Email is a powerful business tool that significantly impacts the way we communicate today. Since its inception, it has remained a medium for maintaining business relationships, whether through short conversations with teammates or communicating with clients. When teams collaborate within an organization, email works as an invaluable customer service tool to increase productivity.
But any system that makes our lives easier can also have the opposite effect. Likewise, emails can drain productivity and time by creating confusion among teams as well as customers. Here, we explain how to deal with these problems.
Dealing with Team Email Problems
There are many ways in which email can harm a team’s productivity, creativity and innovation. Over time, this can burn out your most highly valued employees.
Reasons Email Hurts Your Productivity
Simply put, email is more effective as a mode of communication than collaboration. When you’re planning to get your team together on a project, email can do more harm than good. Here’s why:
- Group conversations can become unmanageable.
- Finding the most up-to-date version of a document can become confused.
- Maintaining clarity about what needs to be done and by whom can become difficult.
When it comes to finding a quick and effective communication tool to help your team collaborate, email can be a big disappointment.
1. Email Management is Difficult
The emails we receive every day can be overwhelming. Some are important, but then there are the actionable mails, spam and unavoidably pointless ones. Reaching inbox zero status is achievable but takes time. You can use labels, filters, multiple inboxes and even smart inboxes – practically any organizational feature that your email client has to offer – and you will still fall short.
Basically, for each email that you receive, you have four choices:
- a) Delete
- b) Delegate
- c) Defer
- d) Do
As you can see, this is not very effective for quick team collaboration.
2. It Isolates Your Team’s Tacit Knowledge
Although emails are used to discuss work, it’s not the most efficient tool for that purpose. Sharing files, documents and links via a shared network can be messy, with countless versions of shared files and follow-up conversations trapped inside your mailbox. As for the valuable tacit knowledge shared with your teammates, email can act as a graveyard. It should instead be used for simple communication, not discussions and certainly not for collaborations.
When your teammates collaborate, the most valuable transfer of information is not the file itself but the ensuing conversation. Having that conversation over email and finding it later for reference is almost impossible. Also, nobody outside of the email thread has anything to gain.
3. Switching Between Work and Email Wastes Time
Even though we’ve become accustomed to checking our emails regularly, doing so and getting work done is almost impossible. How much time do you have for work, for instance, if you check your emails 36 times an hour? Take into account that it takes about 16 minutes to refocus after checking an incoming email. Quite a waste of productive time, isn’t it? According to creativity expert Todd Henry, this is called a “task-shifting penalty.” This idea is supported by a University of London study that claims you lose about 10 IQ points when you let your work get interrupted by emails and texts.
The Most Common Team Email Problems
Now that you know how emails can hinder your productivity, let’s look at the problems it creates among a team.
a. Important Emails Can Slip Through
One of the most common problems of managing multiple inboxes is when an important email is lost or deleted. If several members of a team are responsible for replying to incoming emails, everyone may assume that the other person will take care of it. A lack of communication like this can harm customer faith in your business.
b. Duplicated Responses Make a Bad Impression
This is a common and honest mistake that happens when a team member replies to an email without knowing whether it has already been replied to. A classic case of miscommunication, it can cause more trouble when the newer response contradicts the previous one. It creates confusion among customers and makes your business seem unprofessional.
c. Inbox Gets Cluttered with FWDs and CCs
Discussing an email before sending a reply is a common practice. That’s why employees cc the entire team so that everyone stays in the loop. But in this way, you end up with countless emails and a cluttered inbox.
d. Slows Down Response Time
You can’t hope to increase your team’s efficiency unless you know who is handling emails, or how much email you are getting. In the competitive world of business, you try to provide the best customer experience and respond as quickly as possible. But to keep giving quick responses, your inbox can overflow with unread messages, hampering your goal to provide fast service.
How to Improve Email Productivity
Here are some methods to increase email productivity and customer service:
· Assign Emails to Specific People
By assigning incoming emails to one person, you ensure that there’s no confusion about who’s to answer.
· Pay Attention to Email Response Analytics
What is your team’s average email response time? It should be less than an hour. To do this, you need to assess the current situation. Also, knowing when email volume is at its highest will help increase productivity.
You can only improve when you have a measurable baseline. Enhancing your overall efficiency and reducing your response time is possible if you use a collaborative inbox that offers analytic data.
· Save Time by Utilizing Routing Rules
Going through emails manually is time consuming. Having an email routing service can help in this regard. Generally, emails go through a spam filter, with ‘clean’ ones sent to the mail server. With email routing, you can even copy or redirect emails based on customized rules. These rules can either be set based on the sender, the recipient, or it can have other parameters depending on the service provider.
Keeping up an efficient and organized team email system is a constant effort, but it’s the best solution to any email management problems your team may face. By maintaining certain email etiquette, you not only increase your team’s productivity but offer customers a better experience as well.