‘Communication’ through email: time for a change?

I’ve been spending the Christmas break thinking about how to improve efficiency within Attacat (I know, a bit sad but don’t feel too sorry for me – I was on a beach in Thailand). The less time we spend on tasks thanks to increased automation – thus not wasting time with inefficient communication methods and checking numbers that could be checked programmatically – then the more time we have to spend on improving client accounts.

email communication – does it work?

My initial focus for time savings is email. There is no doubt that email is one the greatest advances in global communication over the recent years; however my feeling is that we’ve become so used to email that we’ve forgotten some of the ‘traditional’ communication methods and try to use email even when it is not the correct fit for the job. Firing off a quick email generally seems like the most efficient way to complete a task, but this is only true if there is little or no discussion to be had. How about picking up the phone?

How many times do you find yourself watching your inbox, waiting for the next email to come through (OK, I’m being OTT here but you catch my drift)? Sound like an efficient use of time? Keeping you focused on work at hand? The Outlook email notification message (i.e. whenever you get an email you get a desktop alert) is one of the worst things ever invented – company policy already dictates that these are turned off! And don’t get me started on Tweetdeck notifications…that’s for another day 😉

Just think – you’re in the middle of a task, notice an email and then answer that email. This distracts you from the original task and takes a few extra seconds for you to get back into it, if you manage to get back into it. Repeat this several times a day, across 10+ people in the company and you can soon see these seconds add up over the days/weeks/months.

Attacat’s email policy (BETA!)

Based on these thoughts I’m going to be changing the use of email within Attacat to improve our communication, both with clients and internally. There are no hard and fast rules in anything but I want to try and create a new culture surrounding the use of emails. We’re not going to force clients into changing the way they work but there will be certain aspects of the policy that it will be important for you/them to understand.


  • We’re going to be on the phone a lot more than normal. We believe that a phone call is more time efficient than back-and-forth emails: many points can be covered quickly and any confusion or questions can be addressed quickly and in one go. The Attacats can then get back to working on your tasks without further interruption – great!
  • Use of emails will be limited to two periods in the day: first thing in the morning and again straight after lunch. We’ll also allow an optional quick check at the end of the day to ensure nothing is left overnight that needs dealing with (this is designed to be a ‘check’ not for sending emails!).
  • We will limit the delivery of emails from the server to the account manager’s desk to the times mentioned above.
  • If we expect that an email sent requires more than one reply then we should pick up the phone and discuss. All phone calls are logged and a confirmation of call can be sent if required.
  • Monthly reports, daily stats and any bespoke reporting will still be sent by email (for now; I’m working on something more engaging for this too!).
  • If any files/images need to be sent to or from a client outside the hours specified (that is business critical) the client will be able to deposit files in their client-specific Dropbox online drive.
  • If any email communication from a client is business critical this can be sent to the enquiries@attacat.co.uk mailbox that will continue to be monitored throughout the day.

Don’t worry, we’ll be speaking to all our clients about this change before it’s implemented to get your views and ideas.

Clearly, common sense will need to prevail here and the regulations can’t be too tight as people like to work in different ways. I don’t want to turn the Attacats into robots but I do want them to deliver the best level of service for all our clients.

what’s next?

As I say this is a wide-reaching review of all systems to find time and efficiency savings – clearly email is only one part of this. My next areas of focus are:

  • Reporting – further automation of internal reporting along with daily and monthly client reports.
  • Report delivery – to move away from just sending a report on an email I’m looking at several more efficient delivery methods including client portals or client-led reporting (where clients can run reports on our data across their own time periods and with their own metrics).
  • Marketing dashboards – an at-a-glance view of where you are now in comparison to last week/month/year. We have this in place internally but we plan to open it up to clients – transparency is one of our core values at Attacat.

We’re only skimming the surface of things that can be improved and it’s always an ongoing task, but these are our short-term goals and we plan to make some great progress over the next couple of months!

I will continue to update anyone that might be interested (if not it’s at least a reminder for me!) and I will be blogging more over the coming months on business and business-development-related matters.

your views

OK, this revised email policy is perhaps a little controversial (or maybe not?).

Either way I’d be very keen to hear your views on it using the comments below. If you’d prefer to discuss it with me privately you can get me on Twitter or email (damn – email again already?!) ben@attacat.co.uk.


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Creative Commons License photo credit: Robert S. Donovan

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6 thoughts on “‘Communication’ through email: time for a change?”

  1. Attacat Tim says:

    Ben, you forgot your phone number – 0131 220 1441 :)

  2. TOM DUFFIN says:

    Ben, I’m not a client, but after a google+ post from Tim the other day I had a snoop and was particularly struck by the “We operate on five minutes notice” statement. It struck a chord with me then and maybe I misread the intention of that statement, which seemed to suggest an Always On way of dealing with clients.

    I perfectly understand the situation you’re trying to remedy, as it’s a problem I have too, but how will damming the flow of emails to your guys go down with clients expecting an “Always On” ethos, particularly with work concerning social media – where a problem can often be prevented ( or turned into a plus) by early intervention.

    Also by having what is effectively an emergency email address for clients in distress are you not placing an onerous burden on whoever monitors that email account – should they disturb the account manager or not?

    I heartily agree that phoning instead of playing email ping-pong is the way to go, but as a client I would always expect, or initiate myself, a brief synopsis of the conversation in an email afterwards, just to keep a record. I do like the look of you guys, and we’ll maybe chat in the future. Kind Regards, Tom Duffin, X-sail Ltd

  3. Attacat Ben says:

    @ Tom

    Thanks for getting involved in the discussion. I completely take on board your comments & this is certainly not a cure all for the email problems!

    The 5 minutes notice comment comes more from the fact that we don’t tie anyone into contracts – we retain clients through our results, not our lawyers :)

    We always keep a written log of any phone calls and taking on board your comments I think it makes sense for that to be circulated to clients too.

    Some other things that I have been considering:
    * Using a task logging system based in a client dashboard that will allow specific account changes or updates to be requested directly. This give a lot more transparency on the work that is being done on the account and removes the email problem for urgent issues
    * Social Media monitoring will continue to be done as normal – we use systems outside email for this so this would not be affected

    I completely agree that this is far away from a fully formed plan & input like this really helps me see the other side.

    I’ll keep thinking!

  4. Attacat Ben says:

    @ Tom

    Thought I recognised your company name – been looking at buggies for kiteing and came across you guys during my search :)

  5. TOM DUFFIN says:

    ah, Ben, as a man who likes to make the very best of his time, perhaps you should have a closer look at what we offer – same excitement as kite buggying but with no strings attached – no tangles, knots, breakages, just pull it out of the boot, unfold it and get down and dirty. We could exchange services perhaps? See you on the beach?

  6. Attacat Ben says:

    Certainly tempting Tom, those kite wires can get in a nasty tangle! More in common with sailing which I’m more used to than flying a kite 😉

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