E-mail is the most widely used Internet application. There’s a fair chance that you don’t know anyone between the ages of 15 and 65 that doesn’t have and use an e-mail address. For all of it’s popularity, e-mail is often used ineffectively.
This post is the first of a small series of writings on effective use of e-mail in a business environment. In the near future, I’ll explore the inherent risks and weaknesses associated with e-mail communication.
Below is a summary of some of the strong points of e-mail communication, with some emphasis on its use in the context of business communication.
Strengths of e-mail communication:
- Provides timestamped proof of an interaction. E-mail works well in that it provides the equivalent of a sales receipt for communication. It covers exactly what was said along with a time reference.
- Easy to archive for future recall. Most worthwhile e-mail applications provide searchability that can provide you with all your pertinent e-mail – often even sortable according to conversation threads – in return for a few entered key words.
- Contains details of correspondence. No need to rely on memory for facts of interaction. E-mail is great in that it allows access to useful information long after memory of it has faded. My policy (for better or worse, and this is debatable) is to never delete project-related e-mail because you just never know when you may need to recall its contents.
- Lower risk of making errant or embarrassing comments (putting one’s foot in one’s mouth). With e-mail, your communication can be edited and rephrased as much as is desired before it can be read by the recipient. One potential negative of this “strength” of using e-mail is that I’ve known individuals who consider themselves less gifted in verbal communication, or who don’t want to delivery a difficult message verbally rely on e-mail as a crutch to avoid a face-to-face or a phone call. I’ve probably even been in that boat once or twice myself. Mike Shaffner also points out that we ought to take a cue from Lincoln and avoid sending out that dreadful nasty-gram, as much as you may want to at the moment.
- E-mail is inexpensive. It allows you to send a message to a large number of recipients simultaneously for much less than traditional postal rates, and often much less than making a quick phone call.
As always, I welcome any additional advantages or different takes on the advantages of e-mail communication that readers may have. Feel free to comment below.