Delicate balance between keeping you informed or spamming.

Everyone knows that even in the era of web 2.0  and micro blogging today, email is still a powerful and extremely effective communication tool.

Our relationship with Email is a bit like a ‘love and hate relationship’. We love it because we don’t have to go somewhere to fetch or read the information, it is right in ‘my inbox’, and for most of us it is part of morning ritual, breakfast, cup of coffee and check email.

We hate it at the same time because our inbox tends to be very messy; there is no easy and reliable way to separate genuine emails we like, emails we hate, good or bad notifications and spam messages.

Not just quality of the messages, sometime we also have to think about frequency, and volume of information being delivered.

People sometime complain they are not being informed about important information, in our case recently our book keepers insisted that they need to know if any of the managers has approved overtime as soon as possible in real-time so they can authorize the payment immediately, without further delay.

Before it was lack of information but now take a look at this person’s inbox :

Email Full

OK that’s just too much information, the accountant is now complaining that the system is spamming them.

This issue made them realizes the consequences of their request. Sometime it is hard to imagine but what the differences can be simply by the frequency of the email you receive. Less than 5 a day seem acceptable but 50+ a day is just too much. Is it really ‘too much’ or it is a sign that system is working?

The fact is that each request is now visualized, and they can see what’s going on in real-time. It might be  just a  normal psychology reaction, who likes  to see the work has just piling up ?

The problem is where is the balance? Lets say 20+ a day might be OK for someone but it is too much for others. If we change the method for example using daily digest, then some people might complain they don’t get the information in ‘real time’ when they need it, or is it just our way to make ourselves feels better.

Tell us what you think…

3 thoughts on “Delicate balance between keeping you informed or spamming.
  • IMHO, this is an issue which has many answers, both software and user training related.

    1. Software – give the client both options and allow their users to choose ie this is done by the likes of Facebook and LinkedIn.

    2. Training – encourage users to check different views of the system (ie like going to an e-forms list twice a day) where they have the power to search and filter the results depending on what task they want to complete.

  • I agree – in this specific case a report rather than notifications might be more appropriate, so the user can just review the report whenever they wish.

    However once again this goes back to push vs pull – if users really do mean what they say when they want real time updates, then I guess it has to be pushed to them.

  • Providing options or giving user choice is good, sometime the problem is not about providing option but which option would you suggest to the user by default.

    Related post about default value:
    http://www.claromentis.com/blog/2009/05/decission-the-power-of-default-value/

    On the above example, if we know the accountant is going to get too many messages we can suggest report option as suggested by Nigel. This will require some convincing, training and cultural change, from passive (waiting things to appear in my inbox) to pro-active (check it online or run a report as needed).

    The impact or the education process will be more successful if we let the accountant learnt from the mistake. Originally they want to receive real time notification, now it’s just too much and it looks like a spam message. The solution will be checking it online to run a report.

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