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10 day reply time on emails?

10 day reply time on emails?

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I was listening to one of AW podcasts, haven’t been able to find it since, but the question came up about the “always on culture” and one contributor mentioned that they have an auto reply that there is a 10 day turnaround on emails and of clients want a reply within 24 hours they can pay for a subscription service and they will respond within 24 hours. Is this a realistic time frame and or service. Another contributor said they have an out of office saying that emails are checked maximum once per day and not to expect an immediate response. 

Email are currently a big thorn in my side. I think I some auto reply explaining not to expect a reply to email because I don’t read them all which is actually the truth because I just don’t have the time. 

How are other members managing their email replies? 

Edit: Out of interest, how many emails do members receive on average per day?

Replies (34)

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By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
08th Nov 2019 09:45

I run a service business myself.

Same day, often within the hour, although never at weekends or evenings.
If i get client taking the pee, I stop replying quickly.

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Replying to ireallyshouldknowthisbut:
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By Tickers
08th Nov 2019 22:01

How many emails do you get on average per day?

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By bernard michael
08th Nov 2019 09:48

What's surprising is that your clients have nothing better to do than hit you with e-mails
Are they silly requests checking "the man down the pub" or actual work related. If the latter a daily check should suffice.
But don't send the clients auto answers that virtually say we can't be bothered with you until we're ready.
The answer to that could be goodbye

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Replying to bernard michael:
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By Tickers
08th Nov 2019 22:06

They are a variety of queries. Just to give a few:

Do I have to pay VAT on hobby income?
Can I get tax relief on my kids college tuition?
How do I allocate a credit note against an unpaid invoice ?

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Psycho
By Wilson Philips
08th Nov 2019 09:59

I don't see why emails should be treated any differently to telephone calls. If my receptionist were to tell a client caller that I couldn't speak to them right now but would return the call in 10 days I'm pretty confident as to the client's reaction.

All emails in this office get a personal same-day reply, even if simply to say thanks and give a suggested timescale for fuller response.

I do sometimes check emails outside of normal working hours (whatever those are these days) and 'pen' a reply there and then - but almost always setting it to send first thing next morning.

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Replying to Wilson Philips:
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By Mr_awol
08th Nov 2019 11:15

Wilson Philips wrote:

I don't see why emails should be treated any differently to telephone calls. If my receptionist were to tell a client caller that I couldn't speak to them right now but would return the call in 10 days I'm pretty confident as to the client's reaction.

All emails in this office get a personal same-day reply, even if simply to say thanks and give a suggested timescale for fuller response.

I do sometimes check emails outside of normal working hours (whatever those are these days) and 'pen' a reply there and then - but almost always setting it to send first thing next morning.

You could argue that it depends on the content/context of the email, but I actually think they should be treated more like letters than phone calls. The problem is that many clients expect them to be dealt with immediately.

If a client submitted a written enquiry by post, it would be put into my in-tray and I would deal with it either in the order the post came in, or having prioritised the really important stuff, or perhaps in some other order that suited my workload/availability. Why should an email be any different?

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Replying to Mr_awol:
Psycho
By Wilson Philips
08th Nov 2019 11:21

Horses for courses, I would suggest. I was simply pointing out what works for this office and its clients.

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Replying to Mr_awol:
Lone Wolf
By Lone_Wolf
08th Nov 2019 14:16

I'd agree that an email is more akin to a letter.

My view is if they can't take the time to pick up the phone and speak to you directly, then it can't be that urgent. If someone calls in with something urgent, then I'll deal with it.

At times I get so many emails through the day that I close them so I can concentrate on what needs doing. Will open them in the morning and at lunch (if not otherwise busy). Maybe before going home if there's any quickies in there. Working in a firm with 6 partners, various account managers, and clients, all looking for tax work done is fun :)

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Richard Hattersley
By Richard Hattersley
08th Nov 2019 10:25

Hi Tickers, I got a feeling the man to talk to here is AWEB member marks. If I remember correctly he talked about having a "free 10 day service".

Here is the Any Answers thread where he mentioned this: https://www.accountingweb.co.uk/any-answers/am-i-being-too-grumpy

Hope that helps

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By claudialowe
08th Nov 2019 10:41

I try to reply to emails first thing, lunchtime and last thing. If it is something urgent, or something I have been chasing, then yes, I might well reply, but try to manage client expectations that I will normally only reply to emails 3 times a day, and I am not itching to constantly hit the reply button :-)

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By paul.benny
08th Nov 2019 11:27

Client email - "Here's the confirmation you requested earlier. Please go ahead and make the filing due tomorrow"
Auto response - "I'll respond in 10 days"

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By Glenn Martin
08th Nov 2019 11:44

I think 10 days would not be acceptable to most people.

Earlier in the year I was struggling with the inbox management. I was too busy and also needed time out as Father was terminally ill.

