These days, it’s almost impossible to not use email to communicate at work, as few other mediums of communication offer the same speed, efficiency, dependability, and cost-effectiveness.

But it’s also easy to get bogged down in emails. When your inbox is constantly full, it’s easier to lose track of important messages or respond too slowly enough to pressing issues. What if you could send fewer emails, get fewer emails, but still accomplish the same amount of work?

Here are a few tips to do just that by streamlining your email communication with your customers and co-workers.

1. Get Newsletters and Promotional Emails Under Control

Most people receive mass emails of some sort on a daily basis, whether it’s daily Groupon deals, an industry newsletter, or notifications from sites like Facebook. These emails often make it hard to get to your “real” messages. So what can you do to get it under control?

  • Regularly unsubscribe. Make a point of taking the extra few seconds to remove yourself from a list that you’re no longer interested in.
  • Avoid getting them in the first place. When filling out any form, make sure that you uncheck any box that automatically signs you up for email communications from the company.
  • Turn off notifications. Sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn send you brief messages to let you know when someone leaves a comment or sends a message. Instead, just check the sites regularly.
  • If you’re using Gmail, you can switch your Inbox type to the “Default” setting, which relegates Social, Promotions, Updates, and Forums to separate tabs.
  • Sign up for UnRoll.me. The free service “rolls up” your subscriptions into one single email daily, so you won’t miss anything but they also won’t clutter your inbox.

2. Make More Out of Transactional Emails

Transactional emails are email messages that are automatically sent to users when they do things like confirm an email address, change a password, or complete an online payment for merchandise. According to data compiled by Easy-STMP, the “opening rate” (which is exactly what it sounds like) is over 100% for these transactional messages.

That means that these emails are usually opened not just once, but repeatedly. This makes transactional email a valuable asset to you and to your customer by providing a way to better streamline your email communication.

Make these emails work harder for you. If you provide answers to common questions within the email or point them in the direction of resources they might need, they’ll be less likely to reach out to you with questions, cutting down on the numbers of emails you receive. You can also use them as an opportunity to cross-sell other items.

3. Make a Single Email Accomplish More

If you find yourself sending multiple emails to one person during a single day, stop. Usually this happens because you’re asking questions as issues arise.

Instead start a draft early in the day, and only send it once you have multiple questions or concerns. Use bullet points to ensure that the other individual can easily see and address each one.

4. Suggest Dates, Times, and Locations for Meetings and Calls

It can often take dozens of emails to coordinate a single appointment. Cut down on the number of messages going back and forth by suggesting specific options for dates, times, and even locations right from the start. In some cases, you can cut the whole communication down to just two or three messages this way.

5. Handle Issues Now

Don’t read an email and then respond to it later. It’s much more likely to go completely ignored, and you’ll actually waste more time in the long run since you’ll read the same message multiple times. Instead, set aside a time of day to go through absolutely every email and achieve the coveted “inbox zero”.

Think that sounds impossible? Okay, sometimes you simply can’t respond to an email when you get it. Sometimes you just don’t have the required information yet. That’s where Boomerang comes in. This tool is available for Gmail and Outlook, and it allows you to archive an email and then have it reappear in your inbox later at a time you schedule, ideally when you can actually address it. It’s also a powerful way to remind yourself to follow up on emails you send.

6. Text or Call Instead

Before hitting send, ask yourself: is email really the most effective means of communication for this message? Sometimes a quick text is much more efficient. Or maybe a call would be necessary anyway, so you might as well bit the bullet. Consider picking up your phone and typing or dialing instead.

7. Start a Newsletter

Whether you’re just a peon at a large company, a freelancer, or a business owner, there are often times when you have to send the same message to multiple people. Consider mass emailing them instead. You can set up a free newsletter quickly through a program like MailChimp.

But be careful how you use it. If you don’t have something that needs to be said, consider holding off, because it could actually increase the number of emails you have to deal with instead.

Utilize these seven tips, and you’ll see your email communication improve, in terms of both efficiency and efficacy, and your co-workers and customers will very likely notice and appreciate your attention to detail and more effective communication.

Featured photo credit: Kelly Schott via flickr.com

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