Observant little ...

I don't understand the answer, but I may have some ideas on the question...




the reliability of email


As I'm sure everyone who works in a professional legal office will know, email is not completely reliable. Delivery is often delayed and is always dependant on the person being at their desk (or checking their email) anyway. Particularly in government, I know many older officers who only check their email once a day. Out of office messages tend to only be set up if the person was expecting to be away from their desk for a significant period of time, it doesn't cover the person who has called in sick, or is unexpectedly called away from their desk for another urgent matter, or is in a meeting etc.

So if something needs to be done urgently (ie that day) and I haven't got a reply to my email within about an hour, I always follow up with a phone call.

Apparently, this isn't what everyone does. Once upon a time, one of my offsiders called in sick for the day. We were already down a lawyer from my team and he didn't expect that there would be any matters that would need urgent attention. I said I'd keep an eye out for any faxes and deal with any phone calls that came in. He knew that there was a particular issue due that day (and so did I), but we didn't expect any problems to come out of it and the person handling it had previously mentioned that she didn't think that she'd get it to us that day in any event and we may require an extension.

She sent two emails to my offsider that morning. He obviously didn't reply. This would be unusual for him and I'm surprised it didn't send off alarms in her head about my offsider's availability at that stage. But she did eventually call and discovered that my offsider was away and that matters should be referred to me in his absence. So she sends me an email. Which doesn't hit my inbox until a couple of hours later - yep, it's obviously a technical problem, but these things do happen. This is why you follow up urgent stuff with a phone call.

Again, my lack of reply didn't send off alarm bells for her. And she didn't call me to check that her email had been received.

When I did receive it, I ran around getting the info she needed only to find out that she'd already responded on the issue because she hadn't received our instructions in the time frame she expected them. I wasn't happy. Particularly as the response she gave was wrong and will require a court application to fix.

And when I'm not happy, people generally know about it. Unfortunately, she compounded the unhappiness from my end by getting very defensive about her lack of telephone contact and laying the blame on my offsider for not letting her know in advance that he was going to be away sick that day. I felt this was a little unfair. The previous sentence is huge understatement.

Thankfully, her supervisor was a little more understanding of the message I had been trying to convey to her - which was don't fricking do it again!

The moral of the story? Don't rely on email when it's urgent. And if you stuff something up, admitt it gracefully and promise it won't happen again. Don't make pathetic excuses. You can't change the past, but you can calm down an unhappy client pretty easily by just being upfront (and not charging to rectify the mistake).

Listening to: Martinez - New Timba

4 Comments:

Blogger sarni said...

I've just sent an email to your home address, as your work one bounced... let me know if you don't get it.

10:37 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Won't let me sign in damn thing.

I bet your interaction is with CL, its sounds like them. My interactions with our government legal advisors has always been nothing short of extremely frustrating. The whole reliance on email says something about people at work who are reluctant or unable to deal with a human interface by a direct means i.e. the telephone. I hate the telephone too but will use it when it absolutely must be done! Lushlife

2:18 pm  
Blogger ozbhoy said...

I have to admit to only checking my email once a week if that, this has cost me some freebies, but I really can't be bothered. Even the home phone I will let go through to the answering machine (we generally screen all calls via this way) and if I don't feel like talking to anyone I wont even pick up, regardless of who it is.
Good thing I don't have a govt. job I suppose, or one where I need to be contactable.
I do not even have a mobile as I can't see the point.

5:14 pm  
Blogger OLS said...

Lushlife - I agree. I think I've blogged before about how I don't like the phone, but if something is urgent, then it's the only real option.

Ozbhoy - I'm probably as bad as you when it comes to my home email, but my work email (and the email of the people I'm talking about) is a constant thing - you just leave it open and it's automatically refreshed every minute or something. I can see why it's used as a method of communication in this business, but it's just not that reliable. And yet, some treat it as if it is - as if, as soon as they've sent their email, that's all they have to do for effective communication. And it's just not the case.

If you really want to rely on email, then I think that you should use read receipts - at least that will tell you that the email has been opened.

sarni - speaking of home email (which I wasn't, but I was before), I will check mine tonight for your email and send mine to you from there. I'm not sure why we're both bouncing off each other. It's a strange thing.

- OLS

6:44 pm  

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