Thursday, 2 September 2010

6 ways to ensure your email gets read

If you’re like a lot of us, you get so much email every day that you might spend as little as 15 seconds scanning a message to determine how it applies to you. Now, imagine that other people are reading your email the same way. If they can't quickly identify the purpose of your message, they’ll probably delete it or leave it in the Inbox for "later"— if later ever comes.

In this article, I give 6 tips to ensure that your email messages are read and get the attention they deserve.

1. Make the purpose of the message clear
When recipients receive your email message, they should be able to see at a quick glance how the message relates to them and why it’s important. They may be looking at a preview of your message in Microsoft Outlook or on a Windows phone or Windows Mobile device, such as a personal digital assistant (PDA). Or they may see only Subject lines in their Inbox. If your Subject line is confusing and irrelevant, your email will surely get deleted in a hurry. Here are some examples of what can be included in Subject lines to make sure the reader opens your mail:

A standard subject heading such as "Action Requested," "Response Requested," "FYI," or "Read Only," depending on the action indicated in the body of the message.

The meaningful objective or supporting project that the message relates to, for example, "FY '05 budget forecasting."

The required action if applicable, for example, "Consolidate departmental budget spreadsheets."
The due date if applicable, for example, "Due by July 7."

An example of an effective Subject line is "Action Requested—Consolidate all department spreadsheets for FY '06 budget and return to me by June 15th."

2. Tell recipients what action you want them to take
Be completely clear about the actions you want the recipients to take. Be specific and put all the material that is related to an action in one place. To get even faster responses, talk about how the action relates to the recipient's objectives, and always give due dates. It's also important to clarify what type of action you want the recipient to take. There are basically four types of actions you could request. If you make this level of detail clear, the recipient will be most likely to read the email and take the action right away. The four actions include:

Action: The recipient needs to perform an action. For example, "Provide a proposal for a 5% reduction in Travel & Entertainment expense."

Respond: The recipient needs to respond to your message with specific information. For example, "Let me know if you can attend the staff meeting at 9:00 A.M. on Friday."

Read only: The recipient needs to read your message to make sure they understand something. No response is necessary. For example, "Please read the attached sales plan before our next staff meeting on August 12th."

FYI only: The recipient should file your message for future reference. No response is necessary. In fact, even reading the message is optional. For example, "Enclosed for your records are your completed expense reports."

3. Provide the proper data and documents
Make sure you give recipients all of the information they need to complete an action or respond successfully to your request. Your co-workers shouldn't have to come back to you asking for information, whether it is a supporting document or a link to a file on a shared website. You can include supporting information in the body of the message, in an attached file, or in an attached email. In Windows Live Hotmail, you can use the Quick Add feature, which lets you search for and insert content such as images, video, restaurant details, maps, and movie times into your email messages, without ever leaving Hotmail. In addition, if you want recipients to fill out a form, it's a good idea to attach a sample copy of the form that shows how it should be filled out.

4. Send the message only to relevant recipients
Target your message to the appropriate audience. Only people who have to complete an action on the Subject line should receive your message. Be thoughtful and respectful when you enter names on the To line. People observe your thoughtfulness and the results are more effective. Here are two simple questions to help you filter the To line recipients:

Does this email relate to the recipient's objectives?

Is the recipient responsible for the action in the Subject line?

5. Use the CC line wisely
It's tempting to put loads of people on the CC line to cover your bases, but doing so is one of the fastest ways to create an unproductive environment. Here are some things to consider when using the CC line:

No action or response should be expected of individuals on the CC line. The recipient needs to only read or file the message.

Only those individuals whose meaningful objectives are affected by the email should be included on the message. If you are not sure that the information is related to a co-worker's objectives, check with that person to see if they want to receive your email on that topic.

6. Ask "final questions" before you click Send
The final thing you want to do is check your work to be sure you are supporting meaningful actions. Sending clear, well-defined messages can reduce the volume of email you send and receive, encouraging correct action, saving time, and limiting email trails. Make sure you ask the following questions before you send the message:

Have I clarified purpose and actions?

