7 Tips for Effective Email

There is something about e-mail that fosters poor communication habits. Users see it as a form of instant communication and therefore, doesn’t require the same care and attention that a letter might.

For many organizations, e-mail has become the preferred means of communication, both formal and informal. Here are some tips to make your e-mail as effective and efficient as possible:

  1. Use short paragraphs. E-mail is generally read from a computer screen. Keep your paragraphs short –50 words or less– to ensure maximum readability.
  2. Get personal. Use second person terms. Words such as “you”, “your”, and “yours” let the recipient know you’re thinking of them specifically.
  3. Don’t send spam. This includes forwarding every bad joke and poem your second cousin sends you. People don’t like receiving junk paper mail at home and they don’t like the electronic version either. If you’re building a new relationship with a customer, don’t bury them in your sales spam.
  4. Check spelling and grammar. You should invest as much effort in checking the content of e-mail as you do any other written communication. A sloppy e-mail message will communicate negatively about your professionalism.
  5. Include a signature section. Most e-mail software will automate this process for you. Your signature should include your name, job title, contact information, and company name.
  6. Respond efficiently. Develop at set of personal rules for processing your email in a productive way. Read:  @ 43 Folders
  7. Ignore the above tips. If you exchange a large number of messages with a particular co-worker, create a set of rules to optimize the way you each process e-mail. You can develop short cuts and templates that bypass some of the above tips and steps because you have worked out you own protocols.
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10 Tips for Taking Effective Phone Messages

In today’s computer-orientated business world, the telephone is still an important tool for connecting with your customers. There are few things more annoying than being handed a half crumpled piece of paper with semi-legible scrawl on it and being told that it’s a message from someone. You should not have to spend precious time trying to dicipher a message, or trying to track down the writer to clarify something.

Time is money. Here are some tips on how to take a proper, accurate telephone message.

  1. Write it down on a piece of paper, preferably a phone-message pad. Don’t scribble it at the back of an envelope or a bill. Don’t write one message at the edge of another one.
  2. Make sure there is lots of space on the message pad. If you try and jam too many messages on the same sheet, chances are you will not be able to decipher the message later.
  3. Make sure you have a working pen and a back up. If the pen stops working in the middle of the call, you shouldn’t be putting the caller on hold to go searching for a replacement.
  4. To avoid confusion, include important details, such as: the caller’s name, company and telephone number, with area code. A message with the name of the caller and the company name, will help you understand it better. Needless to say, a telephone number comes in handy when you need get back to the caller.
  5. The date and time of the call is essential. This will help you recall the conversation. The date and time will be important if need to support a process for certification or legal reasons.
  6. When writing the information, make sure to ask for correct spellings. This is particularly important in ensuring you have the correct name of the caller or company.
  7. Note whether the message is urgent. This way, the message recipient will know how quickly to respond.
  8. Before you hang up, read the message details back to the caller, to make certain that they are correct.
  9. Initial the bottom of the message. This way, if clarification is required, you can be contacted directly.
  10. Once you’ve taken the message, make sure to put it some place it is sure to be found by the recipient. Have a common location for the pick up of message or place it in a location where it will be seen.
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Sample Voice Mail Templates

Voice mail is one of the most frustrating aspects of telephone communication; just below navigating automated phone menus. If voice mail is used properly, it can be a highly effective tool. The trick is to ensure your messages clearly communicate all the information need, but no more.

Here are some tips for leaving good voice mail messages along with half a dozen temples you can customize for your own use.

  • Write down your voice-mail message before you start. It is easier to read from the page than to try and ad lib.
  • Have custom greetings for different circumstances: in meetings, on vacation, business travel, etc. Update your greeting when appropriate.
  • Remeber to be professional. You can never be sure who will be calling you. Leave the humourous messages for your home phone.
  • Tips for leaving a good out-of-office message

Basic message – limited detail

Hello!  You have reached the voice mail of <name>. Please leave a message after the tone, and I’ll contact you. To return to the receptionist, press <number> at anytime.

