Between email, instant and text messaging, Twitter, blogging, and all the different vehicles we use to access information, we are drowning in data overload. The constant electronic interruptions cost the U. S. economy an estimated $558 billion annually. This does not account for the cost of poorly written emails that land companies in legal trouble, destroy long-term client relationships, and ruin reputations.
Consider developing an email protocol. That is, establish some law and order by developing a set of email best practices. Simply stated it’s “the way we do business around here” in terms of communicating via email with co-workers and customers. It is a code of behavior, a set of standards as to how you will frame your words and manage your inbox.
Here’s a story that makes the point. A robust, very successful company had been a client of an accounting firm for thirty-five years. The project manager (PM) of this account retired and a new PM filled the position. She was told to contact the client and introduce herself. Her first mistake: She emailed him. Her second mistake: She assumed they had a relationship. Third mistake: She wrote: Hi Bob! When are we gonna do a ‘meet’? You can just imagine what happened next! The upshot of this encounter was a lot of paddling underwater to save the relationship. IF there had been a protocol in place, this would never have happened.
Below is a short list of questions to visit at your next meeting. Your answers could be the beginning of a company-wide document.
1. How do you greet and close messages?
Many companies are crafting a series of key phrases used solely for openings and closings. Remember, you would never call without greeting someone. Why would you not in your emails?
2. What does your email signature say about your company?
It should be professional with no cutesy sayings. It needs to contain all contact information. Establish a standard for font style and size. Also, consider placing your signature block horizontal rather than vertical to save room.
3. What is your company’s policy around blind copies?
Some companies only use them for e-blasts; others state they are strictly verboten. Discuss why, when and how you will use them.
4. Do you have a message for the out of office auto-responder, and when do you turn it on?
A large bank requires if an employee is gone for more than one hour and on an important project, the auto-responder is activated. Other companies insist they are available 24/7 for their clients, thus no auto-responder.
5. How often do you check emails?
Some companies set their programs so emails are only called up hourly, thus reducing down time and increasing productivity. Others require employees to check their e-mails a minimum of four times a day.
6. How soon do you return e-mails?
Within four hours? 24 hours? Some companies’ policy state all emails need answering within the same business day.
7. Do you use emoticons?
Buzzing bees, dancing bears, smiley faces. Suggestion: Heartily rule against it.
8. How many emails before you pick up the phone?
The rule of thumb seems to be three. If the issues are not resolved, pick up the phone or walk down the hall.
How does it handle accessing confidential information, or racial and sexual harassment? Your email policy should be compatible with these documents.
10. How will you insure employees understand your protocol?
For example, who is the contact person when questions arise? How will updates be handled? Will you schedule trainings?
Email has become the biggest productivity drain in businesses today. Getting a handle on this daily data dump by establishing procedures will make certain you and your company stand above the crowd.
About the Author:
Dr. Julie Miller, founder and president of Business Writing That Counts!, is our resident business-writing expert. She is on faculty with P3 University. For more information, please visit http://www.businesswritingthatcounts.com.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics results from the American Time Use Survey shows the average amount of time per day in 2008 that individuals (over age 15) worked, did household activities, cared for household children, participated in educational activities and engaged in leisure and sport activities. Here are some of the results:
Note from Petey: I am amazed that only .21 hours are spent on telephone calls, mail and e-mail. Did they include SEO – Text- IMO!!!! 12 minutes – are you kidding me???? Where am I going wrong? What has my life come to that I know at least 4 hours a day average is spent with techy toys within my reach!
Or when Chiang Kai-Shek said, “We become what we do.” Was he talking only to me??? What about YOU???
The Dallas Business Journal asked this question and received 585 responses and results;
34% = Work that is valued
32% = Generous pay and benefits
18% = Friendly staff; no office politics
11% = A flexible work schedule
4% = Misc. thoughts
1% = comfortable office
Note from Petey to Owners, CEO, COO, HR, Supervisors & Managers. The best strategy to take in engaging your employees in your vision and mission is not always $$$$$. While pay and benefits are in second place , taking time to appreciate, acknowledge and reward accordingly are in order. Creating a work environment and culture where each employee feels necessary and worthwhile should be at the top of your strategic plan.
Wouldn’t it be great to think we could work in an atmosphere without office politics? Without malicious gossip? Without climbing a ladder stepping on people on the way up? You are guaranteed of a friendly and happy staff if everyone is working toward the same common goals and positive vision, usually presented in their brand and marketing pieces.
“ Long-range studies imply that doing something with other people, especially something for them, is the most powerful of all stimuli to longevity and health.” - Jon Poppy