When Your Email Gets No Response

The average response time to an email is 10 hours, 40 minutes, and 15 seconds, according to a 2021 study by email monitoring company EmailAnalytics, which is based in Olympia, Washington. During work hours, the average response time drops to 3 hours, 38 minutes, and 31 seconds. If a non-response to one of your emails drags on for days, here’s how best to handle it.

Don’t assume. An unanswered email doesn’t necessarily convey lack of interest. Time out of the office, a major deadline, and even forgetfulness can keep someone from responding in a timely manner.

Give it time. If there’s no urgent deadline attached to your email request, give the person a few days to respond, or you could come off as annoying or pushy. While there’s no hard rule, experts typically suggest waiting anywhere from two or three days to a week.

Don’t shame the recipient. Pointing out that they haven’t responded to your email might make the recipient feel bad and simply continue to avoid you. Instead, to get their attention, consider phrases like, “I’m following up,” “I wanted to get an update on,” or “Pushing this up to the top of your email box.” Just as important, don’t apologize for following up by saying something like, “I hate to bother you.”

Restate your original request. Politely remind the recipient of the subject matter of the original email.

Provide a clear call to action. Does the recipient know you expect a response? Make sure you explicitly ask them to respond with the specific information you want. “Please let me know what day next week works for coffee,” is better than “Let’s plan to get together soon.” You might also indicate in the subject line: Response requested.

Have a cutoff point. The first follow-up is the most likely to yield results. In fact, the first follow-up email garners, on average, a 40 percent higher reply rate than the original email itself, according to research from global software solutions provider Woodpecker. However, if there’s still no response after two or three follow-up emails, your efforts may be better spent elsewhere.

—Tamara E. Holmes

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