Any Suggestions For My Email Issues?

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Any Suggestions For My Email Issues?

Postby tishialee on Tue Jul 24, 2007 12:51 am

I'm working really hard on filling up my schedule for Monday-Friday working and getting away from the Saturday and Sunday working.

I'm having issues with an abundance of email on the weekends now and it takes forever to wheed through it all Monday morning. This morning was totally overwhelming how much email was in my inbox and it made me cringe and want to run and hide....LOL!

A couple times now I've had an issue with people emailing me several times over the course of Saturday or Sunday because they hadn't heard from me yet.

So does anyone have any suggestions for an easy way to deal with the overflowing email Monday morning?

Also, how do I handle the repeated emails from people all because they can't contact me over the weekend (I guess they think if they send one and I don't respond that if they send 3 or 4 that it will get my attention).

Can I set up an automated reply to go out on any incoming emails on Saturday and Sunday letting people know I'm out of the office on the weekends or do people not like getting automated responses?
Tishia Lee
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Postby lindastacy on Tue Jul 24, 2007 8:49 am

I think it's fine to send an autoresponder on the weekends, but I think the only way to do that is to turn it on on Friday and turn it off on Monday.. not difficult, but a bit of an inconvenience.

If you use one, just make it short and sweet...something like
Thanks for contacting us. We're out of the office until Monday morning and will respond to you early in the week.

Keep in mind that there are some number of people who won't get the autoresponder because they'll be blocked by spam filters.

Here are some things that might cut down on weekend email or at least multiple emails....

Post your Monday through Friday office hours on your website.

Let existing clients now that you generally don't respond to email on the weekend, but give them a way to contact you if there's an urgent situation that needs your attention (either a separate email address that you will check on the weekend or by phone.) And you should probably define urgent. :shock:

Use a website contact form instead of an email address. With a contact form you can send a confirmation email and direct the person to a confirmation page, both of which can explain when you'll reply. (Just make sure your email address is hidden in the form HTML or you'll be overwhelmed with spam. PM me for recommendations of scripts).

And finally..... ease up on yourself a bit. I've learned to be a little less frantic about email replies. I used to feel like I had to respond to everyone right away, but now I remind myself that some of the people don't even check their email every day, let alone every couple hours. I always try to reply within 24 hours, but I think getting a reply out within one business day is good.
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Postby Mel on Tue Jul 24, 2007 12:02 pm

I can relate Tishia! I spend about 4 hrs on Mondays answering emails because so many back up over the weekend. Of course I'm checking almost 30 accounts for myself and my clients so that's why. It is a bit overwhelming but what I do is tackle one account at a time. Like I'll do all of one client's stuff then move on to the next.

I also separate the emails into sub-folders. So for each client I have folders for To Do (for newly assigned tasks), FYI (for info that doesn't need a reply), etc so that I can move them out of my main inbox as I go through them but can also easily look back if I need to. When those are all moved, then I know all that's left are ones that need answering and I start on those.

Linda has offered great advice and if you can remember to turn on/off your autoresponder each week, that might be an option for a while until everyone gets the message but for me, I know I'd forget to turn it on or more likely off. lol

Another thing you could do is to put a friendly PS reminder in your email signature for a month or two so that everyone sees it each time you reply.

Whatever you decide to do, just make sure you're consistent and people will eventually figure it out.
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Postby tishialee on Tue Jul 24, 2007 11:40 pm

Awesome suggestions ladies! Thank you so much!

I like the 'friendly' reminder in my email signature but would that seem a bit 'harsh' if I did that? LOL.
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Postby sti1990 on Wed Jul 25, 2007 7:47 am

I don't think it would be harsh if you worded it something like "New Office Hours Beginning On..."

or maybe you should send a short email to your clients first explaining that you have new office hours then the sig won't be a surprise.

I think that's perfectly reasonable to set hours. Sounds like your clients have been spoiled!
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Postby Mel on Wed Jul 25, 2007 8:51 am

I don't think it'd be harsh either as long as you worded it right and yeah definitely notify your current clients ahead of time too so they don't get a shock.

Then for any new clients, just make sure when you're negotiating things you mention your office hours so they're fully aware before hand.
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Postby Mila on Wed Jul 25, 2007 11:57 am

Tishia, here's the advice I read in the "4 hour workweek" Set up an automatic message that reads.

In trying to stay efficient and work more productively, i'm now only answering emails at xx time of the day. You may also be able to find the answer to your question here (link goes to a page where you list most commonly asked questions). Please understand that this will help me provide a better service for you, and I will be in touch shortly.

