Tuesday, 5 July 2011


Did you get my email?

Working in sales I've sent, received and seen enough missed messages to know that email is not infallible. Technical issues and human error can intervene, so some goodwill and perseverence is recommended if things go wrong. 

For the record, here are some of the issues we've encountered:

1. Wrong Address - it's usually safer to copy and paste than rekey anything, particularly phone numbers and email addresses. If your email program auto-suggests previous recipients, just bear in mind that it can also auto-suggest the ones that didn't work as well unless you clear these from the automatically captured list. You'll normally get a bounce back of a failed email minutes from sending it, but several times I've had such bounces a week or more later, so beware. 

Check the original name spelling, punctuation within the name, the domain address (especially the .com and .com.au variations).  Most addresses will be in the form of <name>@company or ISP domain that you can check on their website, though larger corporates may also have private domains not easily checked and recent changes to naming protocols have opened this up beyond .com, .gov and .org. Look out for .biz and more.

2. Spam filters - a graphic in your signature or an attachment, or the use of a particular word,  can cause the programs filtering your recipient's mail to presume it is spam and file it in the junk folder. Ask your recipient to add your name to their address list to prevent this (or white list it in their domain), or to check their junk folder if your email isn't in their Inbox. When all else fails, email in plain text and remove the images.

3. Lost in their server - in one curious case all emails to a domain address were not received. Our IT was able to verify that the emails reached the server, yet they were not routed to the recipient. Emails from other parties reached him, however, so we could only flag a problem for his webmaster to investigate. 

4. Misconfigured Domain Name Server (DNS) - if your recipient's domain name server is incorrectly set up, emails won't get through.

5. Misconfigured or temporarily unavailable Mail System - if your domain or Internet Service Provider (ISP) have a problem with set up, or find themselves temporarily blacklisted because of a spam issue, emails won't get through until the spam or configuration issue is resolved.

6. Free web mail services - these work most of the time, but they aren't as reliable as an email service you pay to have hosted on your domain or by your ISP. We don't recommend that you use free web email addresses for the messages that our Contact Centres send you.

7. Email deleted - if your program automatically deletes emails after a period or your mouse hovers over the delete button you can lose mail without being aware of this. I've seen Thunderbird move a message semmingly of its own accord just because you've entered certain keystrokes when you think you're typing elsewhere on the screen. 'Undo' and vigilance is all.

8. Work Pressures - in business many of us receive hundreds of emails each day. A few days off sick can take hours to catch up on. We've addressed this problem in Client Services support by introducing a central CSR ticketing system. Emails to this point create a job ticket that is centrally logged and allocated to a staff member to handle with an ETA response period. If someone is away, overdue work is visible and can be actioned by others. In general, though, some understanding of the realities of the working world, and patience, is advisable.

9. Server glitches - for an email to be sent it must leave your PC and be sent by your ISP or server and then be retrieved and routed by their ISP and server. Mostly this works well, but there can be glitches at any point. Follow up by telephone can be sensible if the matter is timely or important.

Fortunately, contact centre messages are less fraught because of the systems in place to send and track large volumes of emails. Our operators use 'Message drop downs' that are set up to send messages to preconfigured recipients; all they need to do is determine what the call is about and who should be notified how.

Email is great, but it is not infallible, and when it fails it's often no one's fault in particular. Keeping tabs on urgent matters and methodically working through the possible causes of email failure with goodwill are always the most sensible courses of action.