3 Things To Do Right Now To Stop Feeling Overwhelmed By Your Inbox

3 Things To Do Right Now To Stop Feeling Overwhelmed By Your Inbox

Customer service agents handle more emails than just about anyone. Here’s how to deal without going crazy.

Customer service agents handle more emails than just about anyone. Here’s how to deal without going crazy.

“Ugh, I’m getting over 30 emails a day, and it’s just way too much.”

Sure, some people might see that and think “oh, yeah, I can relate!”

But anyone who handles customer service is probably looking at it and thinking: “How cute. They think that 30 emails is a lot.”

The truth is, people who do support handle more emails than just about anyone, because it’s our job.

But just because we get paid to do it, that doesn’t mean that we can’t suffer from IRSD (Inbox-Related Stress Disorder, a totally real illness that I just made up).

Many of us are feeling the effects of IRSD especially hard right now, after the holiday rush slammed our inboxes with far more emails than usual.

But there’s good news.

You don’t have to accept email overload as a fact of life.

You can take charge your inbox, and feel in control of it, rather than feeling controlled by it.

In this post, I’m sharing three wins you can achieve right now to reduce your inbox-related stress.

1) Create a Common Reply

How many times have you written the same response over and over and over again?

Retyping responses doesn’t just cause hand cramps; it kills a lot of time.

That’s where saved common replies come in handy.

Rather than wasting time typing the same reply over and over again (probably the single most time-sucking repetitive task that support professionals have to do), common (sometimes called “canned”) replies let you insert frequently used messages with a click.

If you’re not using a help desk that offers common replies, you can still take advantage of this time-saving tactic. I’m a huge fan of aText for Mac (for PC’s, try PhraseExpress), which lets you create keyboard shortcuts. You could create something as simple as a shortcut to save you a few keystrokes typing your email address, or something as powerful as a shortcut for an entire paragraph-long email.

To get started, just pick any email that you’ve sent at least three times this week, and save it as a common reply.

Next time you find yourself about to retype that answer, just insert your saved reply, make a few small edits to personalize the message, and send away.

2) Start Building a Knowledge Base

A self-serve knowledge base that contains answers to frequently asked customer questions is one of the most effective ways to quickly cut down on support tickets.

But simply having a knowledge base isn’t enough.

In a survey by Coleman Parkes of nearly 3,000 online consumers, an overwhelming 91% said they would use a single, online knowledge base if it were available and tailored to their needs.

Sounds great, right?

Well, here’s the problem: only 37 percent of respondents currently even bother trying to use self-service options, because they perceive them as inaccurate or incomplete.

It’s not enough for your knowledge base to be there. It has to be good.

To make sure that you have a knowledge base that customers actually want to use, make sure that you regularly:

  • Update it with new features, and remove outdated info
  • Add articles based on new questions that you’re seeing (again, labels to track tickets can be massively valuable here)
  • Collect feedback from customers on whether your knowledge base articles are clear and easy to follow

Remember those common replies you created? Turning them into Knowledge Base articles is easy (and free with Groove), and if you make your KB easy to find, you’ll intercept a great deal of incoming emails.

3) Eliminate Distractions

Surprisingly, one of the biggest reasons we’re overwhelmed by our inboxes doesn’t have anything to do with our inboxes at all.

It’s all of the distractions around us that suck up our focus and leave us with less time to spend actually answering emails.

But don’t rely on willpower to fix this one; study after study has shown that this simply doesn’t work in the long term.

Why do we keep going back to Facebook, Twitter and Gmail instead of getting our work done?

Because it’s so much easier.

So how do we stop doing that?

Simple: we make it harder to get distracted than it is to do our work.

The easiest way to do this is to install a site blocker in your browser; a free program that literally blocks your browser from visiting the sites you tell it to block. Alternatively, you can have it block all sites, or all sites except those you need to do your work (like your help desk), or limit the time per day you’re allowed to spend on blocked sites.

Use Site Blockers to Force Focus

I like StayFocusd for Chrome and LeechBlock for Firefox.

Install one of them now, set them up to block your most-abused sites, and be amazed at how much more time—and less overwhelm—you actually have.

Invitation: Want To Save AT LEAST An Hour Each Day On Email?

Want more tips on email productivity?

Join me for a FREE webinar with Chris Cichon and Lo Marino from Boomerang for Gmail, one of the most widely-used email productivity tools on the planet.

But don’t worry; this is NOT a sales pitch for their app. Instead, Chris and Lo are going to be sharing the email habits they’ve developed to support more than a million users with only 3 customer support agents.

The Boomerang team knows a thing or two about email productivity, and the research-backed tips they’ve put together blew my mind when they shared them with me.

This isn’t your usual “make a to-do list” advice. These are unconventional tactics that I had never even considered, but that are already* saving me *hours each week on email.

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