My first office job was working in the sales and catering office of what is now the Delta Hotel in Winnipeg. Back then, it was the Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza. Back then, our preferred method of communication was the telephone. Contracts were typed up (yes, on computers … I don’t go that far back!), printed off along with a cover letter, then folded and put in an envelope. The customer got their contract a few days later, reviewed it, put the signed copy back in an envelope and mailed it back to us. On the few occasions mail would take too long, we had the fax machine as a back up.
Not so much anymore, right? Today, many interactions start and end with email. Responses are expected immediately and this wonderful new tool that was supposed to streamline communication has instead turned us into email junkies.
It’s time to take back control! Hopefully one or two of these tips will help you manage email, instead of having it manage you.
1. Create an email schedule
Postal carriers bring mail to your office once per day. You know approximately what time the mail is expected and are not constantly getting up to see if it has arrived yet. You can’t schedule when the email arrives, but you can schedule when you look at it.
I aim for three times per day, setting aside 20 – 30 minutes to concentrate on emails. If you are concerned you will then receive the “Why haven’t you responded to my email?” email or voice message, create an auto-response like “Thank you for your message. I check emails at 10:00 am, 1:00 pm and 3:30 pm. If you require an immediate response, please call me at 204-555-1234.”
2. Only send necessary emails
Imagine the stack of paper you would have on your desk if everyone gave you a printed copy of their email messages instead of hitting send? You’d be swamped in no time!
Pick up the phone or talk face-to-face where possible. If someone sends you an email that could be handled more effectively and efficiently with a phone call, call them instead of hitting reply.
Don’t use the “reply all” unless everyone needs the reply … even if everyone else is doing it.
If the email you are sending is for information purposes only and you don’t need a reply, let the recipient know that by simply saying “no reply needed.”
3. Create complete messages through signatures
Are there some emails you send regularly? Perhaps you send a “thank you for meeting me” email after a business meeting? Instead of retyping your very similar message each time, create a new signature with the body of the email message included. Then the next time you need to send the email, it’s done for you! (Huge thanks to Karen Turner at Turner Efficiency Coaching for this tip. She is a technology efficiency expert. Contact her here for more ways to manage technology and your time more efficiently.)
4. Create very specific subject lines
If you send a report on a monthly basis, use the same subject line and add appropriate dates. Example: Monthly Customer Service Index Report – June 2013.
If you need a response to your email, include a call to action such as Response Required by June 29th. Note it’s not just response required, but also includes the deadline date right in the subject line.
Consider using the EOM (end of message) technique. EOM means the entire message is in the subject line, no need to open up the email. Example: Tuesday board meeting rescheduled to 2:00 pm. EOM. I found this tip on-line (cannot remember where) and when I started using it, initially got a lot of replies with the question “What is EOM?” but as people become familiar with it, some choose to adopt it themselves.
5. Only one topic per email
It’s tempting to include a number of topics in one email. After all, you’re trying to reduce the number of emails coming in, right? The challenge is that it becomes much harder to refer back to the original email if the topic is buried and not referenced in the subject line. Two short, concise emails are better than one long one with combined topics.
Finding ways to manage and reduce the flood of emails that comes in on a regular basis is good for you, for your team and for your customers.
And speaking of customers, one way to stand out from the crowd is to be the service professional, the company that picks up the phone to ask how everything was or sends an invitation or card in the mail instead of sending an email. Email is efficient when used appropriately, but it does not provide the same opportunity to connect on a personal level with your customers. Talk to them. Meet with them and show you value them by taking the time to write a note on a card, put the card in an envelope, address the envelope and send it in the mail. It will be appreciated!