Whither Email?

Email is a modern wonder. Although it’s hardly cutting edge anymore, I can’t say enough good things about its potential utility in business and other practical ways. Where its becoming problematic in my book is the lackadaisical approach many users of email are taking to the elements of common courtesy that might be expected in everyday communication.

For starters, there’s becoming a disconnect between the “instantaneous” and the “responsive” side of ¬†communication. The incidence of having email not being responded to, sometimes even after two or three reminders, is significantly on the rise, both on the personal and business side.

In my experience, one of the most glaring examples is dealing with two Crown Law Offices in my vicinity. While all the Crown officers in these offices, six in total, profess to be reachable by email, not one has ever replied to an email within 24 hours and, overwhelmingly, communications require prompting (by re-forwarding) or re-routing messages to other parties to get a response.

I recently had (non-) dealings with the supposed customer service departments of two telephone companies (Telus and Bell), one large plumbing supply company and an automobile manufacturer (Subaru), utilizing their “contact us” email addresses. I batted ‘oh’ for all of them in getting a response. That’s especially odd in that, in all but one case, I was looking at becoming a customer or adding services.

On the personal side, ignored emails are becoming frequent enough to make me wonder about the durability of some relationships. The “I’m incredibly busy” or “didn’t get your email” excuses are wearing thin.

At the most extreme end of this phenomenon, I used to work for a guy who prided himself on his ’24/7′ accessibility. It was an illusion, of course, but I found out one day just how extreme. He came to our satellite office for a day and signed on to the corporate network. When he left he forgot to log out. As I was powering the computer down, I noticed his email client was open – showing over¬†3,000 unread messages (!).

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