Email management strategies and tips to help you succeed in 2016.
Ever get that sinking feeling after the weekend when you return to work. Not because you dread your job, but because you dread at your generic complaints@ or manager@ inbox. You’re not alone.
For those of us in charge of managing customer complaints or customer support, emails can spiral out of control very quickly, especially if you work from a shared inbox. While dealing with customer enquiries may be an agent’s sole task, for managers, this is never the case; there are HR, reporting and other key tasks that need to be done in addition to responding to emails.
Dealing with mail from a shared inbox can feel like an eternity and other work can sometimes take a back seat. Sometimes it is not even clear whether a query has been dealt with. The end result is we fall behind on projects and often need to work longer hours just to catch up. It’s not a great way to start the week, is it?
Don’t feel dismayed – we’ve come up with some brilliant ways to manage your generic mailbox so you feel more productive. In this article, we’ll explore strategies for doing this, so that you can get on with the real work at hand.
Tips to work with your existing processes
1. Slot in intermittent email checks
While checking your personal email is normally regular occurrence for any manager as it helps keep your inbox at a manageable level, but checking the generic email too often can make you feel overwhelmed and make you lose focus. Distraction is one of the top reasons for low productivity.
One strategy you can use is to slot in intermittent generic email checks during the day. For instance, you may decide that you’ll only check your email first thing in the morning, before lunch, and at the end of the day. This can help you stay focus and keep you free from distractions. To keep to this and to avoid the temptation to look at your email is to turn off your audio and visual alerts.
Note: Clearly, in some roles, you will have to check generic email on a regular basis, especially if your business uses email as its main communication tool. As with all of these strategies, use your judgment, based on your circumstances.
2. The two-minute rule
When you read your mail from your manager@ or complaints@ inbox, you can waste lots of time if you don’t manage your time wisely. We recommend implementing the “Two-Minute Rule” (a concept from David Allen, ‘Getting Things Done’. So what do we mean by this? In short, if an email will take less than two minutes’ to action, then go ahead and do it. Why? Simple, if it takes less than two minutes to action then it won’t impact your productivity. Saving the quick emails to re-read and complete later can often take longer than 2 minutes and therefore can reduce efficiency. For emails that will take longer than two minutes to read or respond to, book time to action later.
3. File it
Imagine a generic inbox with no emails in it – sound too good to be true? If you don’t have the right processes in place, this can seem unrealistic but the benefit of a clean inbox is that it can help make us more organised, focused and stress-free.
Setting up some sort of filing system to help you manage your generic mail could help! You could use broad categories titled “Waiting,” “Reference,” and “Archives.” If you’re able to stay on top of your folders – particularly “Action” and “Waiting” folders – you could use them as an informal To-Do List for the day.
4. Use rules
Most email programs, such as Outlook and Gmail, allow you to establish “Rules” that sort email into a particular folder as soon as it comes in.
For instance, you might get several emails per day that notify you of sales that your company has made. You want to receive these because you want to see what’s happening, but you don’t want them to clutter your inbox.
This is where you could set up a rule in your email program that moves emails with, say, “Sale Notification:” in the subject line straight to the “Sales Made” folder as soon as they come in. This means that you don’t need to manually file these emails and allows you to keep all of the sales emails in one folder.
Consider email management software
Sometimes fessing up to the fact that your business processes are in need of re-vamping is the first step to success. While Gmail and Outlook etc are great when dealing with personal email addresses, when you add generic email addresses (e.g. enquiries@ or sales@ etc.) into the mix, you can very quickly feel overwhelmed. If you deal with a high volume of generic emails, you may have outgrown these solutions. This is where email management software really comes into its own. For each of the topics above, here is where email management software could really transform your business.
1. Intermittent emails checks
With email management software, you can set your working hours so that you will only be assigned tickets at a specific point in the day. You can also assign tickets to other department managers if you feel bombarded by your workload.
2. Reduce the need for the two-minute rule altogether
Email management software can eliminate the need to deal with the quick emails you receive on a daily basis, helping you save even more time. Imagine how productive you would be if you could eliminate those 2-minute emails from your daily workload. With clever automation, you can. Don’t be afraid of automation, make it work for you.
3. File it
Email management software goes much further than Outlook and Google. Categorise your queries, set up templates for automation or add tags and save yourself the stress of having to manually file these. You can even blacklist or rid your inbox of unwanted spam with clever filters.
4. Set up rules
Want certain emails to go to a specific folder? Want certain emails to be dealt with in accordance to a specific SLA? Want certain emails to be dealt with without the need for human intervention, then work with an email management consultant who can optimise software to meet your needs!