At Network Innovations, we have a rich culture and history of community service. I’ve mentioned in my blog before that I’m involved with the Kansas City Chiefs Red Coaters. This is a phenomenal organization that volunteers thousands of hours per year in our community. In fact, the diverse members of this group average over 55 hours per year of community service, with many of us giving much more. We help organizations such as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the Trolley Run, Ronald McDonald house, Harvesters and many more. I’ve had the privilege of being the Head Captain of the Red Coaters for the past 3 years. Our group (and myself) were featured in a short documentary that turned out very well – check it out here: http://bit.ly/Q0OTnu.
Last month, I promised a discussion about using email in today’s world. E-mail dominates business communications, integral in sales, customer service, vendor management, invoicing, and pretty much every aspect of your business, as critical as power and telephones. It can also be challenging, frustrating, aggravating.
With proper expectations, we can take some of the stress out of email. First, let me set the stage for what email is not:
- Email delivery is NOT guaranteed. Your messages pass through multiple routers, servers and spam filters between you and the recipient. Email can be delayed or lost for many reasons outside of your control. When sending critical, time sensitive messages, request a read receipt and follow up by phone, or choose another method of communications.
- Email is NOT a file sharing service. While it is certainly easy to attach a file to an email, this service was not originally designed to handle file transfers. Know that attaching a file increases the chances of delay or non-delivery. Most spam and virus filters prohibit at least some file types and will discard your message. The larger the message, the more likely it will fail – I recommend no larger than 5-6 meg attachments. Our spam filter solution offers a free webshare app that will share your files easily!
- Your corporate Email is NOT your mass marketing tool. If you send mass messages (like this newsletter), you need a tool such as Constant Contact or MailChimp. This will not only increase your delivery rate, but will ensure you don’t get tagged as a spammer. These services are AWESOME, and provide statistics such as delvery rates, open rates, forwards, etc., while allowing users to unsubscribe. This can be a very powerful marketing tool for your business.
- Email is NOT secure! Never send financial or personal information! Email is very easily compromised, and we all push the limits from time to time. Always be aware that what you’re sending can not only be captured and read by others, but forwarded or otherwise misused by the recipient – once sent, it is out of your control. Encryption tools are typically very expensive – but our spam filter service provides this for FREE – ask if you need training!
- Email is discoverable. If you have concerns in your business, make sure you have given thought to retention policies, backup procedures, etc. If certain levels of compliance are required, make sure you implement a compliance archiving tool (we can help) that will not only ensure legal compliance but also GREATLY reduce the cost and frustration of responding to record requests.
Now that we have a better understanding of what email can and can’t do, how do we manage this stuff? Today, this is much more art form than science, as we all try to figure out how to handle the deluge. 15 years ago, I spent basically NO time out of my day managing email – now I can spend the majority of my day on it. Here are some of my tips:
- Keep your inbox clean. I try to have less than 100 messages in my inbox, and I refuse to allow more than 250. When you manage your messages, respond, forward or delete it to clear up the clutter.
- Disconnect – it is NOT efficient to respond to every message as it comes in. Designate time throughout your day to manage email, and ignore it in between. Turn off notifications if you have to (I have to, if I see the notification, I can’t not look). I try to respond to messages at 9:30, lunchtime, 3:30 and 5:30. I’ll peek in between if I’m on hold.
- Use a good spam filter – the more you can filter out automatically, the less you have to deal with. Ours includes a daily quarantine email, which I review for about 30 seconds each morning.
- Use RULES – you may need help setting them up at first – but this allows you to automatically file messages that don’t need immediate attention. You can also auto delete, forward or respond to certain types of messages. This is a POWERFUL tool – see the article below to get started!
- Flag messages for later action – Outlook allows you to set different flags that you can use to sort messages – so you can quickly get to work on the messages that need your attention now.
If you have questions or need help with these or any other email issues, let me know. Improving your email management can reduce stress and add time to your day, it’s important to do it right. What are your tips? Send me a note and I’ll pass them on in a future newsletter!