We know that part of good customer service is measured not only by whether you’ll respond to client emails, but how quickly you do. There is no denying our inundation, yet fascination with all the media and devices now at our disposal – to send, receive and monitor messages, anywhere and at anytime… raising the bar on what already feels like surreal expectations of us and our business.
There is good news though in this inevitable wasteland of email overkill. Here are a few things to remember in your effort to keep your inbox under control.
Develop hard and fast rules on when you will check and respond to emails. This will be chiseled right alongside that process about managing expectations. A reasonable rule would be three times a day: morning, middle of the work-day, and before you wrap things up for the day. If you were to punctuate your day with every single email that pops into your inbox, there just won’t be a lot of time to get anything else done.
Productivity involves settling into a rhythm and constantly interrupting that process by flitting back and forth between emails from different clients on different subject matters, well, that’s just a recipe for disaster with a heaping side of burnout! Let your clients know upfront (remember the first rule) about your communication policy, it will help both you and your client resist the temptation to brand every issue as urgent, when all it might need is a little bit of time and space.
Read, Assess, Respond, Repeat. In one fell swoop, try to handle all emails from start to finish and avoid opening and shelving away in your drafts to be sent later. You’ve now doubled the amount of time you’ve spent on this email by having to go back, reread and re-familiarize yourself with the issues at stake before responding.
As much as possible, try to complete the cycle once the email’s been opened – even if it means having to respond by asking for additional time or by saying you need more information.
Sharpen your deflection-detection skills. You’ve seen it I’m sure. The email that sneakily tries to throw something on your side of the fence that doesn’t even belong in the same neighborhood! Politely and professionally handle all “deflection deviants” – they are out to get your time and you cannot afford to let that happen!
Needless time spent tracking down something that has nothing to do with you in the first place, whether by a “ball that’s been dropped” or sent along to the wrong department or simply someone that wants to create the illusion that something’s been handled, is time that’s better served on projects that are actually yours to manage.
Become a pro at sniffing these deflections out and flinging them back from whence they came! When you start to feel the guilt that comes from saying no (and you will probably have to do this quite often) remember your client – your paying client who needs you, and expects you to make good on the promise you made.
Avoid anything that tries to disrupt that delicate balance between organization and chaos.
Keep it short and simple. The most successful minds of our time have accepted this profound truth: shorter emails take less time to write! Many thought leaders in the industry have gone on to suggest that emails should be kept to six sentences or less.
Your inbox is hardly the place for launching into lengthy tirades or adding more links to the already infinite email chain. Sure, emails become a great “time-stamp” when you need to document a sequence of events in an evolving situation. But sometimes it’s just easier to pick up the phone or arrange a face-to-face to squash convoluted or urgent matters in record time.
Do you have any tips for avoiding the “Email Abyss”, let us know in the comments below!