How do you get someone to respond to your follow up email?
In the world of communication, chasing someone means reminding this person about something you have asked them to do, checking whether they have done it, and if they haven’t done it, encouraging them to do it as soon as possible.
With regard to the email, we’ll call this person your ‘recipient‘.
1. Make sure to structure your follow up email so that the recipient knows immediately that his response is requested.
We all know how busy we are and we know the importance of time.
For this reason, wasting time to read and reply to all the emails is not an option for everyone. The vast majority of people simply ignore most of the emails that they receive. As a consequence, we recommend following these steps:
a. Check if the email address of the recipient is correct and that all the persons in CC in your email are really needed. If not, remove them. When someone receives an email with too many people in CC can easily think ” this email is not for me, and someone else will reply on my behalf” . You do not want this to be an option.
b. Check the email subject: you want to make sure that your receiver knows immediately what you are talking about. For this reason, if the email thread has a generic subject, change it. You can add [Reply needed] at the beginning of the subject, too. Remember that most of the users decide whether to open an email or not based on Subject lines.
c. Make sure to start your email in a polite way. “Good morning” and “Good evening” are always a good start.
d. Do not send always the same copy/paste email: try to give a personal touch when you write your follow up email to chase a contact. A single phrase that shows that you care about your receiver can make the difference, both in personal and professional emails.
e. Conclude your reminder email in a polite manner, preferring a “Warm regards” over a ” Best regards” .
2. Be Polite in your follow up emails.
Because you made the request, you need to be as diplomatic and friendly as possible when you write a follow up email, and you should follow specific steps. Sometimes a recipient has disappeared for several weeks from your radar and you want to reconnect, by sending a reminder email.
Some people may ignore your first follow up: do not take it personal, everyone is busy and professionals receive hundreds of emails each week.
You need to put yourself in your recipient’s shoes and in their position, by thinking about how they might react to your email. So you need to avoid the mistake of showing your frustration and anger, otherwise your recipient will be less motivated to fulfill your request.
Each time you try to chase your contacts via e-mail, take a moment to think about why the recipient should reply to your email, the reason behind the missing response to your previous email, and whether your message was clear.
Avoid being arrogant and showing a lack of respect: if you are sending a reminder email to your client to check the progress of a project, to setup a meeting or to request a feedback, make sure to use the proper tone. In particular, if you are speaking with professionals, be polite and clean in your writing, even if you have already established a good relationship.
3. Be empathetic
When you write your follow up email, remember that your client is a person like you: try to be empathetic and to create a connection.
Sorry to bother/chase you, but is there any update on …?
A good tactic is to show empathy to your client by demonstrating that you understand that they are probably very busy, in particular if you are dealing with professionals:
I know you must be very busy, but if you could find the time to do this …
I know this is a lot to ask, but I really need an answer by the end of today.
Showing empathy also means making the task easier for your recipient. Instead of saying “Did you get a chance to look at the document I sent you?”, attach the document again and go straight to the point:
I just wanted to check that you got the attached document and whether you have found time to give me some feedback. Unfortunately, my boss has brought the deadline forward to tomorrow afternoon. I know this is asking a lot, but if you could give your feedback by the end of today, that would be great. It honestly shouldn’t take you more than 10 minutes to read it and to go through the details.
The above example also:
♥ motivates the client by mentioning the boss,
♠ provides a clear deadline and highlights the urgency,
♦ tells the recipient how long the task will take.
When you chase a client that has not responded to your previous email, try to go directly to the point and provide all the details that he needs to give you a quick feedback.
4. Inform your recipient how long it will take to complete the requested task
The fourth point is very important when you chase a client that is busy and that does not like to read more than one paragraph. Take note of this for your next reminder email.
Often, when we receive a request task, we have little idea of how long it will take us to do that task. As the person making the request, you should have a clear idea of the workload involved, so it is a good idea to inform your recipient of the time involved to complete the task.
However, your time estimation must be realistic, and if possible, a little longer than it will actually take. This means:
♥ Your recipient will be happy it has taken them less time than you predicted.
♥ You gain a reputation as being someone who is reliable and realistic. This means that people will be more likely to fulfill your requests in the future. And the consequence of that will be that you will have to do less chasing!
♥ You clarify to your client why he should reply to your email.
Inside your reminder email, express WHY he should reply, if there is any benefit and highlight the importance of his response. If you need a response before taking a decision on your side, just say it in your message. Explain that you are waiting for information or instructions. People are more motivated to perform a task when they know why it is important.
5. Ask for a specific action within a specific time window
When you check in with someone that has not been responding to you for days or even weeks, it’s better to send a clear message. You do not want your follow up to end up again without a response.
