them all up at the end of the day. I know I get a lot of emails, and I can't just reply to everyone letting them know when I'll get to them, or I would never get to any of it.

I think the best thing you can do is ask for a meeting (phone is okay, in person would be better) and ask them how they would like you to handle it. Clearly, they are overwhelmed, so how can you work with them in a way that will be more efficient for them?
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Decimus

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Re: When people won't respond to emails
« Reply #12 on: August 13, 2012, 12:15:31 PM »
Setting deadlines is fine; if you don't hear from them then yes, you should go to your boss (this is what your boss is for).  No, you shouldn't need to do that, but (presumably) you can at least walk into your boss' office (assuming of course you don't work "offsite).

If you send out an email saying "I need access to Specific Application to update the TPS report cover sheets by X date," follow up, and then notify your boss if/when they don't respond -- frankly, it's not your fault.  Document and you've done all you can!  At that point it becomes your superior's problem, because you aren't being provided with the tools/input you need to do your job.

bopper

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Re: When people won't respond to emails
« Reply #13 on: August 13, 2012, 02:09:00 PM »

So I guess I could try putting a deadline, perhaps something like 'I need to complete this task by x date, therefore I need your advice by x date'.  How does that sound? Though I figure they will simply ignore it anyway.  I suppose I should escalate to my boss for her to handle, but I shouldn't have to do that.

But sometimes that is what works.   You try what you can control, then escalate.  If your boss sees that you have done what you should, then the burden will be on her/him.  If they get involved enough, then perhaps the process will be changed or THEIR boss will talk to the uberboss on the other side.

 "Boss, I have copied you the email I sent to the TPS department on X and Y dates and have not gotten an answer despite leaving voice messages twice as well.   Can you escalate?"

NyaChan

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Re: When people won't respond to emails
« Reply #14 on: August 13, 2012, 04:00:30 PM »
This won't necessarily help with a response, but can you set up read receipts on your email at work? That way you have confirmation that they have received and opened the email, but are simply choosing not to respond.