Hi all,

   Here's the background: I work in a small department with another Manager Tools manager.  We are both strong believers in "doing email" 3 times a day.  We have also encouraged our directs to adopt similar email checking strategies, though we have not forced them to do so.

   Another department which we support (we are kind of a "matrix-y" organization) has asked when someone in our department gets a request to send an email back with an ETA, confirming that they know about it and will take care of it.  My co-manager and I were ok with that, but let them know about our email 3x daily recommendation to our team and asked if they need anything more urgently than 3-4 hours to follow-up with a phone call, even if the call is just saying "Can you look at the email I just sent?"

  This other department is pushing back and has told us they have "concerns about this approach."  We have a meeting coming up to discuss these concerns, and while they haven't expicitly stated what these concerns are, I suspect they are around the "Non-urgent requests would be acknowledged within a 3-4 hour window" part of the conversation.

  I am looking for suggestions on how to approach this with them, possible how (if?) we can convince them that 3-4 hours for non-urgent requests is reasonable.


jhack's picture

Service organizations will often set up a "support" inbox, which is monitored by the assigned support person (and allows for shifts, vacations, etc).  

This email box could be monitored at higher frequency, and it would only contain service requests (which means that it wouldn't be a distraction, but rather a business event).  

Added bonus: you have an easy way to track request volume and response time.   

John Hack

fchalif's picture
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I infer from your team's approach to email and that you may not "usually" require to respond to emails within minutes of receipt. If immediate response is required, then John Hack's advice above about the support inbox is a must for your team.

If rapid response is not required, then de-emphasize the conversation about how your team manages emails and simply focus on your commitments to the other team. Measure your teams performance on effective resolution of issues and ensure your relationship on deliverables to the other team is solid. A request tracking system is likely necessary in either case.


rwwh's picture
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A good answer indeed is to use functional E-mail addresses. The support inbox is an example of a functional E-mail address. Rather than addressing mail to [email protected], most E-mail should be sent to [email protected]. And a service request should be sent to [email protected] rather than [email protected]. Such functional E-mail addresses can be read by anyone in the function; this replacement of function is a requirement in ISO9001. Anything that is more urgent than 3x per day probabily belongs in a functional e-mail box.

One step further is to install a ticketing system such as RT ( or OTRS ( to deal with functional E-mails and properly start tracking how many issues come in and how quickly they are dealt with. And allow you to locate answers to issues that come up more than once. And perform statistics on how often issues reappear. These ticketing systems can not only be used for customer issues, but also to support processes in an organisation that is too small for a real ERP system, and to manage group task lists such as TODOs for the Management Team, issues for the Quality Manager, internal IT requests, lists and prioritization of R&D projects, etc.

Both of these steps can save a lot of time. I have seen much energy wasted due to use of personal e-mail addresses. Imagine: a customer sends a support request to one support engineer, receives an out-of-the-office reply. Sends the request again to another support engineer. Question is answered. First support engineer gets back into the office next day, and answers as well.... Transition to a ticketing system avoids this problem. Just make sure each person that is contacted directly first transfers the issue into the system before answering.

ggggeo's picture

Thanks everyone for the recommendations, I really appreciate it.  To clarify, we aren't really a "service" organization (I think) like IT support or something similar, we are a market research department focusing on data collection (e.g., programming web surveys, getting the right people to take them, scheduling interview, etc.).

The types of requests this department is considering is mostly status updates, on top of any other regularly scheduled status updates, or sometimes a change to a project that is currently going in.  Status updates usually go out weekly or semi-weekly but can be more or less based on the team's needs.

I think in some cases having a shared email box may be effective, but if someone has to check it frequently that is less time they have to do the project work we need to do.  We had a research assistant role who maybe could have handled that but that role was just phased out in the last few months.

The other thing is that there are usually only one or two people who will have the answer easily available to the inquiry, the person who is the lead (or backup) coordinator for that given project.  We just moved to a primary contact system to help groups outside of our department know to whom they should go for any given project for that reason.

Given that we are not doing support tickets, and are not generally expected to reply immediately to emails, does it come across as unreasonable that our department is not checking email all day and if anything more urgent than 3 hours comes up it would warrant a phone call?


Also, Frankie, I really appreciate you reminding me to focus on the outcome instead of the email checking situation, I will definately remember that when I have my meeting with the other department today. Thanks!