Read Receipts in Outlook are not very reliable!

By: standss , Feb 7th, 2011

Is there any way for me to check if the email that I’ve sent has been opened? Outlook has a feature called Read Receipts which you can use for this but unfortunately it is not very reliable.

Here’s a short post on what they are, how you can use them, and why you shouldn’t rely on them too much.

What are Read Receipts?

When you write an email in Outlook, you can tick a check box labelled Request a Read Receipt. Now when the recipient opens your email, his email program may automatically send you an email notifying you that your email has been read.

How do you use Read Receipts?

  • Create a new email.
  • If you are using Outlook 2010 or 2007, click Options on the menu and tick Request a Read Receipt.

Options menu

  • If you are using Outlook 2003 or earlier, click the Options… button on the toolbar and tick Request a Read Receipt on the screen that appears

Why is this not always reliable?

You may not get a read receipt even if the user has read your email.

1. Not all Email programs support Read Receipts. You may only get a response if the users email program supports them.
2. The user has the option of sending the email receipt. In Outlook the default setting asks the user if he wants to send a Read Receipt each time one needs to be sent out. The user also has the option of turning Read Receipts off and never sending out any read receipts.

You may get a read receipt even if the user has NOT read your email.

1. When a user empties his Junk Emails folder in Outlook (and assuming that the Read Receipt settings are turned on), Outlook may still send out Read Receipts… even though the user has not read your email!

What should I do to find out if recipients have read my emails?

Despite the shortcomings, I still think that Read Receipts are well worth using. They may not work 100% but they do work a good percentage of the time.

I also like to add a short line like the following to my emails if I need stronger assurance.

Please let me know by replying to this email if you have received this

Do you use Read Receipts?
Do you have your own techniques for tracking if users have opened your email?

Let me know by leaving a comment on the blog.

One Reply to “Read Receipts in Outlook are not very reliable!”

  1. I send a weekly personalised email to 700 people and I request a Read Receipt

    100 people open my message
    100 people delete without opening
    500 people – I don’t know what they do with it !

    This information is sometimes useful, and it is better than not knowing !

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