Beyond The Buzz

We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.

– Ray Bradbury

Inbox Ouch!

Published May 1st, 2012 in Archive, Our Blog | Comments Off on Inbox Ouch!

Recently I got an auto generated email from someone that I had written to with questions about one of their current clients. I got an auto-generated email back immediately and even the subject line had been changed. This wasn’t an out of office reply. I need to clarify that. This was an auto-response email from a small business that represents one of my current clients.

It was a politely worded email explaining how she was so busy out doing things for clients that she decided she wasn’t going to ‘lose any more time’ in her increasingly overfull inbox. I seriously understand this statement. I really do. I need to explain that before I go too much further. My own inboxes (I have multiple emails through various companies, clients and my own projects) can take a big chunk out of my day and often I find myself sitting at the computer reading or responding to email more than I do other things. (I’ll share some tips in a minute to help manage this chaos.)

Regardless of the fact that I understand and sympathize, it sat the wrong way with me when I received her auto-generated email. I admit I had my nose a little out of shape when I read through it. The email politely informed me that since she was no longer spending so much time in her inbox, if I ‘really’ wanted to get in touch with her I could check one of the various methods listed in the email below. She then gave four possible solutions for my ‘inquiry’ which included contacting other people  who might be able to help me, contacting her through a private database (only if I’m a client) and emailing her at a DIFFERENT address – where she promised she really ‘would answer.’

With the advent of email and technology, it’s increasingly easy to keep in touch on a personal basis with your clients. Unfortunately this story also shows that technology also allows us to put up a big brick wall between ourselves and the needs of our clients.  Sometimes it doesn’t matter how nice or polite you are when you do it, you’re still telling someone that their email or time isn’t a priority. That, for me, is a big no-no.

Another fascinating story I heard recently came from a business partner of mine. She told me that she had gotten a big contract with a new client simply because she’d answered her business phone. I was astonished and asked what she meant. It seems a company in her town was looking for someone who could help them in a specific area of their business. They decided to literally look up phone numbers in the Yellow Pages and call until they could find a real person. The company who has a real person was the one that they wanted to work with. That’s something we should all keep in mind when dealing with our clients or customers.

Now how do I handle the sea of emails? I’ve employed a couple of different options.

  • Be aware of current clients who have immediate needs or ongoing projects and make them a priority.
  • If you have multiple email addresses, check them or respond on certain days of the week. Maybe only M-W-F or T-Th will work to keep up.
  • Set aside a specific time during the day for answering emails instead of answering each one as they come in. Working earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon on email correspondence usually assures that my mailbox isn’t filling as I’m emptying it.

Simple things like this have helped me take pride in the fact that I not only converse with my clients, but I can count many of them as friends because I’ve taken the extra step to be sure they know how important they are to me and my business. No technology or automated responses can ever replace the sound of a person’s voice or a personally written email or note when it comes to a client who is paying you hard earned cash for their time and skills.

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