‘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 email@example.com 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.
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.
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?!) firstname.lastname@example.org.