CEO & Founder of Crugo
Email has long been the bane of office life. Globally, as many as 126 business emails are sent per person per day; and, on average, workers spend a reported 17 hours a week just writing and replying to messages.
And while getting to emails may feel important, much of the time it’s pure busywork. One of the best productivity hacks you’ll hear is that you should get critical tasks done at the start of the day before even looking at your inbox – and the potential for unlimited distraction that comes with it.
Indeed, one of the primary problems with email is the issue of overload. If your colleagues copy you into client communications and every event comes with an email confirmation, then it’s easy to get swamped. Copying colleagues into client communication threads may seem helpful in keeping them up to speed, but if individuals start automatically archiving messages then the process becomes actively counter-productive – and it’s likely that things will soon get missed. An alternative is to simply check update logs (running through changes that have been made and tasks that have been allocated), which can provide a simple overview of what’s happening, rather than staff having to sort through mountains of clutter to find the information that they need.
At an organisational level, relying on email slows down communication and your firm’s ability to serve customers. Sales pros know that it’s far more useful to provide a client with everything that they need to get started within 5 minutes of finishing a call, rather than to wait for hours (if requests, for example, need to percolate through your organisation before being addressed). In the time that passes before customers are served, they may well be researching your competition or thinking through whether they really want to purchase your product or service. Indeed, if you wait long enough, nothing is urgent – and your customers will be gone. We live in a world in which high-quality customer service is seen as a key point of competitive differentiation – and 47% of customers reportedly expect a response to messages on social media within an hour.
Given all this, it’s hardly surprising that people have been arguing for years that there has to be a better way to handle communications than via email.
The communications stack
With the digital landscape as it is, most organisations bodge things together. A setup that we often see is for a company to use a standard email system and to support this with a personal WhatsApp group for office chat. This certainly beats trying to hold a quickfire conversation via email, but it’s by no means ideal. Perhaps even worse is when a business uses a wide range of communication channels and platforms for different purposes (perhaps HipChat, email, Trello, RingCentral and a separate CRM, in addition to Google Docs) – all of which makes for a complex, chaotic working environment, where there’s a lot of duplication and a lot of time wasted. Indeed, inefficient internal communications can cost businesses an estimated $11,000 per year per employee.
Putting the business in charge
A far better solution is to bring all the information that you need together on a single, internal real-time communications platform, like Crugo. Combining calls, IM chats, file storage, calendars and task tracking, using a platform like this means that the business has a unified portal to work from, rather than having information stored across multiple disparate, disconnected silos. What’s more, if staff “own” business-relevant data or communication channels, it’s easy for information to be forgotten about; or for disgruntled employees to wipe out commercially-valuable assets once they’ve left the business. Being able to track all communications centrally means that everything is on the record and that all information is owned, accessible and managed by the company – so attempting to decipher business plans from private WhatsApp groups will be a thing of the past. All of this saves time on training and on-boarding and minimises the chance of communication threads falling off the rails.
Everything that can go wrong with email
Of course, it’s difficult to banish email entirely, particularly when it comes to communicating with clients. Using a platform like Crugo, however, comes with the potential benefit of splitting internal and external comms between two separate platforms. Plenty of people have had the experience of inadvertently leaving a private message thread below a reply, accidentally copying a client into an email chain or sending an IM message to the wrong party (in the worst case scenario, sending a message about someone directly to them). I had a senior colleague who was confused by the way that Gmail automatically chains messages together – so he started copying unrelated clients into messages, after the email threads were combined based on a matching subject line. Naturally, this caused some confusion.
The best outcome in events like these is a mild embarrassment. If a customer takes offence, however, then it may mean commercial relationships falling through and business being lost. There’s even the potential for sensitive client and business information being unintentionally released to the world if messages are misdirected. If you handle internal comms via a closed platform and external comms by email, though, then it greatly diminishes the chances of errors being made and of information ending up in the wrong hands.
Another issue to consider is security. If you are using multiple platforms to manage customers (such as email, an IM and a CRM, for example), you have to ask yourselves as an organisation where the information is stored, how it is being accessed and how it is secured. Does your team follow strong security practices on all the platforms that they regularly use? An excellent way to approach this is to minimise the number of platforms that are in use and to ensure that these are controlled by the organisation.
Hacking is an increasing issue for SMEs, and ransomware is a particular problem. With everyone from the NHS to Telefonica being hit, it’s expected that hackers will soon turn their sights on small businesses that may be crippled without access to their files but that don’t have the security budgets of larger businesses. If your data is spread across multiple, vulnerable channels, then you’re exposed to a great deal of risk.
Handling files, customer information and internal communications through a central platform, on the other hand, means that each employee has a single, secure login to deal with – and all the business information sits behind a protected firewall (and it should be backed up to cover the eventuality of disaster). Centralising customer data, and minimising its handling and processing, is also a good strategy for GDPR compliance and for safeguarding customer privacy more generally.
To be productive, it’s imperative that businesses empower their employees to communicate quickly, clearly and efficiently – and there’s a strong case to be made that this means minimising the use of email across your organisation. This will make it easier for everyone to get their jobs done and for the business to better serve its customers. What’s more, ensuring that all information is in-house and owned by the business means that it can be backed up and secured – and it puts your organisation on a far better footing to be legally compliant.