Whether you’re dealing with prospects, clients, service providers, or friends, the way to maintain a good relationship is to do whatever you’ve said you’ll do, AND to respond when appropriate.
For instance, it’s a good idea to respond as quickly as possible when they’ve called or written with a question, forwarded an agreement to be signed, or (as in my case) sent completed work for review.
What does “as quickly as possible” mean? I’d say it means the same day, or if their communication came in late, the next morning.
If they’ve written or called and you haven’t replied after a couple of days, some might send a follow up saying something like “Did you get my message on Tuesday?”
When that happens, the best thing you can do is apologize, sincerely.
If there’s a valid reason for your tardiness, say so. If you just totally forgot, own up to it, but don't make an insulting excuse.
In my opinion, one of the worst things you can say is “I haven’t had a chance,” especially if the activity they expected (such as answering a question or forwarding a document) would have taken mere minutes.
In my opinion, ”I haven’t had a chance” is ridiculous if the task is small and more than one day has passed. It’s really means “I didn’t feel like bothering.” Or “You aren’t important enough for me to respond quickly.” Or perhaps, “I chose to watch TV all evening instead of (whatever you said you'd do).”
In other words, it’s an insult.
“I took a few days off for a vacation” is also an excuse that can ruffle feathers. There’s nothing wrong with taking a vacation – as long as you haven’t left people hanging. A quick note saying you’ll be away would go a long way toward maintaining relationships.
“I’ve been swamped” would be an OK excuse to not do something that would take some time – again except for the fact that it takes less than a minute to send a quick text or email telling someone that you’re running behind.
Are there any valid excuses for failing to respond in a timely manner?
- Illness or injury – or an illness or injury involving a loved one.
- Being snowed in with no power or phone service.
- Being affected by a disaster – like a hurricane, tornado, flood, fire, etc.
Otherwise, a quick note saying you’re delayed (and possibly for how long) will assure people that they matter to you – and that you haven’t forgotten them or whatever obligation you have to them.
Images courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net