Does the Blackberry Reduce Email Responses?

Maybe I’ve just got a complex about not getting enough replies from my clients, but I think I’ve observed a trend.

As the Blackberry has proliferated through the corporate world, I’ve noticed a reduction in the rate of responses to my email. I might send a client 10 emails in a week, and only get replies to 4 where I used to get 6 or 7. I try to be succint and pointed in my messages, and I don’t think I’ve gotten any worse at doing so.

Here’s my theory. Like any mobile device, the Blackberry’s input interface (the little keypad plus scroll wheel) isn’t great. Compared to a computer with a big monitor and an ergonomic keyboard, it’s downright awful. I’m not picking on the Blackberry here–this is true of any mobile device compared to a desktop or laptop computer. Blackberry users are therefore deterred from responding to email messages, particularly if they require longish, thoughtful responses.

Often when I check my email on my computer, I’m ready to reply to messages as well. That is, I’m in a receive-respond mode.

When Blackberry users check their email, maybe they’re mostly in a receive-only mode. The Blackberry has, in theory, extended the time lag between reception and response.

When Blackberry users are back at the office, they’ve got a pile of other distractions and have difficulty going back over the emails they’ve already received. In fact, it may feel like wasted time, because they’ve already mentally processed the messages.

I’ve never had a Blackberry or other mobile email device, and I’m not particularly keen to get one. Hey all you hoopy froods out there with mobile email thingies, what’s your experience been? Am I on to something or off my goard?


  1. Would agree with you.

    My ex Boss was always on the road and carried a Blackberry everywhere. I recall sending hinm countless e-mails of the “please respond” category( as opposed to FYI) and invariably got no response.

    Moreover, e-mails initiated from my boss via e-mail consisted of forwarded mails with a mere “please help here” added for his troubles.

  2. I think it is up to the user. One of our past realestate agents had one and would reply via e-mail on the Blackberry, or call back depending on the situation and where he was. The only time we did not get a response was when he was on the golf course, we were in panic mode so I think we ended up calling him. My sister had one from work and would respond faster to an e-mail then she does now without her blackberry.
    As I said I think it is up to the user.

  3. I have found that “always on” usually means that you are “always aware” but “not always there”.

    At least that’s how I handle my MSN. Back in the day I would login and get 50 messages from some random people on my list, causing me to waste hours at a time trying to accomplish some very basic tasks.

    No longer. I leave MSN running 24/7. Most of the time I only respond from work or from home in the late evening. Some people know this, some don’t. I get the messages, but I can’t always reply (they’ve gone offline).

    I’m just happy that I can message people if I want to and not the other way around. Would I be so crass if I had a blackberry? You bet. Now can you buy me one so I can start ignoring you, too?

  4. You guys make some good points. A blackberry makes you infinitely accessible, and responding to all emails immediately would set a precedent that wouldn’t allow those four or five hours of peace on the golf course (hypothetically, of course).

    Oh and Darren, I’m not trying to be cheeky, but you’re not always in receive-respond mode. I am still anxious to hear from you.

  5. I’ve actually changed my email writing style for people I know who use Blackberry’s. Rather than writing complete thoughts, or asking for feedback on multiple items in a single email, I break these down into small, easy to consume, and easy to respond to chunks. I do still find that for many Blackberry users, I don’t get the response rate I used to.

    Again, as Mark says, I do think it’s somewhat user dependent (although I definitely believe there is a trend).

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