The emails were crushing me as had been offering "unlimited email support" from my early days.

I needed to grow a set and sort it out,

I sent one email to everyone basically stating that emails out of hours would be dealt with next working day, and we now offered a quick query service included with your fix fees. If requests needed more than this we confirm a price and a timescale for the answer.

I also reinforced deadlines for payroll, no need to send did you get the emails etc.

That single email alone had a greater effect than GDPR and at least halved my inbox. People actually think before they email asking repeat questions.

A VA to monitor my email inbox in next on my Christmas list.

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Replying to Glennzy:
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By bernard michael
08th Nov 2019 11:54

Glennzy wrote:

I think 10 days would not be acceptable to most people.

Earlier in the year I was struggling with the inbox management. I was too busy and also needed time out as Father was terminally ill.

The emails were crushing me as had been offering "unlimited email support" from my early days.

I needed to grow a set and sort it out,

I sent one email to everyone basically stating that emails out of hours would be dealt with next working day, and we now offered a quick query service included with your fix fees. If requests needed more than this we confirm a price and a timescale for the answer.

I also reinforced deadlines for payroll, no need to send did you get the emails etc.

That single email alone had a greater effect than GDPR and at least halved my inbox. People actually think before they email asking repeat questions.

A VA to monitor my email inbox in next on my Christmas list.

Did you lose any clients as a result ??

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Replying to bernard michael:
By Glenn Martin
08th Nov 2019 13:16

Did not lose anyone as a result of the email, but as part of the process of cleaning up my client list I moved on a few of the worst offenders or people who were rude and did not appreciate what we were doing.

Actually most good clients were very understanding and several apologised for taking a lend.

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By Matrix
08th Nov 2019 12:01

This was recommended by one of the marks, Mark S or Mark T, you pay more for a premium service.

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Replying to Matrix:
By Glenn Martin
08th Nov 2019 13:16

That works for Amazon prime.

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By Bob Loblaw
08th Nov 2019 15:41

I probably receive anywhere between 5-15 emails a day from clients that require a response.

I'm particular about responding to them. I don't feel comfortable leaving any of them without at least an acknowledgement within an hour or so. Even though logically I know I'm well organised and wouldn't forget about them, I'm also a terrible over thinker to the point that I feel anxious that if I leave them, I'll completely forget about them, the world will burn and my children will be snatched from me and sentenced to enforced labour in the asbestos mines.

My overly eager approach hasn't had a detrimental impact on my other work yet, but it's definitely something I need to ween myself off of doing in the long term.

If it's an internal email, that's an entirely different matter. Unless it's a practice wide emails from Karen in finance telling everyone that there are cakes in the break room (1 for £1 or 3 for £2.50, all proceeds going to the Knacked and Poorly Bairns Society) then response time depends on A) How quick they respond to my emails B) If they wash their own cup in the kitchen or leave it on the side of the sink and C) If I deem that they have personally wronged me and a delayed response to their email is the only impotent form of vengeance I can legally seek.

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Logo
By marks
08th Nov 2019 23:36

As said above we have the option in the our proposal software of "free" reply to correspondence within 10 working days ie emails/telephone calls/letters and a paid for service of same day reply to email/telephone calls/letters.

Not one client pays for the paid for same day service which shows regardless of what people think that people dont really value getting back to them right away. If they did, they would pay for the service.

We use it just to set expectation that we wont reply right away, we generally get back within a day or two. No one has ever had a problem with it.

If it is important then we would prioritise and say that as well.

Generally I get between 60 - 100 emails a day.

Currently have emails outstanding from Wednesday and have 217 emails in my inbox.

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Replying to marks:
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By Tickers
09th Nov 2019 00:56

How do you manage emails? Do you have a VA, triage system? 60 - 100 emails per seems a lot to get through unless you’re firing off one liners or forwarding them.

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Replying to Tickers:
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By SouthCoastAcc
12th Nov 2019 10:44

Agree, how do you get any accounting/tax work done?!

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Replying to Tickers:
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By SouthCoastAcc
12th Nov 2019 10:44

Agree, how do you get any accounting/tax work done?!

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Replying to marks:
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By MC1
12th Nov 2019 12:37

Out of interest, what percentage of those emails require more than a quick "Thank you" or similar response from you personally?

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By Ian Lawrence
12th Nov 2019 09:56

I reply same day and within the hour if I can - emails get attention always before doing "actual" work. I receive perhaps 30 a day and send perhaps 50 a day on average. Some practices need to offer the best service to command fees slightly higher than those practices which offer mediocre or poor service. Besides this I want my clients to think I am doing a damn good job for them because it is one of the main reasons I enjoy coming to work.

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7om
By Tom 7000
12th Nov 2019 10:05

You answer same day you get them.
Or lose all your clients
They are treated like phone calls not letters

I get one every 6 minutes on average 85-100 a day

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Replying to Tom 7000:
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By MC1
12th Nov 2019 12:36

Out of interest, what percentage of those emails require more than a quick "Thank you" or similar response from you personally?

