Apart from Social Media the predominant business tool for communications is email. Unfortunately we all tend to use it in different ways and what I would like to do is to suggest ways that will make it more effective, more productive and more safe.
Let me start with email signatures which vary quite considerably but really should be of value to the recipient. How often have you received an email from someone who did not share their title, their web address or more importantly their contact number. It is frustrating particularly when you want to phone them to discuss something of importance that may take the deal across the line.
I would suggest that a basic email signature has your full name, title, phone number work and mobile and your web address. You can make it even more engaging by adding the following; a schedular which allows people restricted access to your calendar so they can book a call, Zoom meeting or other. You could let them know that you are out of the office at certain times of the day or that if you send an email out of hours that you do not expect an immediate response. I am including an image of my own email signature which has worked well for many years and please feel free to use the elements that work for you.
There are loads of videos on Youtube showing you how to set up your email signature so I will not go into that here.
Email is really the modern form of a letter except it is much faster and easier to send which has massive advantages over its predecessor but we should recognise it has dangers which we will look at now. Emails coming from anyone in your organisation represent you and we need to control what is being said, who is saying it and the tone in which it is being said. Do you look at sample emails leaving your organisation to ensure that your reputation is being maintained. Is there a consistent tone being used and are your employees reminded of their responsibility when sending emails, in other words do you have a code of ethics clearly telling people what is permitted and what is not acceptable. Here is a link to one as a starting point.
Email allows you instant response which is great but is also presents serious issues. I remember feeling badly wronged by the CEO of a company who was moving his business to a rival. In response I sat down and wrote, lets say an email that reflected my mood at the time. I read it over and was about to send it when common sense struck me. I parked it overnight and when I read it the next morning I completely changed it and wished the CEO every success for the future and told him my door was always open. Eight months later he came back saying that he had made a mistake and wanted to renew our business relationship. That year they spent €350k with us and stayed on for another five years when our relationship came to its natural conclusion. I still look back at the contents of that first draft of the email and it reminds me of the old adage of ‘act in haste and repent at leisure’. Have you any employees that may be a bit hasty in their response and how do you manage that?
How much is email costing your organisation? According to a report from the International Journal of Internet and Enterprise Management it is between €5k and €10k per annum. Based on a survey of company email use revealed typically that almost 20% of emails was cc’ed unnecessarily – only 46% that required an 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. Where do you fit within those statistics?
For example how many emails do you get that are not really intended for you because you have been included in a thread. How many documents do you receive but feel obliged to read because you were included in a thread that had no relevance to you? This is a real issue costing a lot of money each year and yet so many organisations fail to take action. Why not track what you are receiving and from whom to see what percentage of your day is occupied with communications that are not relevant. Apply an hourly rate and prepare to be shocked.
Cyber security is becoming a huge threat and according to McAfee, the cyber security firm, the cost of cyber-attacks has exceeded $1 trillion for the first time. This is not a finite issue but an ongoing one with serious consequences. The average cost of a cyber attack to an organisation is $3.6 million and the average cost to an SME of their bank account being hacked is $32k, what would be the impact of this on your firm or organisation. The hacks are becoming more frequent and sophisticated. I have become aware of three hacks in recent times, two prevented and one successful costing the firm €75k. What has this to do with email, the cloning of senior executives email addresses and then issuing instructions to their accounts departments to make certain payments. Some of these took months to set up but patience is part of the make up of criminals. In some cases instructions were issued to the accounts department from a supplier company of a change of iban numbers and the email signature contained a false telephone number. Anyone phoning would have been convinced they were talking with the real accounts department when in fact it was the criminals.
What do I recommend? Think of the 3R’s – Recognise that this is a growing issue that will become even more sophisticated and the cost could severely damage your business if not close it all together. Respond by employing the services of experts who understand how to identify the threats you face and then put in place robust plans to repel them. Review constantly as this a fast moving landscape and mistakes are costly.
Finally, back to some basic tips and suggestions. Many organisations use info@, sales@, admin@ and yet email is better when it is personal. Why not substitute alan@ or anne@ instead even though they may not actually work there. This gives the impression that those contacting the office are talking with real people who will look after them.
Don’t forget to change messages when you are on leave or at holiday time to manage the expectations of those trying to contact you.
Last but not least, I still come across email addresses such as email@example.com which suggests that the email is coming from a private contact rather than a business. If that is you, consider moving to firstname.lastname@example.org which will give recipients a more positive perception of your business.
If you would like more business tips please go to www.alecwdrew.com or schedule a call.