Read time: 5 minutes

You've Got Mail...Again

Tamala Bradham, Ph.D., DHA, CCC-A, CPPS, CPHQ

Have you ever had a workday where you didn’t look at your email? I can’t remember myself. Yet, I want information and continue to subscribe to interesting, relevant sources. I even include my email address on my business card, website, and social media so people can connect with me. Here is the problem:
Did you know that companies lose money each year because of miscommunications through emails?

Hamilton (2009) shared that small companies reported an average loss of $420,000 per year. Grossman (2009) found that large companies reported annual losses of $62.4 million per year.
Two different studies (Jackson et al., 2002 and Marulanda-Carter et al., 2012) found it takes approximately 64-68 seconds to recover and return to our work after reading an email.

Essentially, email interruption makes tasks three times longer to complete because of the break-in concentration.

The average open rate of an email is 21.3%. So what happens to the other 78.7% of emails in your inbox?

Usually, people check who is sending the email and read the subject line to decide if they want to open it. If they open it, they typically scan the first couple of lines to see if it’s worth their time.

The number of people who read their emails on their phones has increased. In 2021, it was reported to be around 81%. But, unfortunately, less than half of the emails we open on our phones are readable.

Emails were created for desktops “You got mail,” but have been slow to evolve to accommodate how people use the communication method today. There are many alternatives to help with the content repository: project management communications, to-do lists, and other productivity tools. However, the adoption has been cumbersome. While integrations are starting to improve, it’s challenging to form new habits.

In reviewing my email response rates and managing emails issues, I decided I needed to dive a little deeper. Turing to my 5 Whys and Ishikawa Diagram, I started to see some opportunities emerge.

Why do I write emails?

  • To ask for something
  • To provide information
  • To respond to an email

Why do I use emails as a primary communication method?

  • It’s fast, convenient, and easy to use.

Emails are easy to use as a sender.  Type it up and hit send - out of sight, done! But, what about the receiver of my message? Is it easy for them to find the information and understand it with little effort?

That answer is unknown or, at best, debatable. Based on these questions, I decided to select my first cycle of improvement work.

Sometimes you choose the intervention based on data, and other times it may be based on the resources you have at hand. We can always do better. The first step is to study the problem. Then, find the area where you can make a positive change.

Here is what I came up with:

  • To make my emails easier to understand and to respond to
  • To improve my email layout, content, or subject line
  • To achieve a higher open rate
  • To receive a faster response time

As I started my improvement efforts, I reviewed the literature, talked to colleagues, and even took a course to inform my tactics. I found information published by reliable sources, including the government, to improve how they communicate with the public.

Changing how we write is challenging, but when you think about the 293.6 billion emails sent each day with an average open rate of 21.3%, I think improving the messages is a good start for both the sender and receiver.

With the goal of “Writing to Connect,” I have compiled research and best practices and want to share my findings with you.  What has been amazing to discover is that when I apply these tactics in my communications, I have found a higher response rates.  This, in turn, has made it easier for me to complete projects in a timely manner and reduce the number of emails that go back and forth!   

After I compose my email, I check for three things.  I make edits to my email if I did accomplish any one of these items.  Here is my quick checklist:

  • Have I motivated my audience to open my email?
  • Is my email organized for ease of comprehension?
  • Did I make powerful word choices that ensure that the reader knows precisely what I want and when?

The best part is that these questions can be applied to other areas of communication.

Enter this coupon code "write2connect" to receive a discount for a new course, Writing to Connect, to be released mid-January on these tactics and more.


Photos courtesy of Canva.

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About the blogger

Tamala S. Bradham, Ph.D., DHA, CCC-A, CPPS, CPHQ

For 25 years, Dr. Bradham’s career has always centered on developing and implementing new, innovative service delivery models to improve care delivery.

 As a clinician, researcher, published author, and professor, she is a multi talented and multifaceted leader that inspires those around her to deliver best practices based on the current state of knowledge, explore opportunities to improve service delivery, and innovate solutions for the tomorrow.

As a partner with 3C Digital Media Network, Dr. Bradham will connect people with great talents and knowledge to the network, collaborate with others to improve and develop oneself, and communicate with genuine passion and transparency.

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