Keep on top of your emails
I struggle to manage my emails: what can be done? Professional services practitioners have always been prone to high email volume, and today’s accountant is no exception.
Our customers look to us when they need to be right – so here, we offer a two-fold approach used to help them manage email overload.
Firstly, accountants can apply some basic email management methodology, combined with features that most email clients offer in order to manage communications effectively.
Secondly, accountants might explore other collaboration options to manage the volume of client email communication before it becomes a problem.
Email management methodology is something which can go a long way to managing volume. The concepts are simple, but the impact can be amazing:
- Unsubscribe from email lists or newsletters that aren’t helpful;
- Think twice before you ‘reply all’ – is it necessary? Replying to all can create unnecessary email traffic; and
- Make sure your spam filters are working to filter out unwanted emails.
While these technical tips may lessen your email volume, effective management of emails in professional services is frequently less about technology, and more about client demands via email, particularly during peak times like self-assessment season.
Setting expectations is a delicate balance, particularly in today’s volatile economic climate, where clients may be looking for increased advisory advice. One approach is to offer clients self-serve advice on your website that they can refer to before emailing you, including FAQs and quick start guides.
Another approach is to categorise client emails according to urgency and business relevance, and answer emails in this order. Yet another method is to set specific time slots during the day to deal with emails. Don’t constantly check. If you are busy, set your ‘out of office’ message with instructions regarding when you will respond to queries, and don’t answer when you have your out of office on.
You can also create rules to deal with emails. For example, you may find it useful to set a rule that moves emails to a different folder if you are only cc’d on an email. These can be treated as ‘FYI’ emails, to be read once a day rather than actioned as and when they come in.
A brief but important note on shared email addresses: while it may have been typical for many small practices to share one email address among advisers a decade ago, this is no longer the case, and for very good reason.
A shared email address introduces risk of emails being deleted by other team members, as well as possible data privacy issues.
Adding new addresses for each person in your firm is something your website domain provider can do for you or guide you through.
A last note: don’t email for email’s sake. Real-time telephone conversations or video calls can often be more efficient for answers that require deeper context, keeping your inbox reserved for concise communication, aligned to meet client expectations.
Lee Bennett is head of pre-sales, Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting UK