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MailboxNow that we are well into the 21st century, it seems that it is time for companies to take email seriously as a key communications channel. Many companies are good at blasting to email lists, but how many companies are equally as effective at interpreting emails and then replying to them?
I have been receiving more and more email from my car company soliciting me to get service or trade in my car. Like many companies, they proudly display their email address. I sent an email to their service department to ask a simple question. They called back to reply and left a voicemail saying I could call them back. In other words, instead of just answering my email, they put the ball back in my court. The same day I received an unsolicited email from another company. At the bottom was an unsubscribe link. The link was dead — it was an invalid address. I went to their web site and sent an e-mail to [email protected] and shortly thereafter, received a reply. It said, "Thanks for your e-mail. You can expect a reply generally within 48 hours. If you want to call our customer service number, the number is 123-456-7890." So if they are staffed to answer the phone, why aren’t they staffed to answer their e-mail? Likely it is an issue of habit, reluctance to change, and just lack of an Internet attitude. It’s time.
Many sites have a "contact us" link. Typically a click will bring up a web page with a form. Nothing wrong with a form, per se, but there are two major mistakes that companies make in using forms. First is that most all of them do not have a place to enter your own email address so you can be copied and thereby have a copy of the email you sent so you can track it and later find it. The even greater sin is to put you through hoops answering market research questions before you can send the email. Really bad.
And then there are the email lists — mailing lists to which we are frequently invited to subscribe. I predict a steady decline leading to extinction of email mailing lists. They will be replaced by blogs. Blogs are usually thought of as diaries or a place where individuals opine about their favorite thing. That is certainly true but blogs are also a powerful way to publish just about anything. The power of the blog is that it has context — subject, category, author, date, and content which enable the blog to be found, archived, and subscribed to. Instead of sifting through a large number of emails, most of which you don’t want, you will be able to go directly to folders in your blog reader and enjoy the things you actually want. Look for the orange xml (XML icon ) or rss icon on a web page. Just click it and you can subscribe — without providing your email address.
Blogging gives "power to the people" — both the publisher and the consumer. Email reduced the amount of paper documents. Instant messaging reduced the number of emails (relatively speaking), and blogs will reduce the number of email newsletters, journals, and notices of various kinds. Over time more and more of the things you read will be in one of your blog folders — not in your inbox where there is a good chance you will either overlook it or your spam filter will delete it.