Email read receipts: Should I request receipts and how do they work?

Are you sending an important email and want to make sure that the recipient actually opened and read it? One way to make sure is by requesting a read receipt. But are they always the best choice?  Learn how and when to request a read receipt, and your alternatives for getting an email confirmation.
When it comes to a time-sensitive topic like a financial transaction or cancelling a service by a specific deadline, it is easy to start getting nervous when there is no reply to your email. In such cases, it might make sense to ask for a read receipt when you send your email.

Keep reading to find out:
 
  1. Should I use read receipts?
  2. How to request read receipts in mail.com
  3. How to activate or block read receipts in Outlook
  4. Other options for tracking email
 
Frowning, bearded man with hand on chin holding smartphone and looking at laptop
If you’re worried that your email won’t be read on time, is a read receipt the answer?

Should I use read receipts?

Read receipt pros

An email read receipt can give you some peace of mind when sending an important email – if you request and receive an email confirmation, you know that your email has actually arrived (and hopefully has been read!) Especially in a business setting or when you are sending important and time-sensitive information, a read receipt can tell you whether your message has been received or if you need to send a follow-up email – or reach for the phone.

Read receipt cons

However,  keep in mind that the recipient has to agree to return the read receipt, otherwise you will not receive an email confirmation even if your email has arrived. Plus many people consider read receipt requests to be poor email etiquette, especially in a non-business context: They find them intrusive or think they signal that you don’t trust them to respond in a timely manner. In some cases people disable read receipt requests in their email accounts, so they may never even know you sent one.

All in all, it’s best to use read receipts carefully, saving them for cases where you are conveying critical information. In such cases, however, you should keep in mind that a read receipt is not legally binding proof that your email was received.

How to request read receipts with mail.com

At mail.com, read receipts are a Premium feature. If you are a Premium member, when composing an email simply click Options in the right upper corner of the window and then check Read Receipt to request one for that message.
 
Screenshot of mail.com Compose Email window with read receipt option
mail.com Premium members can request read receipts for messages.
 

Read receipts in Outlook

Request a read receipt in Outlook

When you are composing an email in Outlook, you can request a read receipt in the Options tab of the top menu bar. Click the checkbox next to Request a Read Receipt to be notified when a recipient opens that email. You also have the option to Request a Delivery Receipt for this single message here. Alternatively, you can request read receipts for all messages that you send:
  1. Go to the File menu and selecting Options > Mail
  2. Under Tracking, look for For all messages sent, request:
  3. Tick the appropriate boxes to always request delivery receipts or always request read receipts
Before you decide to activate read receipts for all your outgoing messages, however, consider the fact that some people do not like them or simply ignore them.

Turn off read receipts in Outlook

If you don’t want to see the read receipt requests that people send you in Outlook, you can deactivate read receipts. Again, you’ll find this option by going to the File menu, then Options > Mail. Under Tracking you will see three options under For any message received that includes a read receipt request. If you want to ban read receipts requests from your inbox, choose the second option, Never send a read receipt. Even if someone sends you a request, you won’t see it.

Good to know: Other options for tracking email

Request a reply

Given the potential disadvantages of read receipts, what can you do if you really need to know that your email has arrived? If you are sending an email that absolutely has to get to the recipient by a certain deadline, e.g. to terminate a lease, cancel a subscription, or submit an application, it is perfectly acceptable to request an email confirmation of receipt. Simply add a sentence saying, “Please confirm the receipt of this message.” Then if you don’t hear back from the recipient within a reasonable period of time, you can send them a follow-up message.

Email delivery tracking software

If you are sending out mailings for your small business or doing market research, it may also be necessary to find out which emails are delivered and were opened. However, email read receipts are not really useful for this purpose for all the reasons listed above. In such cases, you would be better off with a third-party email tracking solution. In most cases this will take the form of a paid subscription, although some email trackers do offer free plans (often limited to Gmail tracking). Depending on the tool, you will be able to see data on whether your emails were opened as well as click rates for links and attachments within the email. Here are a few email-tracking options to explore:

Chrome extensions for tracking in Gmail: Right Inbox, mailtrack, Streak

Subscription-based email tracking software that can be used with multiple email services: Hubspot, Yesware, LeadBoxer

We hope this post helped you weigh your email confirmation options! We look forward to your feedback below.

This article first appeared on November 4, 2021 and was updated on December 8, 2022.

Images: 1&1/Shutterstock
 

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