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This is Part One of a series entitled “Email: This Is How We Do It”. We’re going to chronicle, over three days, a day in the life of an Email Center Pro power user (how’s that for stretching a concept?). So sit back, relax and take a look at Email Center Pro in action (popcorn sold separately).

A huge part of my work day is spent dealing with email — answering customers questions, sending callers information about our products, assigning emails to colleagues and coworkers… I don’t know what life was like here at Palo Alto Software before Email Center Pro, but I can tell you what an average day is like for me as ECP power-user.

Over the next three days, you’ll have an opportunity to do a ride-along with me as I go about my daily routine. As you read this series, I encourage you to think about yourself and your team, and the kinds of email chores you handle on a regular basis. How do you handle the types of scenarios that I encounter each day?

8:00 AM It’s Monday morning and nobody’s been in the Sales inbox all weekend. I come in to the office, get the coffee started, and dig in.

There are 80 emails in the inbox that need attention, and myself and my three coworkers are responsible for getting them all answered as quickly as possible. I’m the first one in — nobody else is due for an hour, so it’s my job to get the emails assigned.

I generally just do this in a divide and conquer mode. I split the number of emails by four, with no cherry picking who gets what (too tempting to give myself all the lucrative ones!). Grabbing a few at a time, I assign them out.

I do it this way mostly to ensure that each user gets emails from a variety of time periods. All of Desi’s would be from the beginning of the weekend if started off assigning 20 consecutive emails to her, for instance. By spreading out how they’re assigned, the people who have been waiting the longest for a reply will be the first to get one, regardless of who their message has been assigned to.

Glancing at the emails as I assign them gives me a chance to make sure they’ve all been sent to the right box. I notice one that looks like it should go to the Marketing department,  so I just move the message over. If  my colleagues who handle that inbox have any questions about the email’s source, they’ll see that it was originally sent to sales and that I moved it over for them. Since I didn’t have to forward it to another email address, the message didn’t get buried beneath the headers that precede forwarded messages.

9:15 AM I log into my jay@paloalto email in Outlook, to check on any personal emails I may have received. If my boss has a project for me, an all company email has gone out, or any other non-sales related item needs my attention, it’ll be sent to this email address. This account is for my eyes only.

The fact that customer emails are completely separate from this address helps me prioritize. My wife may have sent me a note to remind me to pick up salad fixings and dish washer detergent, but it doesn’t come before an email from a customer that needs attention. I usually glance at my inbox at some point early in my day, to see if there’s anything pressing. As usual, there’s nothing in there that needs to come before my customers, so I go back to ECP to take care of my emails there before worrying about what I need to bring home for dinner.

9:30 AM One of my colleagues has called in sick. Luckily, we still have access to those 20 emails I assigned to her! We could just view email assigned to her and respond to them, but we find it easier to simply reassign them to those of us who are here today. We all have a little more work, but at least those customers won’t be waiting for a response until our coworker’s flu has run its course.

10:00 AM I do some work for other departments, so I need to check other boxes for anything important that’s come in over the weekend. It’s nice to just chose the mailbox from a pull-down menu, rather than having to log out of one account and into another to handle all my responsibilities.

And with that, I think I’ve earned myself a little break. I’m gonna head over to the coffee pot, get a refill, and stretch a little before getting back to business.

Tomorrow, you’ll find Part Two of this series, and maybe we’ll find out if Jay missed any salad ingredients…

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