Have I included supporting documents and written a clear Subject line?

Did I write the message clearly enough that it does not come back to me with questions?

Am I sending the message to the correct recipients?

Have I run the spelling checker and edited the message for grammar and jargon?

Bonus: Don't send junk email

One of the quickest ways to get onto your recipients' "delete radar" is to overwhelm them with meaningless email. Responding to email with "I got your email, thanks," or sending out lots of irrelevant data that you think they might want to know about is a quick way to create a track record of sending unproductive mail.

To summarize, it is incredibly easy to create an unproductive culture using email. Follow these guidelines and you can be sure you and your team are able to keep focused on meaningful objectives and don't create email overload.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

5 tips to communicate better from home

Even when you've got the right tools and ways to meet, communicating with co-workers from home is still different from working in the office. Use these five tips to improve how you communicate with co-workers from home.

1. Make appointments

You set aside time to meet with someone in person, so why not make appointments for important telephone calls? By booking a specific time, you can be assured that your co-worker will be prepared and more focused on the conversation. Like you, they may have done some prep work beforehand to make the call more productive.

2. Stay focused in phone conferences

It's easy to stray when meetings get long, but keep multitasking to a minimum during phone conferences. The other party can almost certainly hear that keyboard clicking while you respond to someone else's email.

3. Attend weekly staff meetings

If you work at home full-time, try to attend at least one weekly meeting to keep in touch with others.

4. Stay online as much as possible

If you're not there, it's likely that people may think you're not working—even if you're working more than 40 hours a week. Responding quickly to email will help remind people that you're still there and being productive.

5. Be assertive

Don't always wait for people to contact you. Ask for information if you don't feel like you've received it.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

The Truth Behind the Nexus one…Why Google Actually made it???

Remember the day when Google announced their first ever Android Smartphone...the Nexus one. There was something that constantly bothered me about that day. Why would an Advertising company try to enter into the Smartphone market??? I went through the question again and again in my mind but something just didn't add up. The first explanation I came up with was, that Google saw a bright future for m-commerce and they wanted to enter that market before anyone else. But then again, people have been talking about m-Commerce for nearly 2 decades but it just hasn't picked up as everyone expected.

On 19 July 2010, Google Announced that they were stopping production of the Nexus one, their flagship Android Smartphone; and that's when it struck me. They never intended to enter the Smartphone market in the first place, it was all part of a brilliant marketing strategy. Their target was popularising the Android OS and I must say, they have been extremely successful at that. Today, nearly 90 percent of all new Smartphones run Android and it's now become a perfect customer base for their core business - Advertising. Android OS has been gaining in market share ever since the beginning of 2010; the same time Google launched the Nexus one...what a coincidence, don't you think???

In 2011, with the arrival of Gingerbread (Android OS 3.0) Google will surely capitalise on this advertising base and introduce various mobile advertising innovations into their operating system. It is also quite clear that Android would be the leading mobile OS at the time overtaking RIM, iOS and Symbian. It would be as easy as catching fish in a barrel as far as Google are concerned. I really appreciate what the company has done for the world with all their free tools and stuff but this time, we have all played right into their hands (although I must admit I don't mind it one bit). Google played a very tricky game and they won (quite convincingly).

Please leave your comments and opinions...I would really appreciate it~

Microsoft's folly with Windows Phone 7

Did you hear the latest news on Windows Phone 7? Well...Microsoft's already started giving technical previews to the press to prove that their latest mobile OS is a worthy opponent to the likes of Android & iOS. The software giant's getting a little desperate if you ask me...but who could blame them; its practically their last shot at the Smartphone marketplace after all. Microsoft has been constantly losing ground ever since Apple released their first iPhone. It's been 3 years since then and the story is pretty much the same even now.

Engadget got their hands on a WP7 device a few days back and from the looks of it, Microsoft is entering troubled waters. Remember the days when the iPhone lacked some very critical features and Apple got a lot of slack for that??? Well...Microsoft seems to be following Apple's lead and making those same mistakes all over again. guessed it; Windows Phone 7 won't be supporting Copy Pasting, third-party multitasking and HTML 5. I hate to say it, but leaving out these features will definitely come back to haunt Microsoft.

