One of the most common means to communicate online is through e-mails. John knows this too well. This is one of the reasons he hired his new virtual assistant.
Things are now going smoothly as far as answering e-mails are concerned. John can take care of his business while his assistant ensures that every e-mail is answered adequately. However, as his business began to gain traction over the last few months, the e-mail bulk started piling up faster than his VA could accommodate. His VA should answer at least 80 e-mails per day. In some cases, she was able to answer more than a hundred on extremely busy days. How did he handle this without hiring another VA? He taught his assistant the following e-mail hacks.
Use the “three-category system” to classify the mails.
He instructed her to set three main categories for efficiency:
- Sales/Customer Transactions
- For John’s direct handling (receipts, important documents, and statements of accounts)
John advised his VA to do this as soon as she was done clocking in. This helped lessen the guesswork that came with analyzing each message. Looking for common keywords may also help with the classification of each mail.
There’s just one exception to this technique: If she can answer the e-mail right away after seeing it, she might as well go ahead and do it. If it takes her more than 5 seconds to think of a cohesive response, it’s better to place it in one of the three folders until later.
John also recommended his VA to classify the e-mails according to business needs or personal preferences. Here are two possible choices you may use as well:
- Deadline-focused: You may use later, tomorrow, and next week as your three categories.
- Action-focused: You may utilize refer, reply, and hold as the folders.
John’s VA uses the deadline-focused classification system. John’s transactions are time-sensitive, after all. The system helps her prioritize which e-mail should be answered first. In the long run, this helped them timely close the most number of deals in a week. Classifying emails increased customer satisfaction and lessened stress for the VA and the business owner. This is a win-win situation!
Cut down on unnecessary e-mail queues.
John taught his VA to set blocks of time to reply to different types of e-mails. For example, the first three hours of the shift is used to address inquiries alone. The next four hours are used for the transactions. Allocating tasks using this technique helps his VA focus more on answering the same types of questions. She can do this without compromising the quality of the message. Also, she will not lose her momentum easily because she only has to think about one general theme (read one type of e-mail topic) at a time.
He also trained his VA to scan the e-mails to see if the messages needed replies in the first place. There's no need for a reply if the e-mail only contains a simple thank you. Responding with “you’re welcome” is not only counterproductive but also a time-waster. The VA may instead archive or delete the message after receiving it.
Installing or setting up an e-mail filter is another e-mail hack that helps significantly lower the queues to a manageable number. In this case, John set up the e-mail software to whitelist potential customers and business partners. This helps prioritize the whitelisted people when they send an e-mail to John’s company. The other filtered mails are answered at a later time.
To further reinforce this filtering system, he also taught his VA to identify spam e-mails from the typical ones. Pressing the “mark as spam” button teaches the software over time to identify messages that are not important. Experts say that this can significantly lower the queues by as much as 30%.
Compose canned messages.
If John’s VA will manually answer the same set of questions with the same set of answers for the entire day, it would drive her nuts! Just imagine saying the same thing to different people throughout the day. You’ll surely end up exhausted and exasperated. To address this concern, John required his assistant to come up with the company’s FAQs. From there, she had to compose the most common but comprehensive answers possible. This saved her a lot of time in the process.
John did not interfere with how his VA chose her template and how she applied each one as appropriate. In this case, she used Sticky Notes so she can easily copy and paste her replies to each message. Take note that while this may be the best approach for her, it is not the only one available. For instance, Google Mail also provides this feature.
E-mail hacks, in a nutshell…
Answering e-mails is possibly a waste of time depending on how you handle it. It is much easier for you to use the rest of the time to take care of other more important tasks once you learn the ropes. Using plug-ins and tools can further improve the way you handle the messages in the long run. Right now, John’s company receives wonderful feedback on how timely they take care of customers’ concerns through email, and this is thanks to a set of simple e-mail hacks!