Lewis' Blog Tales from the trenches of information technology


Email replies: How prompt is prompt?

I am prompted (pardon the pun) to post this afternoon following an annoying exchange I had with a third party concerning a client and some information I was to have provided.

Yesterday, at approximately 4:30pm, I received a request for some information which I was to have provided this third party regarding my client's business entity. I was in meetings all afternoon (from at least 2 until 6pm), and had approximately 30 or so emails in queue waiting for my review by the time I left the office.

As is my wont when I'm in my Leesburg, VA office, I took my ThinkPad home to try to catch up on some of the work which I couldn't complete before leaving the office. After dinner with my daughter (just the two of us this week!), I went upstairs to my small home office to dig into some of these emails.

I did see this particular one last evening, probably around 9 or 10pm. At that point, I was indeed winding down (my daily schedule shifts considerably when I'm down here, as I rise early to breakfast with my brother before heading to the office), so I left off before sending even a quick acknowledgment back to the sender.

At noon today, which would be 19½ hours or so from the original timestamp, the sender bumped me (for those unfamiliar with the term "bump" in this context, it means to nudge a conversation thread, typically when the original poster preceives that he or she has been ignored).

I was pretty ticked off at being bumped, as the individual apparently phoned my client first (a definite breach of protocol when there is a professional involved in the discussion, acting on behalf of a client).

Perhaps it is over-sensitivity on my part. My own internal sense of decorum tells me that a 24-hour window should be allotted for a response from anyone involved in an email exchange, particularly when one party is unknown to the other (obviously, if a client emails me, I prioritize such communications).

So, I'll put it to my readers: Is 24 hours too long to wait for a reply from someone after an initial email contact?