Before joining Palo Alto Software, I worked at a company that had offices in five different areas of the continental U.S. — as well as in Mexico, England, India, and China. Functions such as administration, accounting, order entry, customer service, manufacturing, quality control, and shipping and receiving were distributed in various combinations that were, quite literally, all over the map! The company administered its websites from the American Midwest. Messages to the main “info@” address were read and assigned there, and then forwarded to the appropriate offices around the world.
The repeated delays that are implicit in this process only increased the problems caused by the differences in time zones between the various offices. If — as so often happened in the custom manufacturing business in which my division was engaged — a message required detailed internal discussion before we could frame a response, the delays became interminable (not to mention intolerable).
We had a mandate to respond to new sales inquiries within three days. However, because the decision-making process involved sourcing, logistics, accounting, technical considerations, and discussions of financial and manufacturing feasibility, input was often required from people in several divisions. By the time meetings had occurred, and decisions were tabled pending input from traveling executives, it was uncommon for us to respond to new sales inquiries in less than a week. The delay was frequently much longer than that — a completely unacceptable situation in today’s world of “instant” communication!
While Email Center Pro cannot solve all of the institutional challenges in such a textbook case of a company mired in its own indecision and lack of direction, it can help greatly to reduce many of the incremental delays that can accumulate at each step in the cycle of communication. This in itself can make a critical difference in nailing down pending deals that are “on the fence.”
Having incoming messages automatically routed to an appropriate Inbox means that managers can spend less time on functional details, and that employees can more quickly see and respond to incoming action items. Internal discussions can proceed with potentially fewer delays across working schedules in different time zones, and multiple viewpoints can be communicated via Notes on emails. The customer receives a faster, more transparent response that does not show the earmarks of having been passed several times around the globe (even if the discussion over it actually has).
In my daily workflow, the Templates function is particularly valuable. Being able to attach files to templates, tag templates, search templates by tags or text, and filter sent emails by tags or text is a very valuable set of abilities. The templates are a real life-saver for me. Being prevented from sending duplicate responses to the same message when someone else is drafting a reply is also an enormous benefit. It really makes you look dumb when different people send different answers to the same question (even worse, at different times!).
I found learning to use Email Center Pro to be a straightforward and largely intuitive process. I printed out a page or two about searching from the Help file, and haven’t had to use the Help since then.
Overall, the sense of being able to think more about the work at hand with Email Center Pro (and less about the mechanics of communication) is truly a win for everyone.