We live in an age where we are constantly in communication. Whether it is via the internet, e-mail, text or phone, information is flowing to our brains at remarkable rates. Rather than being something to digest, consume and utilise, the sheer volume of data is often means there is not enough time for our brains to process it all. If you have recently had someone say ‘remember I told you…’ or ‘it was in my e-mail’ then you know exactly what I mean. Most of the time we have an ‘important information’ filter which stores the critical stuff, but if that breaks down we are left in a state of confusion.
The same struggle is currently facing our IT departments, especially when attempting to communicate important change. It is not uncommon these days for our customers to say ‘E-mail doesn’t work for us as a method of communicating to our users’. If you are delivering a major transformation such as a desktop OS upgrade, major application rollout, e-mail migration or any other change, this could present quite a significant problem. After all, as an end user, if we do not know what is happening to us, the likelihood of it being a success is much reduced.
Even more so if we need those end users to help us. If we are unsuccessful in getting them to fill in something like a self-service page, it means more work for everyone involved in the project and a slower rollout or more risky delivery. But what is the chance of your critical project e-mail getting lost amongst hundreds of other mails bombarding your brain? Quite high I suspect.
So how can we approach this issue? Do we send yet more e-mail? Do we try to communicate via other means? Do we communicate less, in the hope that less is more?
It is a conundrum facing not only our IT project managers, but organisations as a whole. In a bizarre twist of logic, the answer for many organisations is actually to create yet more communication means, in the hope that one might stick. Combine an intranet site, e-mails, SMS texting, in application communications, physical media, and even internal corporate social media sites. If you have ever been on the wrong end of a campaign from a retail outlet, you will know what I mean when I say it can get a bit much!
But how can we be more effective with our e-mail communications? Let’s take a moment to think like a marketing department. Consider our self-service e-mail is a marketing campaign. We want our end users to do something. To click on our link. How would a marketing person do that? Read any blog or web site on marketing best practice, and you will be told that it is all about creating interest and clear calls to action. First and foremost to answer the ‘what’s in it for me?’ question.
In a typical Windows 7 or 8 deployment project, that should be relatively simple. Your users are probably getting a new piece of hardware (and who doesn’t like new kit!), a faster system that doesn’t take hours to boot, more functional applications, and in a lot of cases, better services in supporting that environment. Now think back to your last communication from your IT department. Was it about them, or about you? Here are two example e-mail subject titles; ‘We are making changes to the IT environment’, ‘You are one click away from getting your new laptop’. I know which of these I would look at first. It is simple stuff, but amazing how often our communications teams get it wrong.
So let’s start acting like marketing people in our project e-mail communications. ‘You are one click away from getting your new laptop’. Would you open this? Of course you would. It is about you. It has a call to action (just a click away). It has benefit (I am getting a new laptop). It ticks the boxes. It gets a better response.