So, highlight the specific action to take (ie: reply with this specific information or with the answer to this specific question) and set a time window. In your reminder email, explicitly ask for tasks to be completed within a clear date. Remember that otherwise you risk to get your answer after weeks.
Summary of how to follow up with someone in your chase email.
Let’s recap together some notes about how to write effective emails and to convey a message that gets a response. Following these rules will definitely increase your changes to get a reply from the reader.
- Explain that you understand that he/she is a busy person who probably has a lot of important things other than completing the task you have assigned them in the previous email.
- Emphasize why he/she is important to you and your work and explain in which terms their reply is useful to you.
- Find benefits to them fulfilling your request.
- Provide a brief explanation of why you need a reply so urgently and go directly to the point.
- Estimate how long it will take to fulfill your request – people tend to overestimate the time that it will take them to complete a task that has been forced on them
- If the deadline has become very close, reduce your original request to the absolute essential for you (if you originally asked someone to read a whole report, now just ask them to focus on just one section). Make sure that you will not need another reminder email after this one.
- Give the recipient a clear deadline.
In addition, remember that not everyone likes to write emails and to follow long email threads. For this reason, don’t make the mistake to write messages that are too long, and make sure to put Email subject lines that convince the reader to open your email. Moreover, you can leave your mobile phone number at the end of the email so that the receiver can simply call you to give you an answer.
Finally, double check the readability of your email: focus on the message and on the grammar, make sure that there are no mistakes and the you focus on the subject.
No one wants to read an email that is full of grammar mistakes and that has linguistic errors. A recent study by Mailchimp shows that the credibility of an email is directly connected to its readability and correctness: to be sure to send emails written in proper and professional English you can use our proofreading and correction service.
You can simply click on the button below, input the message that you have to send, and our editors will correct it for you. You will receive, in just a few minutes, the corrected version along with suggestions and comments. Don’t miss the opportunity to try it for free.
Ending the email
If you think it is appropriate, you can finish your email by repeating your appreciation:
Once again, sorry to have had to bother you with this. Thanks in advance.
Thanks very much for understanding my situation.
Any help you can give me would be greatly appreciated.
Chasing a supplier
So far, we’ve considered emails for clients (or for colleagues), but sometimes you may need to check in with your suppliers. The strategy is the same – no anger, maximum empathy.
Also, remember that when you write in English (rather than in your own language), you have less command over the language you use, and more importantly, you may not be able to judge the tone of what you write.
This means that in your attempt to write clear simple English, you might be too direct and thus rude (impolite).
1. When chasing a supplier, quote the order number and date.
If this is the first time you are chasing this particular order, you can say:
I wonder if you could help me with a problem.
On May 29, we ordered 100 PPEs (order no. 9876 / 29 May).
We were expecting the delivery of these items yesterday. Could you provide me with an update on your latest estimated delivery time?
As I hope you can appreciate, we need the PPEs urgently, and as such, I would be very grateful for anything you can do to speed the process up.
Thank you in advance.
The recipient of the above email is more likely to be motivated to act on it than if you had used an aggressive and sarcastic tone. However, if your first email fails, feel free to adopt a stronger tone in the second attempt:
On May 29, we ordered 100 PPEs (order no. 9876 / 29 May) with an expected delivery date of June 14. On June 14, I contacted you for an update (see email below). It is now June 21 and there is still no sign of the order.
As I am sure you can imagine, we are now in very great need of the PPEs. Therefore, I would kindly ask you to contact me by the end of today with a firm delivery date.
2. Be firm but avoid being aggressive
The above email makes it direct but does not resort to anger and insults. To make it stronger, you could use this technique: explain what the consequences might be – for example, that you will have to cancel the order, or that you will suspend payment of any other deliveries you have already received but not paid for. However, you need to be tactful as threats rarely work and you may also lose credibility. Often, a better solution is to resolve the issue by telephone.
What if you’re the one being chased?
Let’s end this post by looking at the other side: what you can do if you are chased, i.e., when someone has asked you to do something, but you haven’t done it yet. Here are a few examples of phrases you could use:
Sorry, everything is rather hectic so I have not had the chance to look into it. I apologize, but I will probably not be able to get back to you before Wednesday of next week.
Don’t worry. I’m on it. I will send it back to you by tomorrow lunchtime at the latest.
(Note: hectic = very busy; look into something = investigate, find out; get back to someone = provide the requested information; to be on it = to be aware of the problem and possibly already working on it.)
It can be awkward and uncomfortable when you’re the one being chased, but be honest with your reasons and in your response at all times. Also, if you are honest, you are more likely to gain a reputation of being a trustworthy colleague/supplier/friend.