How much is email costing your organisation every year, well according to a report from the International Journal of Internet and Enterprise Management it is between €5k and €10k per employee per annum. Based on a survey of company email use revealed typically that almost 20% of emails were cc’d unnecessarily – only 46% that required action on the part of the recipient actually stated what the expected action was and 56% of employees remarked that email is used too often instead of telephone or face-to-face.
These statistics make interesting reading and suggest that we have not fully come to terms with this particular technology. The great news is that we can make better use of emails if we follow some simple rules consistently and I have outlined 5 of them below. As a bonus I have some suggestions about email signatures and URLs.
1. You are about to send an email or respond to one, ask yourself the question, could this be done more effectively by phone. Making that five minute call may remove the need for a lengthy email thread, may remove any misunderstandings and may make a better impression on the recipient. If there are actions or tasks that are agreed in that call they can be sent via email. Consider actually calling on people more often as this will help cement relationships and build rapport.
2. How often to you hit ‘Reply all’ or CC documents as you forward an email when it is not necessary at all. How often do you receive emails of this type and think to yourself, they are having a laugh. Email makes it easy to cover your back as you pass some element of responsibility to people who should not be involved in this thread, who don’t need the added work and who will not appreciate you including them. This type of action encourages a culture where everyone passes the buck and in doing so greatly reduces the productivity of everyone.
3. Before you send or forward an email, THINK: what do I want this person to do/what’s the subject? Then, select one of the below labels and add it to the Subject line to make it clear what the person is required to do as a result of receiving this email:
ACTION NEEDED – Compulsory for the recipient to take some action
DECISION REQUIRED – Requires a decision by the recipient
APPROVAL SOUGHT – Seeks permission or approval from the recipient
INFORMATION ONLY – For informational purposes only, and there is no response or action required.
4. Be succinct, you do not need to write an essay. Think carefully about what you want to say and say it in the fewest number of words.
5. If they want to call me, is my phone number included in my email signature both on my phone and on my desktop. Make it easy for people to contact you. I created mine for free on my Mac but there are free and paid versions out there and here is a link
Finally, I would like to make a suggestion on two areas that may make a difference to your business.
1. info@, sales@, accounts@ – these impersonal addresses are being used by companies of all sizes and I believe that this could be managed much better. For example could you use kevin@, karen@ or even some made up name to give the sender the sense that they are dealing with real people who care as opposed to faceless people who are hiding behind these generic URLs?
2. I still see some small businesses using @gmail.com or @yahoo.com etc. and I would ask them to consider changing this. Many business people see these types of addresses as lacking credibility and you may be doing yourself a disservice. It is easy and inexpensive to have a business address just using your name (firstname.lastname@example.org) or incorporating your business name but try to keep it reasonably short because you will be asked to call it out to people and long addresses can be picked up incorrectly.
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