Why Your Clients Aren’t Replying to Your Emails

The below is an article I wrote for the ifa magazine, reproduced with permission.

As tech dominates life and business as we know it, our email inbox has become a thriving metropolis of questions, opportunities and to-do list items. The world takes great pleasure in filling our inboxes, leading to an ever-increasing list of admin items to triage and the very real phenomenon of ‘email overload’. There are few industries as dependent on email as financial services is.

As trusted advisers to your clients, you’re an important part of your clients’ lives. As such, your biggest risk isn’t being ignored – the risk is people seeing your email and deciding to delay action until a future point. Not only does this frustrate you and your business, but it’s also often not in your clients’ best interests to do so.

Email isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, so it makes sense to get smarter about the way that you email. Little changes to how you do things can make a big difference to the response that you get.

Tried and tested with hundreds of businesses, here are my best tips to send client emails that get actioned quicker. I encourage you to experiment with one or more of the below strategies to see if it helps your email get chosen among the clutter of your clients’ inboxes.

Less is best

“If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.”

Whether it’s the busy days we lead or the lengthy compliance document culture ingrained in our businesses, we have a tendency to write very wordy emails. Some of these need to be long, but many of them don’t. If you can shorten emails, you should; complexity is disempowering as a client. Long emails make it easier for someone to say “my brain hurts a little, I’ll read this email later”… then later becomes later… and later… and later! Short emails get actioned. Cull until your key message or questions become blatantly obvious. It may take time, but if the outcome is important, it’s worth the extra effort.

Timing is key

Most of us send emails when it’s convenient for us… but does that mean it’s the optimal time for your clients to digest and action them? Sending an email at a busy time is a recipe for competing with other emails and getting lost in the inbox abyss. Email at times when you may have your client’s peak attention and you’ll notice the response rate to your emails improve.

So, if you have young professional clients, try emailing during typical commuting times. If your clients are busy parents, perhaps they are looking for a distraction during their kid’s sport on a Saturday. There’s no ‘golden time’ for email, but test and measure to see what works best for your particular clients.

Make their life easier

A common issue causing delayed email replies is the size of the task you ask someone to undertake. In this situation, it’s useful to deploy a bit of empathy. If you received this email, could you action it in a 15-minute window during your lunch break? Or would it require a couple of rare hours of free time to focus on? If the latter, the chances of getting the timely reply you’re looking for are low. Consider ways to break a bigger task into smaller tasks or use tech tools like ‘Docusign’ (for electronic signatures) or ‘Typeform’ (for online surveying and data collection) to simplify important actions and save precious time for your clients.

‘Ease of working with you’ is one of the biggest determinants of your clients’ satisfaction. More effective email practice is a massive lever you have to create this simplicity.

Deadlines are far from dead

People have a tendency to prioritise actions that are both urgent and important. Many of the tasks we ask our clients to complete are important but without a sense of urgency, they fall into the ‘this can wait’ pile of their inboxes. We all know the beautiful last-minute flurry of energy we get before a deadline, so create a bit of that with your clients. Attaching clear timelines to your client requests will spark timely action, while also giving you permission to follow-up when necessary.

Set better expectations

As advisers, the tasks we need clients to do can have huge implications for them and their families. As such, many of our emails to clients are far more important than that Domino’s Pizza $5 coupon in their inbox, warranting some gentle nagging when emails remain unactioned. But even though we’re doing the right thing here, it can still feel awkward. I recommend you destigmatise the nagging! Use your client agreements to set the expectation that your emails to clients need to be actioned in a timely manner. It will make clients put you at the top of their list and it will give you permission to tap them on the shoulder when they are ‘dragging the chain’.


Michael Back runs a coaching business, Human to Human, helping advice businesses stay relevant and grow through better relationships with prospects and clients. Michael was named as the Marketing Consultant of the Year at the 2019 ifa Excellence Awards.