Do you often find yourself dealing with the same (or similar) queries over and over again? Sometimes multiple times per day? It’s a pain in the rear, isn’t it?
Sometimes it’s possible for you to refer people to a website F.A.Q page where you can cover most commonly asked questions – this would be a great option if you work in a sales department dealing with customer queries for example. However if you’re dealing with queries that need some form of bespoke answer then a simple link to F.A.Qs may not cut it. So, how can you speed up responding to emails whilst still being professional and getting all the required information across without losing your sanity?
Use Multiple Footers
If you wear many hats, you may need to set up different footers for each role you’re in. If you’re using Thunderbird, an extension like “Signature Switch” will help you quickly add different signatures, Outlook 2010 and above allows you to specify multiple signatures.
If you want to add different signatures to Outlook.com or Yahoo! mail then you’ll be better using text snippets as the web versions of these email services don’t support multiple signatures. GMail doesn’t natively support multiple signatures but you can use canned responses to accomplish this.
If you find yourself using certain sentences, or short paragraphs of text often then you may want to look at using a text snippet program.
These can insert simple items such as the date, or an email footer into a document with just a few keystrokes.
Text snippets are useful for shorter repeat items. Although you could set up long, almost full length emails in these programs, I’d recommend using Canned Responses (see below) for these types of responses – unless you need to use them in other programs like a word processor for example.
If you’re running Windows, check out Phrase Express which has a free version with limited functionality for personal use. If you’re using a Mac there’s TextExpander which is only free for 30 days unfortunately, there are also these alternatives to TextExpander including one that’s actually baked right into your System Preferences if you’re on OSX Mountain lion and above.
If you don’t need to share any text outside of your email program then you’ll be able to use canned responses.
Canned responses are essentially email templates that you can apply to any outgoing email whether it’s a new email or in response to someone.
I use canned responses to help me manage the majority of initial queries I get through my blog’s contact page. I found myself typing the same thing over and over to authors interested interested in writing guest posts, or companies suggesting I review something (or scratching around in my sent folder to find a similar response).
Different email clients allow you to use canned responses in different ways. In Thunderbird I use an extension called “Clippings” which is really versatile and has spend up my response time massively. In Outlook on the Mac (also available on Windows) I use the “Scrapbook Function“, Gmail doesn’t offer canned responses as standard (for some reason) but you can enable them through the “Labs” feature.
Note that I couldn’t find any options for canned responses in the Outlook.com or Yahoo Mail web apps so you’ll have to use an email client if you want to enable canned responses for those types of accounts (if you know any different, please let me know in the comments) or use text snippets.