Jun 30, 2009

Don't underestimate impact of what you write

We are the owners of what we keep to ourselves and the slaves of what we say. But with e-mail at the workplace: We are the owners of what we say orally and slaves of what we write.

Oral messages can make us feel bad momentarily, they are forgotten more easily than written messages. Nevertheless, written words remain as if carved in stone. They fire up our feelings more strongly than oral messages. Also, we relive those feelings every time we read them. They are files that remember what was done to us and what that made us feel.

This allows us to understand why most work discussions via e-mail can be so unproductive, particularly if we want to convey emotions and messages that are difficult to communicate, even orally.

If we complain in writing to a workmate, it is very likely that the relationship will suffer. Recipients tend to interpret the feelings they read and speculate about more strongly, thus making them perceive as a scream what would have been a perfectly tolerable observation.

When I ask what bothers people more of a work-related reprimand via e-mail, they always answer: "That it was in writing. Why didn’t she come to my post, or why didn’t he call to talk about it? Don’t they trust me or aren’t I worth a more direct communication?"

Communication is the main tool to build trust among work teams, but it can also destroy it. It is very difficult for people to flow in their team if they feel mistreated in their communications.

People will give their best effort if communication with the team is productive.

More about it...

Jun 25, 2009

Start managing e-mail more efficiently

Every day we get more e-mail than the day before: more urgent bussines communications, and more spam (external and internal). So, e-mail can easily eat up your whole day if you let it.

Here are some tips for managing your e-mail more efficiently:

1. Too much spam at workplace? Check with your IT department. They should be running software that removes most of these annoying messages before you see them. Not having to delete these e-mails or decide whether it’s safe to open them can be a huge time saver.

2. If you don’t need it, don’t keep it! Mailbox inflation is a real problem. If you don’t need a message, read it and delete it. The same holds true for replies. You should regularly go through your sent mail folder and delete what you don’t need.

3. E-mail systems are clogged with endless duplication of documents, particularly e-mail chains that get longer and longer with every version.

4. A lot of e-mails should never be sent in the first place. E-mail is not a particularly secure way of communicating. Sending sensitive information always is risky.

For some subjects, a phone call might be better; for others, a face-to-face talk might be the best solution.

Jun 18, 2009

Right messages is not enough for email productivity

Why some written messages sent to clients, providers or work mates always required verbal explanations or clarifications, although the e-mail contained all the information and was well written?

Why some e-mail "discussions" weren't completely satisfactory until there was a face-to-face conversation between those involved.

In 2004 I started to perceive the negative effects of e-mail, while providing consulting services to a technological corporation on the quality of their customer services.

Although the employees were specialized engineers with excellent education and were highly skilled in technology, they had difficulties writing e-mails to clients that didn’t require telephone or personal "clarifications".

In some complex cases of services provided to clients, the company’s credibility and trust was satisfied only after verbal communication, and not with a written message.

People may have a good technical education, but they have a hard time realizing that in some cases e-mail is not the best communication media to get credibility and trust.

For them, it was the most comfortable medium, but it wasn’t the most efficient one for their clients.

They liked the benefit that they could write messages whenever they had the time, and not immediately, and that they didn’t have to listen or see the client in a difficult service situation. But they knew -paradoxically- that sooner or later, they would have to confront the client.

Always keep in mind that e-mail may not be the appropriate channel to communicate with clients in some situations. Particularly, the situations that involve strong emotions, and any degree of conflict

Jun 11, 2009

Email and website navigation merit different design tactics

Though many online marketers send emails that are very similar to their websites in terms of navigation and linking, major differences in the way consumers view emails vs. websites indicate that emails should be designed differently to achieve the best results, according to a recent report from Smith-Harmon.

The report, which is based on an analysis of website and email data for 100 top retailers collected in March and April 2009 by the Retail Email Blog, found that horizontal navigation bars, emails with fewer links, HTML coding (vs. images) and special tactics to highlight sales, seasonal specials and featured departments work best in emails.

Key highlights from the study:

* Horizonal navigation bars more visible: The study found that horizontal navigation bars are much more common in emails than vertical ones, which are used by fewer than 5% of retailers. This is because horizontal navigation bars are more likely to be seen in their entirety because of preview panes.

* Fewer links work better: Differences between email and website navigation and the length of time consumers view email generally mean fewer links should be included in email navigation than in website navigation. Rather than loading up a navigation bar with too many links, it is more effective to pick the top five or six best-performing site destinations and include those.

* HTML preferred for nav bars: It is better to use HTML so the links are be readable by the growing number of viewers who block images in emails by default. Currently 28% of horizontal email navigation bars use HTML text, up from just 15% last year.

* Other navigation links helpful: Using navigation links to help email viewers find other parts of a retail site and locate items of interest quickly - such as sales, stores, featured departments and seasonal merchandise is often an effective tactic.

See the report.

Jun 3, 2009

Internal marketing of e-mail company guidelines

Do not communicate and promote e-mail company guidelines (e-Standards) only through e-mails, or as a labor formality.

Use all communication channels available inside the company to sensitize and reinforce employee's commitment on this issue.

Don’t expect them to learn how to use better e-mail only with the manual of norms and procedures.

Employees need ample and detailed training on its risks, their rights, responsibilities, and the consequences of the improper use of this communication tool.

They need to know as well how much is the impact of some witten messages. Discussions or "clarifications" among teamwork could take many more time (and costs) than a phone call or a face-to-face meeting.

Don’t expect a single individual or department to be responsible of overseeing compliance to corporate policies on the use of e-mail. This is not strategical.

All managers and supervisors must provide support to monitor and model employee’s behaviors because otherwise good practices will not be adopted in a good will manner.

Remember, some bosses usually are the main rule-breakers, and their inconsistency doesn’t make it easy for employees to adopt e-Standards.

Bosses and others supervisors levels have to be first accomplish e-mail company guidelines. They are responsible for setting good examples.

Jun 2, 2009

Confronting the information overload

The average email user received more than 160 emails a day in 2008, according to figures from market research firm the Radicati Group.

A study by the University of California at Irvine tracked 36 office workers and found that employees spent just 11 minutes on a project before an email notification, phone ring or knock on the door interrupted them.

One tool to deal with information overload is a new plug-in for Microsoft’s email program Outlook 2007, called Email Prioritizer.

It lets you choose not have any email delivered to your inbox for a specified period of time or until your current meeting ends and lets you rank the importance of incoming email messages with zero to three stars.

Other products include Google’s Email Addict service; Xerox’s Hybrid Catgorizer that automatically scans, sorts, extracts and reviews electronic documents; and website monitoring technology such as WebSite Watcher and Copernic Tracker.

Read the complete article by Mark Frary for