Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.

Saved Searches saved my life.

Well, not really. But when you have email you want to keep track of but you don’t want to check 15 mailboxes throughout the day, you’ll feel like Saved Searches are a dream come true.

You have a lot of options in using Saves Searches. You can search for mail by date, sender, subject, tag, and about 15 other criteria. And you can combine criteria, so you can look for mail sent by Bob between January 1 and January 15. Or mail sent by Bob and tagged Follow Up. Or mail sent by Bob, assigned to Janet, tagged Newsletter, and unread. You get the idea…

Saved Searches

Now, there are two ways to use this. There’s the one time search, where you just really need to find that one email. You can put together a saved search, but not save it. Find what you’re looking for, and then just move on.

Or you can create the searches that you’re going to use time after time. For instance, I have saved searches created to show me all the mail my supervisor sent related to certain products (by tag and by subject line) . By defining the search criteria and saving the search,  I can easily look at all the mail I want to see.

Once created and saved, you have the option of sharing your search. So if it’s a personal one that nobody else really needs access to, fine. It’s only available to you. But if you want your team members to use the search to track the particulars as you’ve described them, then you just click the Share box, and your search will show up in everyone’s list.

Now, here’s the coolest part: You can create an alert to tell you when there’s mail that meets the criteria of your Saved Search! Check out my next post for details on setting up the alerts you need to make your life even easier.

Posted by & filed under Use case.

Say you’re a journalist with a technical question for  a scientist at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.

Where would you send that email? And how would you know that the right scientist was going to see your inquiry?

The American Geophysical Union knew you’d be asking that question. So they created a  handful of email addresses just for the event. Then shifts were arranged to share the response burden amongst the attending  scientists, providing 24 hour email coverage. Experts were available around the clock to answer science questions related to climate issues and the negotiations.

But how did they manage it?

Email Center Pro, of course.

The work flow the AGU set up for the event was really interesting. They knew they’d have all these of scientists available. And they knew they’d be getting  a ton of emails about a very wide range of issues.

They needed:

  • A  centralized system that would allow journalists to direct their questions to a simple address (rather than to specific scientists or organizations).
  • A way for all the scientists to log on (usually several at the same time),  get into those mailboxes, and get answers out as quickly as possible.
  • A system that is easy to use, since the scientists weren’t going to want to spend a lot of time learning a new email client for a week’s worth of responding.
  • A Web based application, since getting a program installed on all those computers, with all those operating systems and system requirements, would be a nightmare.
  • A way to make sure the right answers got out:  It had allow  mail to be moved to different inboxes, information to be shared amongst users, etc.
  • A system that would handle the large volume of mail they were expecting.

The AGU needed Email Center Pro.

Posted by & filed under ECP Feature.

Don’t you hate it when you send a customer or client an email, only to hear back from them that they didn’t receive it? You have to ask them if they checked their spam folder, and are embarrassed to hear that indeed, your message has been tagged with that scarlet (pinkish?) letter.

This is not good.

Since Email Center Pro is sending mail on behalf of your domain, some servers are going to think this is suspicious behavior, which is why your message may end up with the Viagra ads and real estate offers.  But if you set up a Sender Policy Framework (SPF) record, essentially telling your domain that ECP is allowed to send for you, you’ll find that your emails will get through much more reliably.

ECP help provides detailed instructions for setting up the SPF record. All you need is access to your domain’s control panel, and you should be in business.

Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.

Does anybody really just do one job anymore?

I wrote recently about the Impression of Specialization, and how small companies can make themselves look bigger, and present the image that they have dedicated employees for all sorts of departments, simply by using email addresses that correspond with their customers’ needs.

But what I didn’t talk about in that post was what you do after you set up the right email addresses. You might be thinking that it’s hard enough to stay on top of your one email address — what are you going to do with five (or more)?

Email Center Pro makes it easy to switch from one mail box to another. That’s a no brainer. Here’s what that navigation looks like in ECP:

View messages

But if you don’t want to hop around from mailbox to mailbox, you can see all the mail that interests you with one quick look. The Email Center Pro Dashboard allows you to get an overview of everything that’s happening in your account. Every user can customize their own Dashboard to show them just what they want to see.