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Replying to Tom 7000:
Lone Wolf
By Lone_Wolf
14th Nov 2019 13:54

Tom 7000 wrote:

You answer same day you get them.
Or lose all your clients
They are treated like phone calls not letters

I get one every 6 minutes on average 85-100 a day


Nothing like a bit of hyperbole to make your point.

Just for balance though we should maybe point out that there are plenty of clients out there who don't run away just because you don't answer emails on the same day. There are actually some clients who have the decency, if they are looking for something urgent, to take the time to pick up the phone and talk to you.

Imagine that.

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By mail.taxperfect.co.uk
12th Nov 2019 14:21

I try to put myself in my client's shoes. How quickly would I like a response? I identify which are client emails and which are not. The client emails take priority. I reply immediately to the ones I can reply immediately to. For the others I send an immediate holding email with an expected timeframe for which to expect a full reply (and I make sure I keep to that timeframe). I don't normally reply to emails out of hours, but if I do it will only be to clients who I know will not take the pee and expect out of hours replies, and where they are time-sensitive. I am a small sole practitioner; yesterday I received 33 emails - the first was at 8:58am (from a client), the last was at 6.48pm (again, from a client). Out of hours emails are usually email circulars from CIOT, AccountingWeb, etc., etc.

All this works for me, and I think for the clients too.

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Replying to mail.taxperfect.co.uk:
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By Tickers
14th Nov 2019 22:41

How do you know which emails you’ve sent a holding email to. Do you reply quickly and then mark as unread or flag the email so you know it needs to be replied to?

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By David Gordon FCCA
12th Nov 2019 16:41

I am fortunate in that I am BC.
So, when emails started I just treated them as correspondence.
I continue each morning to delete the junk. It takes about ten minutes.
This generally reduces the input by about 75%
In a bad week I might receive 200 emails
Then, any stuff from clients receives a polite one-line "thank you", and goes in the queue.
Thankfully I am old enough to distinguish between "Urgent" and non-urgent stuff.
Just because it is "Email" there is no need to get up tight about it.
In principle it is no different from a runner with a chitty stick.

It does seem to me that too many persons think, in this computer mad society, that all one needs to run a professional practice is a keyboard. Bit like the banks.
One still needs to employ staff to meet client needs, and deal with the nitty-gritty.
If you really cannot deal with it you need to rethink your management style.

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Replying to David Gordon FCCA:
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By mail.taxperfect.co.uk
12th Nov 2019 17:25

What is BC?

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Replying to mail.taxperfect.co.uk:
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By JoF
12th Nov 2019 17:34

Before computer.

or

Before Christ! Although Im pretty sure that David is not that old.

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By NH
13th Nov 2019 07:48

Some use emails like text messages or phone calls, the other day I had an email from a client "I am in a meeting with the bank could you just answer this quickly" I replied in less than a minute.
Others require more research or thought before a reply, but a quick "leave that with me" goes a long way.
Either way emails are superior to phone calls in so many ways - I can deal with an email at 6am, I couldn't call the client then. I can get straight to the point in an email instead of spending 10 minutes talking about the weather/family/brexit.

10 days response time is just ridiculous, I suspect no one has paid for Marks premium service as they have not read the small print and they expect any decent service business to reply with 24/48 hours (which by the way is what he is doing anyway).

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By David Gordon FCCA
14th Nov 2019 11:16

Dear JoF & Mail.taxperfect
What is BC?
I am that old.
Just to lighten your day and hopefully bring a smile to your face.
The practice I trained in:
For the first two years, had no electrical equipment whatsoever, not even a kettle.
The book-keeper used dip-pen and ink. No adding machines.
Working papers were folded into a bundle, tied with red tape and put into the client's cubby hole.
One of the partners was able to add hundreds, tens, units, shillings and pence, simultaneously on a fifty-two line analysis sheet.
The other partner was ex-Indian Army.
I was once made to re-write a complete set of accounts because I had put the comma in the date, in the wrong place.
You know what? with hindsight, it was brilliant. The guys were absolute honest, professional and personal gentlemen of the first order.
Their work was exemplary, clients treated them with respect and as friends.
Not having to pay the clerks large sums of money for learning the job, they took it as a personal obligation to teach, and teach they did.
They were not unusual at that time.
Came computers and especially Bill Gates with Windows, and the professional world changed. Not for better, nor for worse. It just changed.
In some things the phrase "Throwing the baby out with the bath water" springs to mind.
We worked approximately forty hours per week, plus occasional unpaid overtime.

How many of you reading this, wish you might limit your "In office hours " to forty hours per week? without Lord iPad and friends on your back?

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Replying to David Gordon FCCA:
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By MC1
14th Nov 2019 11:49

Nice story, thank you for sharing this, brightened up my day.

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