Are You Known for Responding in a Timely Manner?

Ronald requires a third-party reviewer to provide feedback on his recent evaluation report for a construction project. He sent the documents via email to his peer, Thomas, two weeks ago but has not received a response. He decides to send a reminder email to Thomas. When Ronald returns to the office the next day, there is still no reply from Thomas. As the due date for submission is near, Ronald decides to personally stop by Thomas’ office to check on the progress.

Ronald: Hi Thomas, I wondered if you’ve had the chance to look through the evaluation report I sent through two weeks ago.

Thomas: Oh, I haven’t had the time to finish reviewing it. I’ve got time this afternoon, so I’ll go through it then, is that alright?

Ronald: OK, I just wanted confirmation that you received it. I’ll need to submit them in two days’ time. Would you be able to complete them by then?

Thomas: Sure, not a problem.


No doubt, many of us have had a similar experience. Do you recall the last time you were required to wait for a reply that was obtained only when you spoke to the person face-to-face? Or that came at the last minute after repeated endeavours to reach that person? Or how about a reply that never came at all? At times, it is almost expected not to receive any response unless it’s a positive one. Are there cultural reasons behind this behaviour?

As a face-saving culture, Malaysians often avoid embarrassing themselves or others around them. So a lack of response may be viewed as a better option than outrightly saying ‘No’ to someone, with the hopes that the person will get the hint. At other times, like Thomas in the example above, one might feel it’s better to complete the whole task required of them first before providing any reply. Is the act of holding back our response really the best solution? What negative effects could we be sending to others without even realizing it, especially if we work globally and with people from cultures that value a timely response? Consider the following:

  1. Hurts our personal brand. Building a personal brand involves establishing an image in the minds of others about who we are as an individual. When we provide a prompt reply (even if it’s a polite refusal to something), we project to others the impression of being responsive, reliable and professional in our job. It shows we care enough to realize that other people’s work may depend on our response to their requests. People will work well with us if they like the positive qualities we display. This is especially true in relationship-oriented cultures like those found in Asia. On the other hand, if we have a habit of ignoring emails we feel are unimportant or being slow to reply to requests, we indirectly contribute to a negative portrayal of ourselves.


Can’t accept a sales proposal because you have another better offer? Instead of ignoring the failed bidder, thank him for his efforts in introducing his products or services. Let him know that you’ll keep him in mind for future projects.

Don’t have time to help out a fellow colleague? Instead of avoiding that person, inform her that you’re really tied up with work and if possible, suggest a more suitable time when you will be available.


  1. Damages the reputation of the organization we are representing. A simple but often overlooked fact is that our approach to responsiveness has a direct bearing on how our organization is viewed. This is especially true within the customer service industry, where just one bad experience with an employee can easily paint a bad picture of the company as a whole. When we individually provide swift responses in our line of work, the organization will collectively be viewed by others as an organization that holds to a high standard of service excellence.


Can’t resolve a customer complaint within the requested time frame? Instead of remaining silent, periodically update the customer about steps taken towards resolving the issue and include a reasonable time expectation of a resolution. Over-communication in this regard is usually welcomed.

Not sure if you can make it for an event/meeting as it depends on your schedule for the next few days? Seriously evaluate if you can attend the event/meeting and if not, respond with a ‘No’ but provide a brief explanation for your reason. Alternatively, send a ‘Maybe’ response along with a brief note of when you’ll be able to provide confirmation.

The desire to develop a professional image of both ourselves and the organization we represent will motivate us to be a responsive employee, be it in word or in writing. A prompt and responsive attitude can do much to ease a customer’s frustration and turn an unfavourable situation into a positive one. Contact us to find out more about how you can develop Cultural Intelligence to achieve an international standard of customer service excellence.

By: Boleh Blogger