Basic message – detailed

Hello, you’ve reached the voice mailbox of. Please note, you can bypass this message at any time by pressing. Today is, I am in the office, but I’m either on my phone or away from my desk. Your call is important to me. If you wish, leave a message and I will call you back at my first opportunity. If you need immediate assistance, press to have your call redirected by the receptionist.

Hello, this is <your name> of <company or department name>. I’m not available to take your call, but if you leave your name, number and a brief message, I will get back to you as soon as I can. If you would like to speak with my assistant, please dial <number>.

In meetings

Hello, you’ve reached the voice mailbox of <name>. Please note, you can bypass this message at any time by pressing <key combination>. Today is <day of week>, <date> I am in the office, but will be in meetings all day. Your call is important to me. If you wish, leave a message and I will call you back at my first opportunity. If you need immediate assistance, press <number> to have your call redirected by the receptionist.

Out of office on business

Hello, you’ve reached the voice mailbox of <name>. Please note, you can bypass this message at any time by pressing <key combination>. Today is <day of week>, <date> I am out of the office on business. If you wish, you can contact me via my cell phone <number> or by e-mail. If you need immediate assistance, press <number> to have your call redirected by the receptionist.

Vacation message

Hello, you’ve reached the voice mailbox of <name>. Please note, you can bypass this message at any time by pressing <key combination>. I am out of the office on vacation until <date>. If you need immediate assistance, press <number> to have your call redirected by the receptionist.

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Tips for leaving a good out-of-office message

Whether it’s time to get away from the office on vacation or business takes us on the road, the influx of email or phones messages rarely stops.

A little bit of preparation before you leave will ensure less to worry about on return. A good out-of-office message is a must. A well-prepared message can go a long way to decrease the backlog of messages waiting for you when you get back to work.

A good out of office message has three parts:

  1. Dates of your absence. Let the contact know when you are out of the office. It helps them decide what their next step is going to be; whether to wait for your return or to direct their request elsewhere.
  2. Reason for absence. I like to let my contacts know whether I am on a business trip or vacation. A business trip means I am connected to the office in some way and might be able to respond to a message. If I’m on vacation, I’m out of contact range.
  3. Who to contact in your absence. I try and leave contact information for alternate contacts when I am out of the office; a minimum of one up to as many as are needed.

Just because you leave an out-of-office message, it doesn’t mean that you have communicated to the sender. There are three things you should keep in mind when composing the message. It should be:

  • Complete: give all the detail necessary. Don’t say, “I’m out of the office” or “I’m gone for two weeks.” Make it precise. “I am away from the office starting July 1 and will be back July 15. The same applies to your alternate contacts. Let the sender know who to contact and how to get a hold of them.
  • Concise: keep it as short as possible while still making it complete. Use short, bulleted phrases. People don’t want to be able to read a novel during your out-of-office reply.
  • Clear: make sure it’s easy to understand. Don’t use abbreviations, job titles or internal jargon that will not be understood by everyone sending you a message.

Rather that coming back to a packed e-mail in-box and a full voice-mail box, spend a few minutes crafting a useful out-of-office message and people will be able to redirect or park tasks appropriately.

4 Tips for Basic E-mail Management

Is your email killing your productivity? Then it’s time for some basic e-mail management. With a few simple steps, you can maintain control over your in-box:

  1. Use the software: Set up your e-mail client to manage as much of the incoming mail as possible. Create filters to route unnecessary messages past your in-box and into a folder. Make sure your spam settings and databases are active and up to date. The more you automate your e-mail, the less time you spend reading and deleting.
  2. Turn off your new mail notification: You don’t have to read every piece of e-mail the moment it arrives. Pop-ups, beeps and “you’ve got mail” notifications can be too distracting to ignore. Turn them off!
  3. Don’t read and respond to each incoming message: Dealing with each e-mail as it arrives can create constant interruption to your work-flow. Set aside time each day where you deal with your e-mail. Have a process —such as this one— for clearing your in-box.
  4. Manage e-mail during times of lower energy: Don’t deal with e-mail during your most creative or productive times of the day. Processing e-mail doesn’t require much energy. Don’t waste your creative periods on something as routine as e-mail.