Email takes up a lot of our working day. Given time is so valuable, and in preparation for starting a New Year, we have identified a number of tools, tips and tricks that will hopefully make your use of email more productive in 2021.
Integrated chat 1 – instead of adding to email noise, causing an already busy inbox to be more busy, use integrated chat. This allows team members effectively to have a discussion “behind” particular emails that are sent and received. You will quickly discover other benefits, including improved information sharing between colleagues; enhanced transparency – team members being able to monitor progress and the thinking behind decisions; an increase in the speed of communications as well as allowing a greater focus on subject matter, from particular deals through to issues raised by clients or customers.
Delay send – whilst it is not possible to retrieve emails that have arrived in a recipient’s inbox, you can give yourself some breathing space by choosing when they are sent. In Gmail this is known as “undo send” – what it actually means is that the default delay gives you time for second thoughts. Delaying the despatch of an email is useful where, for example, further relevant information contained in the email needs to be checked, or reviewed by another team member. It also allows the message to be revisited, maybe to change the wording if that is considered appropriate. Within CompassAir, delayed messages (with a specified time delay – which can also be chosen as a default delay for all messages – or at a pre-defined time to send) are stored as “Pending”, being available for editing anytime until immediately before despatch.
Email Notifications – if you don’t want to miss important emails then notifications on your mobile or your desktop will be invaluable. CompassAir’s own NotifyMe (see 4 below) means you can select specific emails for notification on both your desktop and mobile. This is particularly useful if you organise your time in such a way to avoid dipping into your inbox throughout the day – only those emails you specifically want to watch out for are brought to your attention. If you are waiting for a reply to an earlier email that will need action immediately, such as to close a deal, then you will appreciate the value of this feature.
In addition, using CompassAir rules you can choose for which emails you require desktop notifications. That could be for all emails, all from a particular sender, those with certain keywords, and so on – the variations are completely flexible.
NotifyMe – using a feature such as CompassAir’s NotifyMe means the software, as opposed to yourself, will be watching out for future emails in the same thread, something that could be as simple as a reply to an email you have just sent. As soon as the reply arrives in your inbox, an alert is sent to your mobile and desktop application. That way you know a response has arrived and there is no delay until the next time you routinely check your email. The benefits include a more productive use of time, no more missed opportunities, reduced interruptions and the giving the option to respond to emails immediately.
Folders – these can be used to group messages together in convenient ways, saving time when it comes to next dealing with them. As an example, they can be used to group emails by topic then, by using message rules, emails can be automatically filed in named folders when they arrive in your inbox, making finding them later much easier and quicker. In a maritime business a folder could refer to a vessel name, the name of an owner or more generally to the organisation that has sent the email. Within CompassAir, folders are easily accessible from the foot of the main messages screen.
If you find yourself conducting the same searches over time, try setting up a folder that will contain emails from, say for example, particular team members. Using rules, you can redirect those emails to that folder, saving valuable time when you next need quick access.
File emails from specific senders in a chosen folder – still on the subject of folders, and again by using message rules, emails can be filed by sender. For example, all those emails from the bank can be kept in a separate folder, not only giving easy, quick access, but also avoiding clutter in the main inbox. With message rules, the filing takes place automatically, as soon as a message arrives in your inbox.
Out of Office messages – whilst you probably have your emails delivered to your mobile, there will be times when you will need to escape from your email – whether it be when you are travelling or just having some downtime. Letting your contacts know you are away is a good idea.
Within CompassAir, auto replies are created from within message rules. From here you can select the addresses to which the incoming messages are addressed (useful if you have access to a number of mailboxes, e.g. sales, accounts, etc.), set the duration of the rule as well as draft the message itself.
Templates – when a team responds in a similar way to a number of emails, making good use of templates will save significant amounts of time. Not only that, the responses of different members in a team to a similar email can be quite diverse in terms of tone, even though the essence of the message remains the same. Templates will ensure that a consistent tone is used repeatedly, throughout the team.
Templates could be used for any subject but are often especially helpful when providing third parties with information about products, pricing, company policies, office hours and contact details, as well as for responding to frequently asked questions from customers or clients.
Colour coded emails –this is a feature that will enable you, or your colleagues (if you use a shared mailbox), to see at a glance which emails are, for example, from whom or are related to specific subject matters, depending on how you define the various colours. As well as allowing a fast, easy focus, the benefits include improved organisation, simplified prioritisation and clear responsibilities when used in conjuction with the delegation of tasks.
Hide copies of duplicated messages – it is possible to accumulate messages relating to a number of different addresses in one inbox view. For example, that view might include firstname.lastname@example.org as well as email@example.com, with a supplier sending the same message to both addresses. In CompassAir, by toggling “Hide Copies of Messages” to “Yes” under Message Settings, when an identical message is sent to both addresses only one copy will be displayed in a particular message view. Also, when a duplicated message has been read with “Hide Copies of Messages” turned on, all duplicates are marked as read at the same time.
Keywords – when a message has been received, whilst it’s being drafted or after it has been sent, keywords can be attached to it. These keywords will provide ways to easily identify emails when you need to refer to them in future. Not only will they be a source of information on particular subject matters, but they can also be used to identify trends. In shipping for example, they could be used to follow the volume of enquiries emanating from various maritime hubs around the world.
Turn off image downloads – excluding images will allow messages to be downloaded faster. There are also implications for privacy. Tracking pixels are often used for email marketing purposes, used to determine the recipient’s interest. When they are used at an individual level, the sender can tell if you have opened their email. A tracking pixel measuring one pixel by one pixel is embedded in an email connected to a file on a web server, and so unseen by the reader. Each time the pixel is viewed, it pulls the file down from the server, creating a log that records how many times a message has been opened. By turning off images, downloading only when you choose, the file is not downloaded and so the tracking is undermined.
Display emails as conversations – long email threads are easier to read when they are displayed as connected. In CompassAir, when a message is part of a conversation (i.e. one in a thread of messages), a grey triangle is displayed to the left of the message. Clicking on this triangle expands the conversation, the triangle becomes orange and any one of the messages in the conversation can be selected and can be read in the viewing pane.
Message descriptions – CompassAir allows a short description to be added underneath an email’s subject. This can be useful if a more meaningful explanation of an email’s content would help identify it at a later time. For example, you might receive a weekly “Maritime Newsletter”. Once a month it might contain an interesting valuation report. By describing each of those special issues as “Monthly Valuation Report” will make it easier to find at a later date. CompassAir also allows the option to show the description, as opposed to the subject, in the list of messages in an inbox.
In a similar way, a message description can be added to emails when they are being composed. This is helpful where some context needs to be added to a message. Whatever description is added will only be seen by the sender’s organisation, not the recipient.