Using research to improve internal email

Email is an excellent business communications tool. However, an organization’s employees may be receiving messages they find difficult to understand or of limited usefulness.

Confronting the Email Deluge

Given the ubiquity of email as a corporate communications medium, a Beyond the Arc client chose to focus on internal email improvements as a high priority.

Our team initiated a brief but revealing study during which participants evaluated both system-generated messages and those sent to large work group distribution lists. We asked recipients to rate the emails on three attributes—importance, content, and delivery.

Analyzing message strengths and weaknesses, we found that 48% of the emails were seen as not useful, not understandable, or both. While 10% of the messages were perceived as being useful, participants found the content hard to understand or act on. In turn, 26% of emails contained content that seemed understandable, but was not useful or relevant to the recipients.

Keys to Making Improvements

Our research indicated the importance of focusing improvements on the recipient experience, and our key recommendations included:

  • Target and segment communications to improve email relevance and reduce volume.
  • Develop a strategy to offload appropriate content to alternative channels, such as the corporate intranet.
  • Make content more effective by including a clear call to action, helpful contact information for follow-up, and a friendly closing —all within a well structured, easy-to-read layout.

We believe organizations will benefit by doing the foundational work to assess the actual value of their email traffic. By improving their internal email communications, they can:

  • Increase productivity across the enterprise by reducing the amount of time employees spend on email.
  • Motivate quicker follow-up on important issues by using clearer messaging.
  • Boost morale and initiative with messages that makes employees feel valued.

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