Email Assumptions Revealed by Persistent Follow-up

woman using laptop

As 2020 ended and 2021 began I found myself in the midst of an unusual communication challenge.

In mid-November, the head of a medical team filled out my website Assessment Form, looking for information on phone skills for front desk staff. Through a series of emails and a phone message, we were able to connect for a conversation. I sent a proposal by November 23. It was reviewed and approved quickly, and the first of two 1-hour training sessions was booked for January 6.

On December 2, I sent along the webinar link for the first session, the link for the quick survey for participants to complete, and access to my calendar to book Part 2.

No response.

Why did this client suddenly go quiet? And what lessons does this experience contain?

There were more emails and phone calls. No response. And then the holidays arrived. As I began the New Year on January 4, I was very uncomfortable and uncertain about my relationship with this client.

In the end, the January 6 webinar did take place and was very well received (whew!). By working with the receptionist, the survey was circulated to everyone on January 5; I had time to incorporate the data into the presentation.

As always, I promised to provide a copy of the slide deck and a link to download the webinar recording. I sent this along to the team lead within hours of our being together.

Two days later she emailed me to say she had not received anything.

Why? Because send doesn’t mean received! I had ignored this knowledge completely, fully embracing the assumption that email always works.

When I looked closely at all of our successful email communication, I realized that when I hit “reply” to her messages, she received my email. But when I created a brand new message, even with the correct email address, it never reached her inbox.

We are now set up for our next webinar. No one is annoyed or disappointed. And I’ve been reminded of an important element of clear communication … and so have you!


4 thoughts on “Email Assumptions Revealed by Persistent Follow-up”

    • Thanks, Emma. Glad you found this story helpful. I was very grateful to figure out how to best work with the client and wanted to share the experience. This must be happening to other people as well.

  1. very good topic that happens too often. When we were introduced to email communication, we assumed everyone would receive our communication, which is not always the case. This is where the phone cannot be replaced, talking to a real person in real time and understanding each other correctly.

    • So true, Scott. This is a stumbling block for us. We are so confident when we hit “send”. Important to follow up and to make sure that at least some of the conversation is in real time, whether by phone or video.


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