It feels a little…weird, doesn’t it? The thought of letting someone else read (and maybe even respond to) your email might feel a bit like an invasion of privacy, but it might just be the thing that saves your sanity when you’re facing email overload every morning. And you don’t have to allow your assistant to read all your email – just a few select accounts.
Private vs. business email
Before you decide to outsource your email management, it’s a good idea to separate your personal from your business accounts. Your personal email address is the one you’ll give to your friends and family, your kid’s school, your bank, and anyone else who might send you either personal or confidential information.
Your business email is the one you’ll use for your help desk, affiliate programs, and other non-personal information. This is the one you’ll give to your assistant to read and respond to, if necessary. He or she should know enough about your business to be able to respond appropriately in most cases, but also know that anything she can’t handle should be forwarded to you for a response.
Using a help desk
Information product sellers, online retailers, and even coaches and virtual assistants might find it useful to set up a help desk. This is a great way to filter and organize conversations, particularly as they relate to products and customer service. Not only that, but you can easily have your assistant monitor the desk, relieving you of the responsibility.
One of the most popular options is ZenDesk, which is a bargain at just $12 per year for a starter package http://www.zendesk.com/product/pricing. The regular package is $300 per year. It’s a hosted platform, meaning there is nothing to install. Plus it allows for email piping, so the sending of an email to a designated address automatically creates a ticket. ZenDesk is super simple to set up and use, and will definitely help clear up your email inbox.
You could also choose to set up your own help desk using one of the many free PHP scripts available. Like WordPress, these scripts install on your hosting account, and cost nothing to use. All of them allow you to maintain a ticket history, but some offer other features such as a FAQ page, email piping, and other goodies. Be sure to read the documentation for several before deciding. Some popular choices include osTicket and Hesk.
Monitoring and maintaining
If you do decide to use a help desk – regardless of which one you choose – you’ll want to set up some systems for monitoring and maintaining it. At the very least, you’ll want someone to be in charge of all incoming tickets. That person is responsible for making sure that all tickets are answered in a timely manner, and that relevant information is added to the FAQ page. You may want to work out a system by which help requests are escalated to you, or a project manager, in case your help desk person isn’t able to answer, or doesn’t know how to respond to a particular request.
Digging out from under a pile of email can be tough, but if you get some help, you’ll be well on your way to an empty inbox, and that’s a great place to be.