One of the most important forms of communication for your business is email.
It’s how your employees stay on track and communicate with one another internally, and it’s also often how your customers will reach you with any questions, comments, or concerns they may need addressed. Because of its critical role in your company, it’s imperative that email communications don’t fall behind.
An extremely common way that emails go unanswered or inboxes get out of hand is when employees suffer from email overload. This feeling of being overwhelmed by the number of messages in an inbox, or simply not being able to stay on top of email responses, is caused by a greater number of emails coming in every day than an employee can realistically answer. This is especially a problem for companies that give employees access to shared inboxes.
By helping employees to reduce email overload, you can help create a more energized and focused work environment. Employees will feel free to accomplish tasks together because they won’t spend hours bogged down by an overflowing email inbox.
Here are a few tips to know, and a few strategies to try, in order to best reduce email overload in the workplace.
1) Reduce the Number of Emails Sent
This tip may seem obvious, but sending fewer emails in a day can be harder than it sounds. Before deciding which communications or memos to cut, ask yourself — or your boss — what’s being accomplished with each email sent. Is it a task list or a reminder about company policy?
Some notices or requests sent as emails could just as easily be added to employee calendars or sent through a CMS task system. Remember: the goal is to improve productivity by freeing up inboxes. What better way to push toward actually accomplishing tasks than to assign them as due dates or deadlines on a calendar instead of allowing them to get lost in a tumultuous inbox?
Additionally, if you are a manager or team leader, consider how many emails a day you’re CC’d on. Then, ask yourself how important or crucial it is that you’re actually included in those communications. It may reduce email-related stress levels all around if some of your team begins sending emails without your address included if your response or input is not needed.
2) The Type of Response Counts Too
Now, obviously, a hefty percentage of incoming emails are going to be from customers. This is especially true of shared inboxes for things like “info@” or “customerservice@” addresses. But fear not — it’s still possible to manage these correspondences as well.
A crucial best practice to instill in all of your employees responsible for replying to customer emails, in addition to using their name and answering questions concisely, is to ensure that all responses are contained within relevant chains. There’s no reason to send new emails to the same customer every time, and this way if anyone has questions or gets confused, it’s simple to reference prior conversation in the same thread. It’s also good to remind employees not to continue replying to a customer with the shared inbox address still CC’d — once they’ve claimed an email thread, they can simply respond directly to the customer.
By maintaining best practices in how employees respond to customers, you can reduce the number of correspondences that build up in a shared inbox. It may also help to program in filters and tabs that will send time-sensitive material to the top of the queue. Prioritizing which requests to respond to can help to reduce the sense of fatigue your employees may be feeling in regard to their inboxes.
3) Don’t Fear the Delete Button
Now, generally it’s considered best practice to retain emails for longer periods of time rather than shorter. However, this doesn’t mean that every email being retained needs to be saved forever. It can be good to set some ground rules with your employees as to when it’s OK to delete emails.
For example, an employee returning from a medical absence most likely won’t need to retain emails from before they left. Those issues would have been handled by co-workers covering for them while they were away. Furthermore, emails in shared inboxes that haven’t been addressed in several months should be deleted — if it was important, it either was already addressed or the sender would have followed up by now.
Finally, and maybe most obviously, set up some seriously specific spam filters. Junk emails and promotional offers can still find their way into shared inboxes, and nothing gums up the works quicker than coupons and sale notices. Everyone will be happy knowing the unnecessary fluff in their inbox is being handled automatically.
It’s been proven that the more we reduce the amount of time we spend on our email, the more productive we become. Even though implementing new email protocols in your office may seem more overwhelming than the inbox at hand, in the long run, the benefits will pay off. Your business, your team, and your customers will feel it.