I admit I get seriously annoyed when I’m in the midst of doing a favor for someone in a business arena and that person doesn’t respond to my phone call or email for several days. (For example, someone may have asked me to make an introduction. I get the other person to agree to a brief meeting. Yet when I email the person who made the request in order to check on times for a brief meeting, I don’t hear back for days.)
One of the most basic of business etiquette rules is to reply promptly to emails or phone calls from people who are helping you. And this is so easy to do in this day and age. (I started working in a world without fax machines and self-correcting typewriters; cellphones and email would have been science fiction.)
Part of the problem of people not returning calls and emails promptly may be that they do not check their email and voicemail at least once a day. These same people may be on Facebook and IMing their friends every day, yet forget that business communications usually go through emails or phone calls.
Although some calls and emails require a higher priority and prompter response than others, here’s a good “return policy”:
If someone leaves a phone message or emails you to set up an interview, return that message/email as soon as possible after you receive it. If you’re in school or at work and can’t return the call/email until later in the day, that’s okay.
If you don’t reach the person when you return the call/email and must leave a message, then also add when is a good time for you to be reached. You could also leave your email address – spoken very clearly – on a phone message, offering it as an alternative to another return phone call.
If you’re engaged in business communications, check your voicemail and email at least once a day and then respond promptly. (If you’re going to be away from email access for several days, you might consider having an automatic reply sent to people who email you. The automatic reply would explain you’re away from email access and when you’ll be back in touch.)
First impressions are very important. You don’t want to tarnish your reputation before you’ve even met someone because you weren’t prompt to respond to your business communications.
If it’s not natural for you to check your email and voicemail every day, paste a reminder somewhere where you will see it daily. It does take several days to change a habit, so it will take time to make checking your email and voicemail a natural part of every day.
There’s a definite reward for adopting proper business communications etiquette: The person whose image you keep shiny is your own.