One of the challenges I’ve been facing over the last couple of months since we’ve brought on more staff and started accepting more custom development work at Crowd Favorite is how to avoid having the entire day eaten up by e-mail and phone calls with prospects and clients.
I’ve never been a zealot about the inbox zero methodology, but I have always tried to reply to all business e-mails the same day I receive them. Recently, that has become more and more difficult due to the communication required with clients and the project leads that have been coming through the door.
This year I have stopped replying to business e-mail outside of business hours (though I back-slide on this at times). Though it was an uncomfortable transition, it has generally worked well. I think it’s now time for me to start a similar transition with a system to prioritize which e-mails get replied to first (with some further down the list not getting replies the same business day).
- Current custom development clients and software customers.
- Previous/returning custom development clients.
- Custom development prospective clients and potential software customers with whom I have already exchanged e-mails.
- New custom development prospective clients and potential software customers.
This is the right order for the way I want to run my business1, but I know it isn’t how all businesses work. Lots of folks seem to put sales way above support – the call hold time for sales vs. the call hold time for support with every cell phone service I’ve had is a good example of that approach.
Longer term, we’ll solve this by continuing to expand with additional people in the right places, but this will likely continue to be an issue for a little while. It’s the right problem to have, too much chatter instead of not enough. 🙂
I’m going to think this over a little more, and I welcome your feedback in the comments. Once I’m satisfied that this is the right interim solution, I’ll be posting an official policy on the Crowd Favorite web site, and adding a link to the policy in our auto-reply e-mails.
- And most folks seem to be comfortable with this, they realize they will get the same treatment when they are a client/customer. [back]
It looks reasonable to me. I approve! Man, CF is a great place to work. 😉
Alex, have you tried the GTD (getting things done) concept of email management. Basically the rules are:
1) If you can do it in 2 min or less, then just do it;
– delete the email;
– delegate the email;
– file the email for later;
– assign the email to a place (@computer, @phone, etc.)
It seems to work for me most of the time…
At the same time, you have your priorities in line. The balancing act is when business is good lean on customer service, when business needs to grow put sales front and center. Dont create hard and fast rules, because any growing business is never static in its needs.
I agree with a lot of the GTD stuff, but the e-mail handling is not a place where we see eye to eye. Those 2 minute e-mails all add up to constant distractions and I know too many people that just end up with an ever growing “for later” folder of stuff that eventually gets ignored.
I’ve been operating on an unofficial inbox zero methodology (not following the 43 folders system) for quite a while. Right now there are 0 email in my inbox. Stuff gets assigned a task in iCal, or taken care of immediately. Coincidentally I was going to do a post on my system today… I’ll get that up soon 🙂
[…] my priorities better. Not surprisingly, one of my respected colleagues – Alex King – recently wrote a post on how he handles priorities which is very close to what I came up with. I handle my priorities very similarly and added one […]
[…] immediately reminded me of a recent post by Alex King about his business priorities. In a nutshell, he explains that he prioritizes his […]