I could talk all day about the cool widgets and functions of the Dashboard (but that’s another blog post). Today I just want to show you one of my favorites —  My Mail.

I have a several roles I play here at Palo Alto Software, and I respond to emails that come in to a number of different inboxes. The My Mail widget lets me stay on my Dashboard, and just see what mail has come in for me, no matter which mailbox it’s in. Here’s a look at what I had to take care of recently:


Double clicking on any of those messages takes me right to it, so with one click I go from Dashboard right to the message I need to respond to.

And don’t worry — I took that screen shot a few weeks ago. Jonathan and Wallace didn’t have to wait all this time to hear back from me! I may have a lot of hats to wear, but not so many that I let emails sit for weeks on end…

Posted by & filed under ECP Feature, Uncategorized.

Among all the widgets available on your Email Center Pro dashboard, there’s one that’s very near and dear to my heart. It’s the ECP Updates widget, which will let you know every time I write another scintillating blog post. If you were looking at it right now, you’d be seeing this whole paragraph in the preview!

Since I haven’t actually been taking advantage of the connection between this blog and the ECP dashboard until now, I thought it might be a good time to link back to some recent posts you might have missed.

First, let’s talk about managing contacts. Most email programs have some version of contact management, but they don’t usually cross over to functions outside of email. Check out 3,2,1 Contact… How Do You Keep Track to find out how much more Email Center Pro has to offer.

Learning how to control your email is a common thread on this blog. The recent Who’s the Boss post addressed some outdated ways to gain the upper hand, and suggests alternatives to the same-old same-old approach.

Finally, we see the frequent articles and blog posts about the demise of email at the hands  social media and we just don’t agree. Don’t Believe the Hype offers a counter argument to the currently popular “email is dead” chorus.

Posted by & filed under Customer service, Uncategorized.

After my latest rant about how much I hate auto replies, a coworker suggested that I offer solutions to these email failures instead of just criticizing them.

Solutions? Instead of just complaining? What a concept!

I’m taking her advice, in the hopes that even one guilty auto responder out there takes my suggestions. So here, again, is the most recent auto responder to invoke my wrath:

Thank you for visiting our site.  Your email will be reviewed and a reply will be send to you in 72 hours.   Thank you.

This is an automated E-mail message.  Please do not reply to it.

And here, for a change, is some actually constructive criticism:

1. Don’t have an auto reply!
I’m sorry, but I just can’t do this without stating the obvious:  The very best way to improve your auto reply is to not have one. Find new ways to manage your email and respond quickly, accurately and efficiently, and you won’t have to ever tell somebody you’ll get back to them in three days.

2. Spell check, reread, spell check again.
Then send it to a friend or coworker to reread one more time. Considering the auto replies are going to every single person who emails you, you really should be concerned with not seeming like an idiot. Typos, misspellings, bad grammar all give a really terrible impression. It’s bad enough you can’t reply quick enough to warrant skipping the auto reply, do you really want it to seem like you are that unconcerned that you can’t spend a few minutes on wording it correctly?

3. Offer solutions.
Ironic coming from me, right? While I’m not a big fan of an auto reply telling me to make a phone call,  it is better than nothing.  But rather than just sending the phone number, try giving your customer  a way to help themselves while waiting to hear back from busy busy you.

Direct them to resources where they might find their own answers, like a link to your Frequently Asked Questions page or a price list. If it’s a vacation auto responder you’ve got going out, provide people emailing you with somebody to contact in your absence. It’s great you’re on vacation in Fiji, but what if I really need something? Give me an alternative to waiting until you return.

4. Don’t tell me you’re on vacation in Fiji.
I’ve been amazed at what some people put in their auto-reply. I don’t want to know about your upcoming gastric bypass and don’t need to see your fancy vacation itinerary. I’m a reasonable guy, I get that you’re out of the office for a while. I don’t need to know why, especially in that much detail.  Just tell me when you’ll be back and as mentioned in #3 above, tell me who to contact while you’re gone.

