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My email inbox used to be a scary place. I would have people inquiring about my services sandwiched between spammy website comments and random junk mail. I wasn’t able to respond as quickly as I wanted to when my inbox looked like this. Customer service is one of the first tips listed in a Forbes article about improving brand recognition.

Two of the tips include turn around time and exceptional customer service as two critical factors that influence buying decisions. Customer service often includes handling loads of emails. It’s easy to get buried in them if you don’t have a system to manage them.

Here are some tips I use to stay on top of my email inbox to improve turn around time and provide excellent customer service.

1. Make an additional folder for sent mail

Though there are many ways to organize your email, I file away my sent mail. If you’re like me and you send loads of emails every day, it’s easy to forget who you even wrote to that day. If I ask someone to share their insight for an upcoming article or if I pitch a podcaster to place a guest on their show, you can quickly forget who you contacted.

For this reason, I have a folder for my articles and one for podcasters that I emailed. As soon as I send an email, I go to the sent mail folder and move it to one of those categories. It’s easier to remember who I contacted, when I did it and why. I don’t have to write anything down to remember either. It’s all waiting there for me.

2. Prioritize what to focus on regularly

For me and my email inbox, paying customers or new potential clients come first. Think about the most important emails you have to attend to on a regular basis. Break them into categories. Create folders for them. Then tuck the  emails away in the appropriate folder.

Whether you have to enter a new client’s information on an invoice or send over the next step in your onboarding process, finding the information quickly in a folder helps tremendously. It can also help you work faster, and when it comes to invoicing, possibly get paid faster too.

3. First things first

Once you identify what’s most important and put those emails in the appropriate folders, stay focused on those important tasks. Any other correspondence can wait. For example, if someone inquires about your services, you want to reach out right away. Your email won’t seem as overwhelming even if there are tons of messages waiting for you. As long as you pull out the important ones so you can readily find them in the folder, then you can ignore the sea of the other unimportant requests that are floating in your inbox for now.

Though you may see flashy subject lines or new information in your inbox every day, you’ll readily know what folders to focus on when you open your inbox. You’ll still want to set aside time to handle the other ones, but at least you’ll put first things first for now.

4. Create short, canned responses

Come up with simple replies to people whether you’re interested in working with them or not. It will show that you’re attentive to your inbox.Explain that due to a high volume, you’re only able to respond to emails that are a good fit for your current goals.

It’s a polite way to give a quick response. Sometimes it just buys you some time when you just can’t get to someone important in that moment. It can also potentially ward off people that you don’t want to work with, but may try to contact you ten more times until they get an answer.

The Bottom Line

Find a better way to manage email. You’ll possibly score higher marks for customer service, response time and be better able to focus your efforts. This could mean closing more deals, providing better customer service and even getting more done in general.

Karen is a Nationally Syndicated Personal Finance Writer who sharpens her skills at US News Money. You can also find her placing clients on podcasts and reading about home office organization, productivity and habits.

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