Archive for July, 2008

Recognize the weakness of email (and pick up the phone)

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

Jonathan Babcock posted a very thoughtful set of ideas about the inherent weakness of email as a communications tool: Weakness Of Email Communications

His central point is that, when it comes to effective communications, email plus phone or face to face is much better than email alone.

E-Quakes are common, are you ready?

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

A recent study indicates that over half of all companies have had email downtime in the last year.

For information workers, having email go down can grind business to a fault. In some cases, data is lost, in others emails wait days to be sent or received.

What can you do about it? First of all, delete what you don’t need, archive often and watch the size of files sent over that platform (use YouSendIt for files larger than 5 megs). That’s the finding of the study.

Most important: Back up everything, have an alternative email account (I use Yahoo Mail) and have a contingency plan for your next email outage.

Don’t be an e-drag

Thursday, July 24th, 2008

It seems like broadband has made us heavy handed emailers. We don’t think twice about attaching MP3’s, high resolution photos, massive PDFs or bloated Power Point presentations.

Recently, someone just sent me a 26 meg file via email. Ouch. It took my program about fifteen minutes on a weak wireless broadband connection to pick it up. Meanwhile, other messages that were timely patiently waited in cue.

What if I was on dialup or a slow WIFI connection on a trip? That would hijack my computer. On top of that, not all broadband services deliver the same speed. Some blaze (wired at work connections), other only crawl a little faster than an ISDN. Do not assume your email buddy can gulp down your massive file.

I could reset preferences to only allow messages below a certain size, but then I would be rejecting emails — and some of them could be business opportunities. There’s a lesson here, especially if you are in sales and service. When it comes to the emails you send, don’t be heavy without permission.

If you have a video, massive power point or hi res photo that you want to send — here are two polite options:
1. Use the service You Send It. It is free and offers up to 1 Gig storage! You upload your massive file to the service and it sends your email buddy an email with a link where they can pick it up.
2. Send an email first asking permission.

What if you were e-hacked?

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

Here’s a twist on bad things happening over email:  getting hacked and having all your personal information leaked onto the information superhighway. 

Check out this story for more:  TV Man Hacked Anchorbabe Email

Saved by Dirty Dozen Rule #1

Thursday, July 17th, 2008

Email Etiquette Dirty Dozen Rule #1, “Don’t give bad news over email. Email is for saying, ‘Yes,’ ‘No,’ and ‘Maybe,’” recently saved one of my relationships, gave me the opportunity to learn some valuable lessons, and jettisoned the success of a video production for which I am responsible.

Here’s the skinny. I decided to let one of my contractors go. I did not like working with him. I felt that he lacked communication, collaboration and consideration. Letting go of someone is so stressful. I didn’t want to deal with it and was tempted to cop out and send him a termination email with a list of complaints, but then… I remembered Rule #1.

So I emailed this individual only to ask for a face-to-face meeting.

We met. I learned a lot. I realized that I had told him what I did not like about the way things were going, but never clearly delineated my expectations. My bad.

So I spelled out what I needed from him in order to keep him on board. The confusion cleared. He agreed to my terms. In fact, he seemed relieved to have things laid out with no gray areas.

I didn’t fire him. Now, I really like working with him. I will use him in the future, as well as recommend him to my colleagues.

Rule #1 saved this relationship. Putting it into practice increased my emotional capacity for meaningful and difficult dialog. I learned the importance of conveying my expectations with a positive orientation. I got in touch with my innerCEO.

The best part is that Rule #1 helped my contractor learn and be more professional, too, as well as keep those referrals coming in.

Jennifer Gordon, Cool Breeze Marketing

Build a Solid Email with Your Grammar-Hammer

Thursday, July 17th, 2008

Articulate and respectful emails are relationship builders. To construct such emails, use your Grammar-Hammer.

No one is too busy to take the time to use correct grammar. Yesterday, I received an email that read, “do u have time to meet this pm”.

Immediately, I felt that the sender was not paying proper attention to our relationship, was lazy, and felt he had much more important things to do than to communicate with me.

No matter how you look at it, emails with poor grammar are poor personal branding. Neglect of grammar erodes relationships. Emails with poor grammar are inappropriate responses. They make the writer look stupid and frustrate the reader.

None of us want our colleagues and clients to think of us as stupid or careless. Careless grammar implies a careless person. I’ve noticed that email replies with poor grammar rarely respond thoughtfully to my original missive. Rather, I then need to try again to communicate with the sender, which wastes my time and weakens our relationship.

When we construct emails without our Grammar-Hammer, we put ourselves in the Grammar-Slammer. We shackle our own credibility and relevance in others’ eyes.