5. Don’t send from an address I can’t reply to!
If I’ve emailed you, and you reply from a “do not reply” address, you’ve lost me already. My original email reached you, but now I’m cut off? That makes no sense. When you’re already telling me you’re not going to answer my email, at least give me a way to tell you “Never mind, I’ve gone elsewhere.” Though I suppose it would be more annoying to send you that email, because I’d just get another autoreply…

I think we’ve all learned something today. I’ve learned that providing solutions *is* better than just complaining about an issue. And hopefully you auto-reply senders have learned few techniques that can make your emails a little less annoying.

Posted by & filed under auto reply, Customer service, Email Fail.

Below is an email I received recently.

Thank you for visiting our site.  Your email will be reviewed and a reply will be send to you in 72 hours.   Thank you.

This is an automated E-mail message.  Please do not reply to it.

I’ve ranted before about auto replies, but I’m sorry, I’m just going to have to do it again.

My first objection is the same as always —  these kinds of auto replies are pure waste. What are you going to do with this auto reply? Delete immediately, that’s what. Why bother sending something that is of no help to anyone? It’s all the more annoying because we often get these messages after a customer places an order on our site — it’s the reply to the order confirmation email our system sends automatically. This was one of those auto replies we received when we didn’t even contact them.

Second — Let’s just pretend I did email this company —  72 hours for a reply? Are they going to send it via the US Postal Service?

The way it’s worded makes me imagine somebody checking their watch, thinking “Nope, it’s only been 57 hours, can’t reply yet.” I mean, they’re not even giving me a little hope here that they might reply sooner.  And I won’t even mention the typo…

But the real issue at hand is this:  Why should it take 72 hours to reply to an email?


  1. They’re doing some SLAMMING business and are severely understaffed
  2. They have very limited access to computers
  3. They just don’t know how to manage their email
  4. They don’t care about providing quality customer service

For their sake, I hope it’s either #1 or #2 (or a combination of them).

The final problem is the “do not reply” part. It’s like they want to make sure I’m aware that my needs are not their top priority (in case the three day delay wasn’t enough) by telling me  not to bother replying to their email.

So not only do they not want to get back to me promptly, but they also don’t want to hear from me again any time soon.

And I didn’t even email them in the first place!

Geez, could they be more off-putting? I don’t even know what they do, but based on their auto reply, I don’t want to be their customer.

Makes you wonder how their actual customers must feel.

Posted by & filed under Customer service, Uncategorized.

Sometimes your customers need an  immediate response to a problem. Say they’ve ordered something online, and they think you might have overcharged them. Or they’re not sure they ordered the right thing. Or they lost their serial number but urgently need to use their software…

So they send you an email asking for help.

What is a reasonable amount of time to expect a customer to wait for an email response?

Now remember, Email Center Pro is all about helping you respond to your incoming emails quickly and efficiently. We’ve built metrics to show you how fast you respond, and we’ve created badges you can display on your website bragging about your response time.

Click here to take a look at Palo Alto Software’s Contact Us page.  We include on that page the hours we’re in the office, the fact that we generally respond to emails on the same day they’re received, and our Email Center Pro Response Time badge. The badge shows that during normal business hours, it takes us an average of 13 minutes to respond to customer emails.

13 minutes!

That’s pretty fast, don’t you think? We’re proud of that response time.

So back to the question: It’s 1 pm and our customer emails a question. Is 13 minutes too long to expect that customer to wait? Is two minutes too long?

I bring it up, because I had an experience today that makes me wonder if there’s ever going to be a way to be fast enough, or if we’ve reached the point that instant gratification is expected, at the expense of common sense and civility.

Today, I checked our inbox at 1:08 pm, and there was one email in it, time stamped 1:03. By the time I finished my reply to that email (which took all of 3 minutes), the same customer had emailed in again (time stamped 1:10). With the exact same question, worded only slightly differently.

