Webinar Highlights: Train Your Team To Overcome Flooded Inboxes
Those of us who have worked in the lodging industry may fondly remember “The Good Old Days” when, at least as we remember it, our work lives were much less stressful because we didn’t have to deal with email! Yet like all memories, we tend to forget the bad parts of work back then! True, we didn’t have all the emailing, but instead our desks were stacked with pink message pads, our admins were beeping through live conversations to announce that another customer was waiting on hold, our beepers were beeping, and a stack of faxes were awaiting urgent responses.
These days our messages arrive digitally, and there seems to be a nonstop tsunami of them. Depending on what type of lodging company you work for, and what your role is there, you may have receive some or all of these:
- Direct emails to email@example.com
- Notifications from “role” emails such as reservations@ or firstname.lastname@example.org
- Email notifications that platform messages await replies on OTA sites, platforms such as CVENT, Wedding Wire, The Knot, or DMO/CVB/Tourism sites.
- Emails to document chat logs or to tell us that messages await at CRM’s or project management platforms such as Delphi/FDC, Slack, Basecamp, or others.
Whether you are working in your own direct email accounts, or working with a shared inbox setting, here are some training tips to help us overcome what I call email fatigue. These are taken from several of our KTN hotel and vacation rental training classes, including those for reservations sales, group/event sales, and even owner services, so hopefully there is something for everyone!
1. Commit to a clean inbox.
First, this will help avoid accidental deletion, especially when emails are being read on multiple devices. Probably all readers have had a situation where an inbound email has somehow simply disappeared, perhaps before it was even read, or maybe after it was read but not responded to. Some blame it on those nasty email trolls that slip into our offices in the middle of the night to steal them, but more likely is that while we were swiping to delete an email, a new one popped in and we deleted the wrong one.
Secondly, many emails trigger multiple action steps. Upon first reading, the receiver acts on it but intends to get back to it later to finish the subsequent actions, yet the email moves down in the box and is forgotten.
Having a clean inbox is especially important for those working in a shared in-box to ensure that emails are “owned and resolved” by whomever opened it, as they are responsible for filing it. This avoids confusion, duplicate work, and most importantly the chance that an email is not acted on because someone inadvertently opened it but did not resolve.
Finally, perhaps the best reason to have a clean inbox, at least for me, is being able to sleep through the night! How many of us have woken up at 2 a.m. stricken with the terrorizing thought such as, “Oh no! Did I finish that task she emailed me about yesterday?”
Now, if you are an admitted email inbox hoarder, and if I have nudged you towards a the clean inbox mindset, you are now thinking, “Okay, I’m just going to come in one day and clean up all 7,000 of those emails.” THAT will NEVER happen! Instead, clean up the top 100 or so most recent ones, then create a new subfolder marked “Old emails through today’s date” and move ALL of them over into that folder! Then start fresh and keep it clean!
2. Create A Uniform Filing System
For one, this will make it easier for you to search through your own email boxes. More importantly, it will ensure that anyone on your team can cover for anyone else, thus enabling YOU to actually take a real vacation day off and not get phone calls, texts, or emails about that lost email. Rather than suggesting a “one size fits all” system, I always encourage the team to brainstorm and agree on what works best and file by any of these:
- Source of lead. This may be by channel (Expedia, AirBnB, CVENT, Wedding Wire, email direct…)
- Type of lead.
- What staff member owns the lead.
Then under each of those master file folders, create sub-folders by year, and for folders containing a large number of emails, add subfolders under that for month.
3. Reduce The Volume Of Emails (To The Extent Possible.)
Start by sorting inbound emails at the source level by using multiple email addresses for different purposes. For example, I use one email address for my customer-facing (sales and service) emails, and a separate one for vendors, suppliers, and other public-facing business roles such as registering for a trade conference, after which I know I will be spammed by a ton of vendors sending random, mostly irrelevant messages.
Next, and this one is for the top leaders, shrink the use of intercompany emails. Too often staff are slapping on CC’s to way more people than needed at the start of an email exchange, and then senders continue to reply to all even when a matter has been delegated down the line, basically spamming everyone.
Also, too many workers these days are emailing back and forth about things which could have been resolved much quicker and better had we just made a “talk to Chris about” list and either called them up or stopped by their desk once per day.
4. Personalize Digital Message Exchanges With Prospects and Guests
Whereas intercompany emails should be succinct and pithy, sales and service related emails that I see could use a LOT more fluffing, or as my customer who heads a wedding sales team in Jamaica says, “Sugar it up!”
Fully embrace your CRM so that you can quickly and easily find key details you can insert into the first few sentences of an email to personalize your message by paraphrasing and restating something they shared or something you know about their plans.
Another easy way to personalize your email exchanges is to introduce yourself and sign it as a person not a role or department. Example: “Hi, this is Chris from our in-house reservations team (or sales team).” If you use a direct email account, insert a headshot. Organic headshots, as opposed to the stoic studio shots of old, seem to be the most popular. If you work in a shared inbox, personalize the responses with a group pic of your sales, reservations, or guest services team.
5. Help Recipients Find Messages You Have Sent Previously
How many of us get those annoying emails from customers and prospects saying, “I know you had sent me that info but I cannot find the email. Can you please resend?” You can safely assume their email inbox is even more full than yours, and their filing system is nonexistent!
Help them out by changing the subject line of the email when the “conversation” changes, rather than having like 20 email exchanges all showing the original subject. Also, when sending emails to follow-up with sales prospects, rather than starting a new email that says “I’m following up on my previous email…” and hoping they can find that previous email, instead find the original sent message, then forward it with a short note at the top.
In summary, if anything the tsunami of emails is only going to get worse as business correspondence tilts more to the digital world. I hope these email tips help you and your colleagues get on top of the wave of emails that flood in from the ocean each day so you can ride that wave on into shore like a surfer, verses having that wave crash on top of you and pound you to the sand.