As you skim through your mailbox, you come across an old email in which required your attention. Panic starts to set in – how did you forget to respond? Whether it concerned your professional career or personal life, it was something of importance and it’s been left hanging for much longer than the ideal waiting period.
Do you email back, admitting that you forgot? If the email was in relation to a job opportunity or even a customer, that’s not going to look very good now, is it? Instead of beating yourself up, scrambling to respond, take a second and reflect on your options.
For starters, don’t beat yourself up – there are ways in which you can handle this situation. Although circumstances may differ, these tips will help you break the ice when an email has been left longer than you’d like. If you can relate to this stressful situation, it’s important to create a better system. For now, however, you need to sort out this forgotten email. So, how do you respond?
Okay, so no need to fret just yet. You haven’t necessarily lost your job opportunity, loyal customer, or friendship. The next step, however, is critical in that you could quite possibly save the day based on how you handle yourself and the situation as a whole.
Although admitting you’ve missed an email may not seem the most professional, it could save you in terms of an angry customer or a potential employer who’s grown impatient. By writing back, you’re at least reopening the door for effective communication. You don’t want it to seem as though you didn’t respond based on neglect; that’s a big no-no.
Start by apologizing, stating that their email ended up in your junk folder which wasn’t properly filtered. Although this is a little white lie, your response will be sincere. At the end of the day, we are all human and accidents do happen. You may have forgotten about the email, but that doesn’t mean you don’t care.
How you respond will honestly reflect your sincere apologies and your hopes to smooth things over so that everyone is content. Whether that means providing the best possible customer service moving forward or reflecting your desire and skill level regarding a position you’re after, how you handle yourself will be a large deciding factor within the final outcome.
2. Address the Original Concern or Request
After you have briefly apologized, it will be made known that this is not normally how you do business and that you can be more reliable in terms of a more rapid response in the future. Instead of making a bigger deal out of it than it needs to be, simply dive in, addressing the original email.
The sender was clearly emailing you for a reason, so whether they asked a question or raised a concern, make sure you address whatever it is they included in their original email. Show initiative by going above and beyond. If it was regarding a job opportunity, make sure you show your enthusiasm and send supporting samples and documents.
Even if the individual no longer requires anything from you, it’s important that you at least reach out. Perhaps someone asked you for some of your contacts for networking purposes. If their email was sent three weeks ago, simply reply with a quick apology for not getting back to them sooner, asking if they’re still interested. If they are, they’ll respond and you can address their request in a much more timely manner.
3. Be Friendly Yet Professional
The tone you use will also be of great importance which is why you shouldn’t frantically respond. You will want the email to be light and, in some sense, apologetic yet professional. You may have dropped the ball in terms of responding within a reasonable timeframe, but that should not hinder your level of professionalism.
Just as you would any other important email, get to the point and address their concerns or requests. You can include a little personality, once again reminding them that we are all human and that mistakes happen; just make sure that your email is written in a professional tone. You want the recipient to take you seriously, even if your response is long overdue. You’re not brushing off the fact that you responded late, but you’re remaining professional.
4. Explain Yourself
Although it’s always beneficial to touch base in a timely manner, it’s possible that the original email required you to take further action. For example, someone may have emailed you asking about a custom project. In this case, you may need to reach out to other experts, set a price, and conduct some research. This is an email that would require some additional steps to be taken.
When you respond, apologize for the delay but then explain why you’re late in responding. You don’t need to go into detail, but it’s really important to say that the original inquiry required some additional time and research. For you to respond with valuable information, you needed to wait on some responses yourself.
In the future, if you know that a response is going to take some time, let the individual know. A quick response that confirms you’ve received the email is a great start. For example, "Thanks for reaching out regarding a new project, as I would love to assist you. I will need to conduct some research in order to confirm the best course of action at this time. I will also be reaching out to a few experts in the field, seeking their input. Once I have collected the required information, I will contact you regarding your specific inquiries…"
This lets the sender know that you have acknowledged their needs and that you will be touching base shortly.
At the end of the day, we can’t turn back the clock. Sometimes, you need to make the best of a situation that is less than ideal. If you have somehow skipped over an important email within your busy and hectic life, don’t stress out. Take the appropriate steps and continue to portray yourself in a professional manner moving forward.
If you find that there are issues regarding your emails or you often forget, create a new system. When you develop a better filing system in terms of urgency, fewer emails will be forgotten. As soon as emails come into your inbox, file them into the appropriate folder. Those that require your immediate attention can be addressed while others may be organized into their appropriate folders.
As you get into the habit of filing and flagging urgent emails, you’ll be less prone to forgetting an important email in the future. You will also become more organized, continually reducing your chances of a similar situation happening again. Take this is a learning experience, either reworking your current system or setting aside some time each day to ensure all emails are addressed.
Has this ever happened to you before? How did you respond and what was the outcome? Share your stories with us in the comments section below!