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Sep 01 2015
How To Get A Response To Your Emails
Tyler Steenblik, CCE, YESCO

Every day in every way, I'm getting better and better! So someone said. As for me, getting better in every way is much too dramatic. I'd rather think that I made progress in some small way once in a while. I am getting better in one aspect of my life thanks to attending a class at the NACM Credit Congress in St. Louis. The class was put on by Karen E. Purves of Innovative Impact. She spoke on how to write and format emails that get responses. She called it, "Response Ability." The science behind this subject is fascinating and often counter-intuitive. 

It is no surprise to anyone that email has become the bane of many peoples' daily routines. While it is crazy to think we can know every bit of information from every customer, co-worker, family member, etc., many of us still try. Spending countless hours throwing information back and forth through the skies could certainly use a lot more efficiency from those that use the systems.

When an email is sent, the sender generally expects that the information gets through and the recipient reads the information. Obviously that is a broad assumption and very often is flat wrong! There are things you can do however, to get people to read and respond to your emails. These tips can help you prevent wasted time following up, re-sending, and waiting for a response.

I'll let Karen and her training teach the ins and outs of her research. As a teaser, I have paraphrased in italics just a few of Karen's suggestions. Remember they are backed up with great research.

* Use people's names in the subject line. For example: "Nick - meeting notes for Friday."

 * Questions are very important in email.

        - Use a question mark whenever possible.

        - Instead of statements, turn them into questions.

        - If you have several questions, keep them out of the text and number them instead.

        - Use a question mark, even in the subject line.

* Use the magic word, "help."

* Try to match the other persons' email style.
This includes things such as wording, being very businesslike vs. less formal, getting right to the point vs. engaging in a little chit-chat before the topic, font type and color, etc.

* Don't ask the email system to send you a "read response."

* When sending negative information, don't use the word, "you."

* When apologizing for something, put the word, "apology" in the subject line.

* Review and think before you send.

* Cut each other some slack.

* (My personal favorite) After three attempts to get a response, use the subject line, "Bob - request the favor of a reply."

It was interesting to see how Karen presented the information. During the class, there were some suggestions that brought reactions of disbelief. She would reply by saying, "You might consider trying it." I have since studied and used many of these tips and have found them to be very useful. I have even received a response every timeI have used the last suggestion in the list.

In the past several months as I have used these tips I have found that my old system of getting people to read my emails, and to focus on the most important parts of those emails, was lacking to say the least. I have always been detailed in my emails and thought that using bold or red text in an attempt to highlight important issues would be good. I have found that this line of thinking would backfire on me. The reader would read the information, but would sometimes take offense. Using these and other techniques, I have been able to get the same information through without the trouble of others incorrectly assuming my emotions or intents. I have found that there is a real art to crafting a worthy email. 

My life is just as hectic and busy, but as I have learned how to email more effectively, my email life has greatly improved. 

P.S. Science says the best email font is 10 point, navy blue, Arial. Just so you know.