Fortunately for people with bad e-mail habits, the public has been weaned on the worst use of e-mail I have seen. I have requested product information and never gotten a reply, or worse, gotten a reply a week later. I have gotten e-mail without a senders name. I won't even get into the lack of contact information in tag lines.
If you have bad e-mail habits, it's costing you money. Customers, especially B2B customers, are not tolerating it anymore, and you better get up to speed. I deal with huge amounts of e-mail running Chatropolis.com and have developed some good rules about dealing with e-mail. I'll pass them onto you, and hopefully it will put money in your pocket and improve your relationship with your customers.
At my site, all e-mail is answered by end-of-business on the day it was received. If the e-mail comes in after hours, it is answered first thing in the AM. It is treated with the same priority as a phone message.
All e-mails are signed. We don't expect customers to extrapolate my name from my e-mail address.
I use quoting on most replies. Unless absolutely needed, the quote is clipped to remove unnexessary information and to keep the size as small as it can be yet still be effective.
When sending e-mail I never use HTML, colors or backgrounds of any kind. A font size is NEVER used. Using font sizes should be punishable by death. Keep your e-mail as close to plain text as possible. Believe it or not, but some people don't want to see your cool high tech background or frilly pink lace.
If you get an e-mail with the subject "2nd request" you have a pissed off customer that feels ignored. First check your folders to see what they sent and when. Also check if you replied and if it bounced. When replying to "Mr 2nd Request" always be apologetic. If it is not your mistake, point out your reply and indicate it must have been a glitch on your end. There is no need to humiliate an already pissed off customer. Then handle it as usual, but be apologetic and let him know you want his business and that YOU are sorry for the mistake.
Now about excuses. I find it offensive when the reply to one of my e-mail requests includes "I get so much e-mail" as a reason it's a week late. I personally handle as much e-mail as anyone. Our Barracuda spam filter handles over 50,000 spams per day. The rest we answer personally without automated responses. If you think your gonna improve service by canning messages, also remember to indicate that the e-mail wasn't important enough for you to actually type a reply. Canned responses are only acceptable in the Tech Support area.
Remember people are e-mailing you because they think it will be faster, more convent and save them a phone call. This is also an opportunity for you to improve your relationship with a customer and make your company look more attractive and professional. So pay attention – all e-mail is important!
Michael Ludwick is the owner of Chatropolis.com the largest adult chat community on the net. Chatropolis is in it's 11th year of operation.