How To Outsource Your Inbox
April 12, 2013
Emails are an essential part of our day. Without email we would have no communication with our clients, colleagues, prospects and suppliers.
Emails are also one of the biggest time commitments we have, often time we don’t have. More and more I am being approached to manage inboxes for business owners and managers who need to reduce the amount of time they are spending on this task and respond in a better time frame. This is a task which, with a bit of planning, can be outsourced to improve the efficiency of your inbox.
Now I’ll let you into a secret, when it comes to my own emails I struggle (much easier to maintain client inboxes!) to keep to a schedule. I should have my inbox closed throughout the day, clearing emails late morning and late afternoon.
What actually happens is I’ll open Outlook to email a client their finished project, glance at my inbox and that’s me, finished! A quick reply to a couple of emails, clear some of the ‘5 minute’ jobs which came in, research the answer to a question, update my task list…it can easily be an hour later when I’m back on client tasks!
I mention my own shortfalls as I hear similar stories from my clients … so a common problem. We are not completely without willpower but emails are important and therefore, in order to be more productive and do a better job communicating, something needs to change.
How to outsource your inbox
- Choose who you are going to outsource or delegate to. This could be a member of your existing team or you could outsource. If outsourcing, look closely at their correspondence with you and what they are posting online. Are they professional? Do they show the ethics and qualities you are looking for?
- Decide how you will share access to your emails (and calendar). Gmail and Google Apps is a great way to share access and can be set up to use your own email domain, you can also use Outlook’s network capabilities.
- How will you want the person representing you..as your assistant or as yourself? You can set them up with their own email account (and most important, a signature stating how they represent you) and list this address where you want to direct inquiries or have them respond to emails under your account.
- Spend one hour going through your Inbox and Sent folders. Look for questions you are asked regularly and how you respond to these. These will be the basis of your templates which will enable the person managing your inbox to reply. If using gmail, canned responses (found in labs under settings) are a fantastic way to store and use templates.
- If you are including calendar (diary) management in your brief, take half an hour to document your preferences for scheduling events. These include specific days you set aside for meetings, what information you want recorded on your calendar, when to set a task, how long to schedule for phone calls or meetings, tagging system ….
- Utilise drafts. Make sure the person maintaining your inbox knows when you want to approve outgoing emails (and I recommend you do this for all emails for a trial period) and the system used to let you know when to check your drafts.
- Advise how you would like processed emails to be filed. Do you use folders, tags, categories…
- Set the frequency you would like your inbox cleared. Are emails to be replied to within 3 hours, 12 hours, 24 hours?
- Set the tone you would like your emails responded to in. If your emails are being managed by an ‘assistant’, the tone should be professional. If your assistant is replying on your behalf, draft some guidelines. Are you casual, professional, how do you sign off, and so on.
- Check sent emails regularly (frequently in the beginning) to ensure your ‘assistant’ is representing you correctly. Give feedback, amend procedures and templates as required.
Emails are a very personal thing. They are your online voice, they represent who you are and what you do, they set your customer service level and are the start to many of your work processes. With careful planning you can free yourself from your inbox without compromising on any of the above. Delegated correctly, you will be more efficient, more productive and more focused than you ever thought possible!
Your turn: How do you keep control of your inbox … are you happy with how you are managing it?