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Email, urgent flags & read receipts

Posted by Michael Bloch in ecommerce (Tuesday August 1, 2006 )

Ah, Fred* has written to me again using an “urgent” (High priority) flag on the email. Eh, no hurry, I think I’ll leave looking at it for a while. And why would I do such a thing if the email is urgent?

Because Fred* uses the flag in *every* email – whether it’s to say hello, tell me about a new product/idea, inform me that his arm has fallen off or warn me that the universe is about to collapse in on itself :). He believes it’s a good way of getting my attention and gaining priority over the other email in my inbox.

The high priority feature in email, while useful, has become the techno-equivalent of the Little Boy Who Cried Wolf story for some; so use it wisely.

If you *really* need to get someone’s attention, it’s a great indicator; other than that, leave it alone. Otherwise, you may suffer the same fate as Fred* and be ignored by the recipient when you *do* have an urgent situation that requires immediate attention in the future. It’s certainly not a good marketing ploy either if used indiscriminately.

The other little tip to help avoid alienating people through email is related to the read receipt feature. Yes, it is useful, but I suggest not using it unless you have a prior relationship with the person for the following reasons.

a) Requesting a read receipt can make the recipient feel intruded upon. People do appreciate the semi-anonymity of email usage.

b) Requesting a read receipt is a trick that some spammers use to see if an account is active

c) Clicking on read receipt can have legal ramifications (think about it).

d) It’s somewhat of an unexpected event and can startle a person. Not a good way to kick off a business relationship as it can give the initial impression that you’re a little pushy.

It’s *very* rare I will click “yes” on a read receipt request; if I want the person to know I’ve read their email, it takes a few seconds to click “reply” and tap out a brief message.

OK, now all that’s said, I’ll take a look at Fred’s* “urgent” email…

… Oh look, it’s a picture of his turtle.

sigh. :)

*Fred is a fictional character used to make the writing of this post a little easier, but I’m sure most of us have struck Fred before. I’ve got a little more class than to name one of TTB’s subscribers/clients/visitors publicly in such a fashion ;).


Guide to email etiquette in online business


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