On the positive side, Microsoft has significantly improved the User Interface (UI) and I must admit, it looks amazing. The virtual keyboard has been re-engineered to include a variety of useful features too. This is one area where the UI has a significant edge over other platforms. The UI also seems to be a lot smoother and is somewhat comparable to that of the iPhone. Microsoft has shown with WP7 that fast responsive UI's are not the exclusive domain of Apple. The platform also seems to be highly optimised for document editing; it's one of Microsoft's core competencies after all. Even from your first glance, one thing becomes very clear; Windows Phone 7 has Social media written all over it. It has such a high focus on real-time social interaction that you would be tempted to call it a Social phone, rather than a mobile phone (OS).

However, it has to be said that Microsoft now runs the risk of exposing all the capabilities of its new OS before the actual release. Remember what happened to the Nokia N97??? Nokia announced the phone nearly 5 months before the scheduled release and to make matters worse, disclosed the entire spec sheet as well. This allowed the other manufactures enough time to make comparable phones of their own and the N97 ended up being an utter failure. Microsoft is risking the same thing by disclosing the specs so early, especially since the first WP7 device is not due until October. This would allow platforms such as Android to easily incorporate any distinguishing features brought forth by WP7 (Gingerbread is due for Christmas...remember?).

In any case, I don't see any reason why the Windows Phone 7 platform is better than Android or iOS anyway. Android is improving at an exhilarating pace and there would be no reason for their customers to switch to WP7 (same with Apple); unless of course Microsoft manages to pull a rabbit out of the hat...who knows??? but I seriously doubt it~

Your comments and opinions are appreciated...

Will Customer Experience Management be the next big thing???...or is traditional CRM still the King?

It is interesting how the creation of exceptional customer experiences is becoming a standard practice today. Customers are becoming highly sophisticated in their buying habits and those who deliver superior customer experiences gain a competitive edge. Just so you don't think I'm making this up; let me give you a few examples:
  1. Lego, who provide an opportunity for children to play with their toys in shops and also an opportunity for parents to experience and share their children‟s happiness; 
  2. Starbucks, who create an exceptional service experience by providing an apt environment for social interaction and a personalized coffee shop experience. 
Let's now see how all this actually unfolded. In the beginning of the new millennium (that's 2000), Customers started demanding a higher marginal utility on their purchases; which basically means that they wanted more value for what they were paying. Traditionally, CRM has just focused on customer retention and nothing else, which made it narrow in scope and highly inflexible. Thus, the concept of CEM was put forward. Pine and Gilmore first introduced the concept in their 1998 Harvard Business Review article (Titled:Welcome to the Enterprise Economy). They said that "customer experiences would drive business value and propagate financial success" and I must say; they hit the nail right on the head. It is said that forecasts are generally never accurate...guess that rule got thrown out the window this time. You would've already started getting an idea of what CEM is all about...let's have a look if you were right~

What CEM basically does is cater to the emotional aspect of product purchase. That is; what customers are not getting physically in the form of rewards, discounts & stuff like that, you are being compensated for emotionally in the form of an exceptional user experience (& the sort). This view has been clearly illustrated in the book "The DNA of Customer Experience" written by Colin Shaw. For those who still need convincing, here is a live example...Apple Inc; each time Steve Jobs makes a new product announcement, the sales figures go off the charts (ex: i-Phone, i-Pad). Most people would think it's because Apple's customers are passionate about the company, but in actual reality they are passionate about the experience that it offers. This is one of the main reasons why even after pricing their products at outrageous rates, there are still people to buy them. Apple realised the importance of CEM before most companies, and one must give them credit for that.

I believe you are now ready to comprehend this wonderful saying....“
A company with a price advantage can be undercut, a company with a performance advantage can be outflanked, but a company with an emotional difference can potentially demand a price premium forever”...don't you think so now???