Professional services practitioners have always been prone to high email volume, and today’s accountant is no exception. Our customers look to us when they need to be right – so here, we offer a two-fold approach to help them manage their email overload. Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting APAC has these tips.
First, accountants can look to apply some basic email management methodology combined with some of the features that most email clients offer to manage communications effectively.
Second, accountants might explore other collaboration options to manage the volume of client email communication before it becomes a problem.
Email management methodology is something which can go a long way to managing volume. The concepts are simple, but the impact they can have can be amazing:
o Unsubscribe from all email lists or newsletters that aren’t helpful
o Think twice before you ‘reply all’ – is it really necessary? Replying to all can create unnecessary email traffic
o Make sure your spam filters are working to filter out unwanted emails
While these tips may lessen your email volume, effective management of emails in professional services is frequently less about the technology, and more about client demands via email, particularly during peak times like self-assessment season.
Setting expectations is a delicate balance, particularly in today’s volatile economic climate, where clients may be looking for increased advisory advice. One approach is to start by offering clients self-serve advice on your website that they can refer to before emailing you directly. This may include FAQs and quick start guides.
Another approach is to categorise client emails according to urgency and business relevance, and answer emails prioritised in this order. Another method yet, is to set aside specific time slots during the day to read and deal with emails. Don’t be constantly checking. If you are busy, set your out of office message with specific instructions regarding when you will respond to queries, and don’t be tempted to answer when you have your out of office message in place.
You can also create rules to deal with emails. For example, you may find it useful to set a rule that moves emails to a different folder if you are only cc’d into an email. These can be treated as ‘FYI’ emails, read once a day rather than actioned as soon as they come in.
A brief but important note on shared email addresses. While it may have been typical for many small practices to share one email address among advisors a decade ago, this is no longer the case, and for good reason. A shared email address introduces the risk of emails being deleted by other team members, as well as possible data privacy issues among different clients.
Adding new addresses for each person in your firm is something your website domain provider can either do for you or guide you through very easily.
A last note: don’t email for email’s sake. Real-time telephone conversations or video calls can often be more efficient for answers that require deeper context, thereby keeping your inbox reserved for concise communication, aligned to meet client expectations. We create value for our customers; we believe that these simple tips can enable you to so the same for your clients.