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Originally published May 20, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified May 20, 2007 at 2:01 AM

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Interpersonal Edge

Business e-mail deserves RSVP ASAP

Q: I swear most people I e-mail or voice mail take more than a week to respond. By the time they contact me, I don't want to do business...

Tribune Media Services

Q: I swear most people I e-mail or voice mail take more than a week to respond. By the time they contact me, I don't want to do business with them. Don't they realize it is completely alienating to respond like molasses?

A: No, most people haven't realized molasses can be great in cookies but conveys disrespect in returning e-mail/voice mail. Normal business responsiveness has slid toward at least a week to return e-mail or voice mail. Most folks figure if it is normal for everyone else, it is effective for them, too.

If you'd like to amaze customers, simply return e-mail and voice mail within a day. My staff and I are told regularly that this "abnormal" practice makes our office appealing to work with.

Obviously we all receive calls or mail we may not respond to because our business won't benefit. Few people should respond to all inquiries within the flood of spam, sales calls, and idle or entitled requests for free assistance.

If you want to shorten the response time, try these tips:

1) Except under unusual circumstances, respond to all legitimate e-mails or voice mails within the day received.

2) Develop guidelines for those inquiries you won't respond to, which will free up time to respond quickly to everyone else.

3) Before you reach out and touch someone, decide if you are a customer or can benefit that business. If the answer is no and you write or call anyway, realize odds are you won't receive a response.

4) Set up consequences for slow responses and communicate them kindly and immediately. For instance, "If we do not receive your confirmation of the meeting by next Monday, we will have to offer you another time next month."

We are most likely to improve others' behavior when we embody it ourselves. To revolutionize your workplace, pay attention to the simple kindnesses you can practice every day. Now go forth and return that call!

The last word(s)

Q. I'm thinking of going into business partnership with my friend. Is there any question I should consider to help me make a decision?

A: Yes — would you marry your friend? Marriages are not the only unions that have a bad end when two people aren't compatible.

Daneen Skube, Ph.D., is an executive coach, trainer, therapist, speaker and author of "Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything" (Hay House, 2006). She can be reached at 1420 N.W. Gilman Blvd., No. 2845, Issaquah, WA 98027-7001; by e-mail at interpersonaledge@comcast.net; or at www.interpersonaledge.com. Sorry, no personal replies. To read other Daneen Skube columns, go to www.seattletimes.com/daneenskube

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