Getting People to Answer Your Emails!

If you’re like most compliance professionals I know, you spend about half your day writing imploring emails trying to get people to respond.  Much of our work depends on collaborating with others or getting them to give us information so we can fill out our reports, give good recommendations and understand how we can best serve them and the business.  But before you start your next email with “THIRD NOTICE- PLEASE RESPOND” – consider whether there is a way to increase the likelihood that people will respond the first time. 

Boomerang, an email productivity solution, wanted to find out whether the words people use in closing their emails made any difference to the response rate.  They analyzed 350,000 emails where users asked for help or advice.  What they found may surprise you. 

I’ve noticed in England that “Kind Regards” and “Cheers” are popular closings.  In America, “Sincerely,” “Thanks” and “Yours Truly” all seem popular.  I had one boss who consistently finished his emails with the flourish, “As always, I remain, Very Truly Yours,”.  Personally, I’ve always been a “Best,” kind of girl.  It turns out “Best” is the worst.

The Boomerang study found that the phrase, “Thank you in advance” created the highest response rate.[i]  Emails that included both (1) an anticipated response and (2) appreciation created the highest likelihood of a positive reply.  This makes sense, as two psychological responses are triggered by this approach.  Anticipating a response tells the other person that you expect him or her to do what you’ve asked.  People tend to live up to the expectation you give them, so they understand you’d be disappointed if they don’t perform as requested.  Secondarily, appreciation for the anticipated response triggers reciprocity.  The person feels as if he or she has already received approval and positivity from you, so he or she is more likely to respond out of a feeling of obligation.  

Some may complain that the use of “thank you in advance” can be read as passive aggressive, and that it will annoy some readers.  Perhaps.  But moving the response rate of an email from 51.2% to 62.7%?  Thanks in advance- that’s the best!