Why email is a ticking time bomb for your business

We all rely on email. And with the advent of smartphones, it seems we can’t get away from it.

So with email at everyone’s fingertips 24/7, we should all be communicating brilliantly, right?

Unfortunately, the reality is that email is a solution looking for a problem!

It does many things very badly and only one thing really well. If you need formal communication, with a written audit trail, then email is great. Anything else … meh.

While email is good for one to one communication, it often ends up being used for ‘one to many’ conversations with multiple cc’s and reply all’s and so on.

So here are my top reasons why email is the wrong choice for your internal business communications.

1) No control over who can send

Generally speaking, anyone can send an email to anyone else. Or they can CC anyone in. Or even worse they can BCC someone in. And don’t get me started on the Reply All function! Receiving a Reply All from someone complaining about someone else using Reply All is the pinnacle of irony in the workplace!

What should be a simple conversation can rapidly become confusing, and with increasingly complex email threads the important information gets lost in the mix.

2) Email overload

According to research by Campaign Monitor, the average office worker receives about 120 emails a day, of which less than 40 percent contain important or relevant information. That’s a lot of email clutter in an employee’s inbox. Such an influx often leads to people only skim reading these emails and important information being buried (I go back to my point about reply all as one of the main contributors to this noise).

3) Wasted time

Not only does it take time to go through all these emails, but email is displacement activity, not necessarily productive time. Add to that the fact that email distracts and interrupts productivity. Research by Danwood Group and Loughborough University into the effect of email interruptions within the workplace highlighted that it took over a minute for someone to get back to work after answering an email.  If they receive 120 emails a day that could be a couple of hours of non-productive time every day, just because of email.

4) Ambiguity

Often it isn’t clear from an email if there is an action attached to it. Or the person has to read the full email (or even the email string) to work out if it something they need to action,  just for information purposes or were just included to cover someone’s back!

5) It often gets built into a business process

Because email is such a ‘go to’ communication method in the workplace, I often see it being used as part of a business process.

  • A web form drops as an email and that needs to be picked up by sales
  • The sales team email a sales order over to operations
  • Operations email over new client information to the Finance team
  • Sales hand over new clients to Account Management
  • Account Management communicate via email

These are all instances where better process tools could be used rather than email.

When that web form lands to a shared inbox, is there an agreement on who is going to pick it up, or does everyone assume someone else is doing it?

What if someone is not in and the email isn’t actioned?

What if a client has an urgent query but gets an out of office from their contact and doesn’t know who else to contact?

5) Using email as a filing system

How many emails do you have in your inbox? Perhaps you have lots of folders set up so different emails drop into different folders. Often people use their inbox as a way of filing and categorising, but this invariably is a very inefficient way of storing information.

6) Deskless workers do not use email

Many businesses have workers who are not sat at their desks every day. People working in the field, on shop floors, and in factories. If people don’t have access to email, yet the company uses email to send out important information to employees, this can cause problems.

Whether you need more effective communication or improved business processes, there are so many alternatives to email that are more efficient and user-friendly. So maybe it is time to take a step back from the tools your business is familiar with using and take a look at your workflows, business processes and pinch points and look to see if there is a better alternative to the ubiquitous email before it really damages your business.

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