Monday, February 20, 2012

How Do You Follow-Up on E-Mail?

How often do you delegate by e-mail? You e-mail to ask someone for information or ask them to perform a task. Maybe they come through, and maybe they don't. How do you stay on top of who should be getting back with you? What sort of system do you have to follow-up if they don't?

This post examines one option, a free site called "followupthen.com." This short video explains the concept:




You do not even have to set up an account. All you have to do is remember the domain name. The thought process is to make a decision at the time you send the e-mail when you want to be reminded.

If this tool increases your productivity, by all means use it. My thinking, however, is that if you are using Outlook, you really do not need it. In the next post, I will show you what I think works much better.

Possible Problems
One of the scenarios in the video has you include followupthen.com in the cc line. If the person does not respond to your e-mail within the given time fame, followupthen.com automatically sends them a reminder. Sometimes this is a good thing, especially since it happens without your having to do anything.

Suppose, however, the person does respond via e-mail, but instead through a phone call or face-to-face interaction. Or, what if they create an entirely new e-mail rather than clicking "reply"? Followupthen.com would think they did not reply and would send the reminder. Not so good.

After sending your e-mail, suppose you wind up getting your information from another source, or you find you simply do not need the information after all. In these situations, you really don't care if the other person responds or not. Yet, followupthen.com is going to send both you and them the additional message. We already get too much e-mail without one adding more that is not needed.

Finally, what if the person does respond. I gave followup then a try. In my experiment, I sent two e-mails to a friend. I asked my friend to respond to one of them but not the other. I wanted to see exactly what follow-up then would do. I set the follow-up at 2 days.

As soon as I sent the e-mails, I received two e-mails from followupthen, one for each of the e-mails I had sent confirming they were delivered to their destination. Two days later, I received two e-mails. My friend also received two e-mails. The fact that my friend had replied to one of the e-mails had no effect on followupthen.


What About Delegation Through Other Means?
Not all of our delegation is through e-mail. What about the phone calls, face-to-face appointments, and meetings where tasks are delegated and a follow-up system is needed to be sure nobody drops the ball? Even if we use followupthen.com, we would still need another follow-up system to handle the items delegated through some avenue other than e-mail.

A Better Way
In the next post, I will show you how I handle follow-up. It uses one "rule" and the "tilde" sign (~) for anything I delegate through e-mail. The method for follow-up is the same regardless of whether I delegated by e-mail, phone, face-to-face, or smoke signals. And, if I want to see a quick list of everyone I am depending on to get back with about about something, I can get that list in a instant.



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