Most of us are drowning in email.
The daily onslaught of email and inboxes containing 100+ messages make it hard to keep up with the old one business day standard. My 2014 email response time survey revealed that we may need to re-consider this standard.
Customers, co-workers, and even our friends expect us to respond even faster.
I recently hosted a webinar that revealed seven ways to improve email response times. You can watch the full webinar here.
This post is a re-cap of some of those tips. They’re geared for both personal use and for contact center teams.
Tip #1: Establish and Monitor Standards
This helps ensure accountability, whether you are doing it individually or as a team. Many people have standards, but far fewer actually monitor them. Checking regularly to ensure you are being responsive can help you identify and fix any problems.
Tip #2: Set Expectations for Emailers
For individuals, this involves setting your out of office message when you won’t be responding to emails in a timely manner. It’s amazing how many people don’t do this. Most people will understand if they receive an automated message that says you’re out of the office,
For businesses, this involves using a confirmation screen or an auto-response email that gives customers an estimate of how long it will take to receive a reply. It should also provide an option for a faster response, such as a phone number.
Tip #3: Staff to Demand
This tip is mainly for contact centers. Small teams typically have fairly consistent staffing, but email volumes are uneven. You can fix this by looking at your historical email data and aligning your team’s schedule with typical email volume.
Tip #4: Create Focus Time
Timothy Ferriss’s best selling book, The 4-Hour Workweek, makes a compelling case for dedicating time to focus on email. Most people chronically check email between tasks which actually slows us down. Blocking out time to concentrate on email, and then shutting your email program down, is actually much more productive.
Tip #5: Manage Your Inbox
Many an email message has gotten lost in a cluttered inbox. For individuals, managing your email box effectively requires you to make decisions about each message so nothing is left in your inbox for more than a day. For teams, this involves making sure someone takes ownership of the general inbox so nothing falls through the cracks.
Tip #6: Keep it in Play
Some issues take longer to respond to than others. People tend to be pretty forgiving if you send a quick email to let them know you are still working on it and provide an estimate of when you’ll get back to them.
Tip #7: Reduce Email Volume
Many people produce poorly written emails in their rush to slog through their inbox. The result is a lot of unnecessary email which in turn slows us down. You can reduce your email volume by taking the counter-intuitive step of slowing down and crafting more complete messages that will eliminate a lot of back and forth. (The webinar provides some fun examples.)
These tips are just scratching the surface. What else can individuals or teams do to improve email responsiveness?