A few basic Grammar-Hammer pointers to boost your brand:

1. Slow down.
2. Use capital letters at the beginning of each sentence.
3. Capitalize proper nouns (names of people, companies and places, - along with months and days of the week)
4. Always end each statement with a period.
5. Always end each question with a question mark.
6. Spell correctly.
7. Proofread your email before you address and send it.

By the way, “Do you have time to meet this afternoon?”

Posted by Jennifer Gordon, Consultant at EmailAtoZ.com (contact her at Jennifer@EmailAtoZ.com to bring her expertise to your company.)

Billboard Brain

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

Here’s another perspective on email overload, from EmailAtoZ consultant Jennifer Gordon:
“I’ve got a whopping case of Billboard Brain, one for the biz-health record books. How does this refreshing affliction affect my emailing?

I regard each email I send as a miniature billboard. I want to give my reader a break with a lot of white space. I’m learning to keep my emails fresh, thoughtful and simple.

Less really is more. In the billboard world, with your target audience driving at 65 mph, you have about 3 seconds to get people’s attention. People drive fast at work, too. They’ve got a lot to do. You will not grab their attention with voluminous prose and beefy attachments.

There is nothing cryptic about a billboard. Sarcasm, witty e-banter and carelessness all encrypt your message, i.e., bury it, along with your personal brand of excellence.

Before I address my email and hit the send button, I check it against my Billboard Brain criteria: What I would not put on a billboard, I should not put in an email.

A Billboard Brain understands the only purpose of email is to say, “Yes,” “Maybe,” or to exchange harmless information [Dirty Dozen Rule #1]. A Billboard Brain is crystal clear that email is an inappropriate means of communication for anything beyond this.

I consider it the ultimate email challenge to respond appropriately without excess and to break bad email habits by picking up the phone or meeting with the people in my biz life.

Billboard Brain is fun. It’s addictive. And it’s essential to creating a strong personal and company brand.”\
If you are interested in bringing email training (etiquette to management) to your company, contact Jennifer (Jennifer@EmailAtoZ.com)

Does the email tsunami help us?

Monday, July 14th, 2008

Leave it up to researchers at Harvard to prove the impossible: Email overload is good.

Harvard study suggests email overload gives us a unique perspective

What do you think? Has email given you a unique lens to see the world in ways your parents couldn’t? Chirp in some comments or post to the blog!

Observe The 2 Minute Rule

Friday, July 11th, 2008

I’ve just had a bad customer experience that could have been avoided with a phone call.

I hired a company to help with develop a product. They gave me a specific delivery date, then missed it by weeks, causing me to lose money. When I emailed my sales rep to tell him how disappointed I was, I received back a very short email from him that basically said, “This is why it happened. Thanks for understanding.”

I emailed back with more specifics on why I was upset and he replied with another short and sweet email (hoping I would go away). I’ll never do business with that company again. His emails made the problem worse. What should he have done? He should have picked up the phone immediately, called me, and smoothed it out in realtime.

Here’s a good rule for running a business, I call it the 2 Minute Rule.

If one of your customers sends you an email that indicates that they are not happy with your service or product, within two minutes, pick up the phone and call them to talk about it. If you can, do it even faster.

This will produce surprise and delight.

Imagine emailing a sales rep at one of your vendors a nastygram and then having your phone ring a few seconds later with an answer. Chances are, you’ll have a conversation that leads to a positive resolution. Chances are, the business relationship would continue or maybe improve through the experience. Try it. If you run a company, you should require your sales reps and customer service managers to live by the rule.

As I mentioned before in a previous post, research indicates that tone of voice is five times more effective at conveying your intentions than words on paper (or in an email). When you pick up the phone, you increase your effectiveness at resolving customer service issues.

e-Ubuntu, Baby!

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

The African philosophy of ubuntu focuses on people’s relations and allegiances with each other.

“A person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole.” – Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Proper email etiquette stimulates ubuntu… that wonderful allocentric buy-in of your people. Proper email etiquette helps create a safer, more productive and compassionate corporate community, within and without.

Ubuntu has become my communication criteria, - and, more specifically, my emailing criteria. For example, I am learning to review my emails carefully before I send them. I check the tone, the wording, and the necessity of the email before I send. Because I belong to a greater whole, I want to respect my colleagues’ time by refraining from unnecessary emailing. Because I truly want to be open and available, I ask myself if an email, a meeting, or a phone conversation is the best approach.

Everyday brings valuable new lessons in how to communicate better with my colleagues, my clients, and my friends. e-Ubuntu, baby!

Guest blogger: Jennifer Gordon of EmailAtoZ.  Contact her at jennifer@emailatoz.com for more information on bringing email excellence to your company!

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