By Joe Issid
Monster Contributing Writer
Given that email has been a vital business tool for more than a decade, it seems a little redundant to have to expound on its value and ubiquity. The emergence of email as a vital communication platform cannot be understated. However, individuals and businesses alike continue to misuse the tool and fail to grasp the fundamental tenets that make email so powerful – in both a positive and negative capacity.
How to reach you
As a business, it is critical for you to publish email addresses where your clients can reach you. In today’s business world, it is even more critical than publishing a telephone number. We are all accustomed to sending our queries to a “support@” or “info@” mailbox. However, how many businesses actually respond to these emails? People fear sending emails to these generic mailboxes as they are often unmanned and leave most of their contents unanswered. As a business, the only thing more critical than publishing an email address is actually responding to emails that are sent to said address. Failure to do so tarnishes your brand and alienates your client base.
As with all business communications, a timely response to any email is critical. In an age where information is so widely available and competition is fierce, delayed responses to email can be the death knell for any business. If you are not able to respond to your customers within 24-48 hours, you need to re-evaluate your commitment to providing customer service via email. Similarly, if you are a interviewing for a new job, failure to respond to emails in a timely manner will negatively impact your candidacy. And, of course, it goes without saying that if you are not responding to your emails quickly at your current job, you are probably not being perceived in a positive light.
An emerging skill in today’s workplace is the ability to effectively manage one’s inbox. It is not uncommon for today’s office worker to receive in excess of 100 emails per day. At a former job, I would routinely receive over 500 emails per day. Clearly, this volume is unmanageable and requires a great amount of time to triage and respond to. The skill in dealing with this volume is not in responding to the great mass of communications but rather finding the way of reducing this volume to a more manageable level. Out of the 500 emails, less than 15 were directly actionable by me. Naturally, taking the time to identify these emails was a lengthy ordeal and required far more of my time than was necessary. Ultimately, I requested to be removed from a collective of distribution lists that did not directly concern me or my team. My email volume dropped by 70% and my productivity increased dramatically. Always be sure that you are only reviewing (and responding to) what is most important to you and your clients.
If you are guilty of having hundreds of unread emails in your inbox, you are simply not performing your job optimally. Among these hundreds of emails could lie an emergency or a customer who is being ignored. Rather than scheduling chunks of time every day to manage your emails, try and see if you can keep up with new emails on the fly. Filter out emails that do not concern you, flag emails that will take more than 2 minutes to respond to and respond to everything else as it arrives. Email has become a lot more informal in the business world (especially among known parties) so don’t worry too much about formatting and formalities. If a client is waiting on a decision from you, a simple “yes” would be more appreciated than a more long-winded email that arrives 2 days later. It is important to always remember that today’s business world values efficiency above all else.
Phone vs email
In my business life, I noticed that trying to manage a telephone relationship with my clients was becoming increasingly difficult and time-consuming. All telephone calls had to be followed-up with a written confirmation of what was discussed effectively requiring a lengthy email to be sent after each phone call. Over time, this practice proved to be too labour-intensive and a great waste of time. With the blessing of my clients, all scheduled telephone communications were replaced by ad hoc emails. While the volume of email increased, the focus narrowed greatly and we were able to achieve our goals faster and with less overhead. If you are in a situation where your efforts are being doubled, try and rethink your strategy to streamline your work.
Adopting a defined communication method will dramatically increase your efficiency and will help to eliminate a lot of the noise that surrounds your work. Being in control of your monstrous inbox will not only help you perform your job better and serve your clients more effectively, but it will also help reduce your stress levels. Email will be around for a long time to come so it is high time that you figured out how to use it properly.
If you have any comments on this article please contact Joe Issid at: firstname.lastname@example.org