I can't remember the exact wording but it's something like that. Basically that lowers people's guard and they won't get angry because they don't Expect you to respond right away... they know you only check emails once a day at a set time.
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Postby soapin'Angela on Wed Jul 25, 2007 3:21 pm

Tishia I admire your ability NOT to check emails on the weekends! I wish I could do that LOL....

You've gotten some great advice. Have you read the 4 Hour Workweek? Sounds like you're already taking some steps towards what they suggest in the book :)

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Postby Mara B on Wed Jul 25, 2007 3:35 pm

All of the advice was great, and something that probably is best handled when first starting, right? I think everything said would be helpful in reigning in those "spoiled" customers.

I hope you get them straightened out soon so you can enjoy your weekends with your son!
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Postby tishialee on Wed Jul 25, 2007 11:12 pm

Yes I have several clients that are spoiled and I have worked over the weekends for them, but it's really important that I start running my business instead of it running me. I'm tired of complaining about working on the weekends so it's time to 'Just Do It' and make the change.

Don't get me wrong, I don't mind doing it once in awhile, I can be somewhat flexible but it just seems that lately I'm being a little too flexible.

Angela - I haven't read that book, I've read lots of reviews about it & seen many bloggers talking about it. I just haven't purchased it and don't know that I will.
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Postby Alice Seba on Sun Jul 29, 2007 11:52 am

If you don't make it clear, then it will never be clear to your clients. Anyone who gets upset about it is not worth doing business with, in my opinion. You need clients who are flexible, respectful of your time and are easy to work with.

I send emails to my assistants on weekends if I'm working, but obviously, I don't expect an answer until the following week. If I get a reply on the weekend, that's a bonus! I'm sure a lot of your clients are like this as well. You've replied them on weekends, so they just assume you're available. If you tell them your hours, most of them will probably be fine with it.

But I know what you mean about the Monday overwhelm. I felt that way at many jobs outside the home as well. In particular when I worked for a Korean company in Canada. In Korea, Saturday is a work day, so all the faxes and emails I had to deal with on Monday almost gave me a stroke until I learned to relax. Sometimes, it was hard because many of those people working Saturdays didn't appreciate/understand that we didn't work Saturdays so were impatient for replies - but I set those troublemakers straight.

The important thing to remember is that you will get through everything and not let the stress get to you. Monday, might be the hardest day, but it's gets easier after that.

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Postby lindastacy on Mon Jul 30, 2007 11:54 am

It really is all about expectations.

If you've been working weekends all along, isn't it a little unfair to call a client "spoiled" because she's come to expect what you've been providing?

Of course you have every right to change your work schedule, but in a sense, you're changing your "contract" with existing clients. Some of them may want or need the weekend services you've been providing and may look for a new VA to provide that. My guess is most clients won't, but if some do, keep in mind it's just about needs and expectations.
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Postby Mara B on Mon Jul 30, 2007 3:04 pm

I don't think that just because someone does something one way, that it can't or shouldn't be changed. What if I'm working at a job outside of the home and they've never expected me to work on Saturday? If they change the way they run their business to include Saturdays, then I have to learn to adapt. They aren't going to stop requiring me to work just because I've never done it that way. It should be the same with a WAH job. Just because you've done something one ways doesn't mean you have to continue to do it that way forever. Lives change, and part of the reason we work from home is so that we can have time with our families. If we're spending all of our time during the weekend working, we're defeating the purpose for staying home to begin with.
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Postby tishialee on Mon Jul 30, 2007 11:46 pm

The plan was to NEVER work on the weekends, that was one of the other reasons I wanted to work from home - I was sick of working EVERY single Saturday and Sunday at when I worked outside the home.

But in the beginning when someone needed something done on the weekend I hadn't set any 'boundaries' and was willing to do whatever I had to do to get business.

Now that I've learned that this is my business and I have a right to have boundaries (and I must have boundaries to be efficient) it's hard to tell clients that have had me work on the weekends before that I'm not doing it anymore.

Maybe shouldn't of used the word spoiled because in all actuality it was my own fault for not having any boundaries set. But I'm setting some boundaries now and it is the most empowering feeling ever :-)
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Postby lindastacy on Tue Jul 31, 2007 10:11 am

tishialee wrote:...it's hard to tell clients that have had me work on the weekends before that I'm not doing it anymore.


My guess is that most of your work isn't an "emergency", so for most people it won't be an issue at all.

If you have clients that need things done on the weekend, perhaps you could team up with another VA who prefers to work weekends. You can give her some weekend work....she can give you some weekday work....and you can both keep your clients happy.

But remember... it's business. It's not like you're telling your best friend you won't talk to her on the weekends. :) If you lose a client or two because they need work done on the weekends, it's okay. It's not a failure. You have to meet your need to have weekends off and they may have to meet their need to have work done on the weekend.
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