I recently sent an email to about eight different companies looking for accommodation for a holiday I plan to take in a few months. They all have web sites, they all published email addresses, and you know how many replied within 24 hours? Two.

Using this very simple market research, 75% of these companies took longer than 24 hours to respond. Two more replied within the following 48 hours, and it took nearly a week for another to reply.

Three of the original eight still have yet to reply three weeks later. Maybe they’re full during the time I was enquiring about, but I seriously doubt if they’ll ever reply, even if I were to change the dates.

Look at your own habits; when you’re busy or in the ideal situation of having a full schedule of projects, do you reply to enquiries or ignore them? Have you wondered whether the enquiry about a few hours work this week could be the catalyst for your largest project yet?

I’m continually amazed at businesses who advertise email as a way of making contact, only to fall short of reciprocating. We do our best in my business to always respond within 24 hours during the working week — and we’ve been known to reply on weekends. Even a polite “I’m sorry I’m unable to take this project on at the moment” is far nicer than just ignoring the enquirer. I know I’d book elsewhere before approaching again those who failed to return my enquiry the first time around.

Measure your own business email replies — do you respond in a timely manner?

This post first appeared as part of Issue 442 of the SitePoint Tribune, a very popular email newsletter that I was co-editor of. Thanks to SitePoint for allowing me to reproduce the work here.

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