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Issues with e-mail as a widespread business tool


We are a medium sized domestic lines insurer. Currently, our staff who handle claims and underwriting can only email colleagues within our company. We are looking at getting into the 21st century by introducing external email for our team members. They will operate a “branch” email address that they can receive and send email from, on behalf of their particular branch of our company. We are aware that most companies allow their staff to contact customers via email using personal e-mail addresses (as opposed to the branch-type address we are looking at using). I am interested in your comments about how you: • Manage the content of emails (for appropriateness and correctness) • Ensure grammar/spelling correct (we have many employees for whom English is not their first language) • Manage personal use of email (do you allow any personal use? If so, how much? How do you manage this?) Any feedback you can provide, or suggestions on e-mail acceptable use policy that might assist with some of our questions, would be appreciated.

3 Responses

  1. The problems with emails
    Hi Tony

    One of the biggest problems I’ve encountered in organisations that choose to use the “branch” email address is about responsibility.

    It can be all too easy for a member of the team/branch to say that they thought someone else was dealing with a certain email. Alternatively, some team members may cherry pick received emails, particularly if there is any type of bonus scheme in operation for sales conversions.

    A key issue, is how to decide who deals with what. This is never as easy as it seems as some emails will fall into more than one category and therefore may relate to more than one team member. Also, when an email arrives will everyone in the branch be drawn to checking on it’s content?

    My company has run many training courses on written communication, including emails. I would suggest that a training session would be the best way to outline the standards required and procedures to be followed. A spell checker facility is usually available so this should help the teams members for whom English is not their first language.

    Most companies have an email (and internet) policy which is included in staff handbooks, thus forming part of the contract of employment. I have one that I am happy to send you if you get in touch. If your employees have access to the internet they may already be sending out personal emails, for example, through Hotmail accounts.

    You may also want to consider creating an email template for everyone to use which includes a disclaimer at the bottom the message. Again, I have some good examples of these which express confidentiality etc.

    Well, I hope that helps you.

    Best wishes


  2. Email Resources Support
    Hi Tony
    Staff at work almost need a code of practice with email, without getting too prescriptive about its use. I wrote an article last year entitled ‘Email Frenzy’ which establishes some dos and don’ts. You are quite welcome to download it from and pick the bones!
    Hope that helps.
    Happy Days!

  3. It’s a long term project
    Hi Tony

    You have a challenge ahead. As you recognise, writing effective e-mails to the public takes skills that go beyond accurate grammar and punctuation. I would recommend that for future recruitment you include a practical writing task as part of the interview process. This can be surprisingly revealing. For now, you obviously have to work with the people you’ve got.

    The first step is to get them to understand the importance of getting it right. Many admin staff don’t have any concept of the impression that their e-mails may be making on the reader. Initial training should therefore cover how to see things from the reader’s perspective, together with issues such as tone, structure, and the importance of accurate grammar and punctuation. You can also use this training to agree some common guidelines (‘Hi’ or Dear’, etc).

    However, there’s no quick fix on this one. We are used to the idea that phone calls may be recorded for training purposes; the same principle applies to e-mails. You will need to monitor them, and make sure that your team know this is happening and understand why. Spell-checking software can only get you so far and certainly can’t be relied on in isolation.

    I would suggest finding the team members with the best writing skills and giving them roles as writing mentors. They should be able to check samples of e-mails at random, give constructive feedback where appropriate, and highlight specific further training needs. They should also be available for immediate support – staff who are less than confident in their own writing often welcome the chance to have someone else quickly check what they’ve written. These mentors may or may not be the formal team leaders.

    You could perhaps invest in external training for a group of mentors, in order that they have a clear understanding of what’s required. They can then disseminate this around the rest of the team on an ongoing basis.

    Good luck!


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