Five minutes later (1:15), yet another nearly identical email from the customer arrived in the inbox. In 12 minutes she had sent three emails from our Contact Us form. She must have been sitting there rewriting and resending her email, without even checking her own email to see if we had replied.

The lesson? Even with the best email management software in the world and an average response time anyone would be proud of, you just can’t please everyone.

I can put myself in that customer’s shoes appreciate her need for an answer right away. But from the company’s perspective, it’s a little discouraging. Here we are, all proud of our 13 minute average response time, but our customers apparently can’t wait that long.

This customer had her reply 8 minutes after she sent her first email, but it was too slow. Can we ever win?

Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.

What do email and Mark Twain have in common?

Reports of their deaths were both greatly exaggerated.

On Monday, yet another blog jumped on the “email is dead” bandwagon.  In a post on the Wall Street Journal Tech blog titled Why Email No Longer Rules, it’s suggested that we’ve reached the  “end of the email era.”

…Email was better suited to the way we used to use the Internet—logging off and on, checking our messages in bursts. Now, we are always connected, whether we are sitting at a desk or on a mobile phone. The always-on connection, in turn, has created a host of new ways to communicate that are much faster than email, and more fun.

But a recent Nielsen study actually shows that rather than killing email, social media use results in greater email use.

Nielsen’s results pretty much show the opposite of what the firm expected. It would appear that the more people use social media, the more they are also using email. The “low social media consumers” spent the least amount of minutes consuming email, compared with the “high social media consumers” consuming the most email.

It makes sense. People who are the heaviest users of social media are probably people who are  using all kinds of applications. And the more time they’re spending at their computers, blogging and Tweeting and Yammering and whatevering, the more opportunity for sending plain old boring email.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I don’t see Twitter or Facebook replacing email. These tools are called “social” media for a reason — they’re social. They’re not one-on-one interactions with people — you know, the kind you want to have when you’re dealing with a business or have a private issue to discuss.

Maybe the role of email is changing, but it’s clearly not diminishing. I’ve yet to ask anyone for their email address — customer, friend, business contact —  only to hear “What, that old thing? Just Tweet me!”

Until that becomes a common refrain, email will continue to be the go-to choice for communication outside of social networking. Any good tool can be adapted for new uses — in fact, the best tools are the ones that serve multiple purposes. So watch how email evolves and not only continues to own the electronic communication realm, but develops to do it in ever more dynamic, useful, and engaging ways.

Email, dead? I think not.

Posted by & filed under Email general, Uncategorized.

We’re always reading about new phishing scams, hackers posting email user names and passwords online, and have even received the occasional email from a friend that begins “I’m not stranded on the streets of Paris with no money after my wallet and passport were stolen. Don’t send money — somebody hacked into my Hotmail account and sent that bogus plea to all my contacts…”

So how do you protect yourself?

Well, first, choose good passwords and password retrieval questions. Lifehacker posted these tips a while ago. Personally, I  like the mixture of upper and lowercase letters, with random symbols thrown in, for my passwords. And I use a variety of “standard lies” for my  password retrieval questions. Anybody who knows me would know my actual favorite sports team or my mother’s maiden name.  But the answer to those question when I’m retrieving a password would be impossible to guess.

Having a unique password for all your accounts is a good idea, but can get really hard to keep track of. There are free programs out there that help you manage your passwords, which can be useful in making all your online accounts, not just your email, more secure.

That’s a step in the right direction in protecting your inbox from hackers. But what about spam, scams, and Trojan horses? There are some very basic things to remember that will help:

  • Don’t open email from unknown sources
  • Don’t open attachments in emails from unknown sources
  • If an offer sounds too good to be true — it IS!

I have to say that these all seem like common sense to me. But apparently enough people fall victim to the scams based on these actions that it needs to be repeated again and again.

There will probably always be new ways for baddies to try to get into your inbox. Be proactive in how you set up your accounts, and think before you click on those messages from strangers, and you should be safe from the hackers, phishers, and jerks who are lurking in cyberspace.