11 features to get the most out of your business e-mail

Lindsay James
Lindsay James
By Lindsay James on 23 November 2015
11 features to get the most out of your business e-mail

Although instant messaging, text messaging and social media are becoming increasingly popular, especially among consumers, e-mail remains the main form of communication in the business world.

According to the Email Statistics Report 2015-2019 by the Radicati Group, by the end of 2015 the number of worldwide e-mail users will be nearly 2.6 billion. By the end of 2019, the number of worldwide e-mail users will increase to over 2.9 billion. Over one-third of the worldwide population will be using e-mail by the end of 2019.

However, in a new blog post, Microsoft’s Office 365 team highlight that most people aren’t taking full advantage of what their email systems offer. “Sure, they know how to send messages, set tasks, make notes, block their calendars and schedule reminders, but there are also some pretty great features (and hacks) that you may not know about that could just transform the way you use business email,” the post says.

The Office 365 team highlight eleven features that can help business users get more out of their email systems:

1. Future delivery/delayed delivery: Whether you have news that you don’t want to share immediately or a project that’s ready for delivery but you don’t want to submit it too early, future/delayed delivery allows you to create and distribute messages on your schedule.

2. Message grouping: For heavy e-mail users, the ability to group messages into conversations related to specific topics can help you keep track of e-mails, stay up to date on developments and work more efficiently.

3. Conditional formatting: Like message grouping, conditional formatting can help you organise conversations and stay on top of a certain topic. However, instead of grouping all messages into a batch that you can browse at a glance, conditional formatting simply displays messages matching selected criteria in the font and/or colour of your choice.

4. Rules: Providing you with yet another organisational option, the rules feature allows you to create and manage settings that empower your e-mail system to automatically process messages in a certain way. Some systems can check for and include sender, recipient, email size, date and more. This way, you’ll never miss a message from your boss or your most important client; messages with large attachments can be singled out, etc.

5. E-mail to text: For those times when you need an immediate response, or need to contact someone who may not have access to his or her e-mail account, a text message may be the best way to get in touch. Some business e-mail providers offer this feature, others don’t. If yours does, it can help you relay urgent messages quickly. Just be careful to reserve use of this feature for those who prefer it or for truly critical situations – because it can be disruptive to receive a barrage of non-urgent text messages while in a meeting, on vacation, etc.

6. Desktop alerts: Whether you need to reduce distractions for a day or indefinitely, by disabling desktop alerts you can eliminate pop-up notifications about new messages and focus on whatever the task at hand may be. Conversely, if you’re waiting for an important e-mail that you can’t afford to miss by a moment, you can easily turn on desktop alerts for a few hours or turn them on and leave them on for good.

7. E-mail templates: If you’re a PR exec, public information officer, customer service representative, work in sales or are in any position that requires you to field requests for information about a programme, service, product or topic, e-mail templates can help you make quick work of your responses. After creating your template, all you’ll have to do is locate the template, personalise it as necessary and hit send. Not only will it help you save time, but increase your productivity. Plus, by not having to repeat yourself over and again, it might just improve your job satisfaction.

8. Save messages as files: If you want to save certain e-mails in the same file as project work, contracts or other documents, you can simply drag your message from your e-mail window to your file folder. Or, you can click ‘Save As’ and choose to save a message in a specific location. This way, you can refer back to messages without digging through your inbox and/or archive.

9. Multi-action shortcuts: If your e-mail system supports shortcuts, it may also support multi-action shortcuts, which gives you the ability to combine several shortcuts into one quick action. For instance, if you want to mark a group of e-mails as read and simultaneously move them to a specific folder, or even mark messages as read, flag them as important and forward them to your team, you can do that with multi-action shortcuts. Some e-mail systems that support multi-action shortcuts also allow you to create your own shortcuts, so you can customise your actions and make quick work of managing your inbox.

10. Automated cleanup: Some e-mail systems include an automated cleanup function that can help you save space and keep your inbox tidy. When a conversation (message and response) occurs over e-mail, some e-mail systems can analyse the contents of that conversation and determine if a message is completely contained within each thread. If it is, then the previous message will be automatically deleted – so you’ll have access to both the original message and all comments within a single e-mail conversation, but your inbox won’t be clogged by redundant e-mails.

Of course, if someone keeps clogging up your inbox with messages you don’t need or want, you can generally block their messages by using your junk or spam filters. But if you don’t want to permanently prevent someone from contacting you via e-mail, you can simply select to send certain conversations directly to your trash by clicking the ‘Ignore’ button.

11. Delegate access: Finally, if you’re going on sabbatical, an extended vacation or parental leave and you don’t want to either check messages daily or weekly – or come back to a mountain of e-mails – you may be able to give someone else permission to manage your inbox. Simply look at your account settings. If you see a ‘Delegate Access’ button then you can choose to give access to a co-worker who can step in and respond to messages in your absence. Of course, you’ll still have the ability to check messages and respond as appropriate, but this feature can help you keep things in check while you’re away.

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