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Is technology killing the e-mail?

Once upon a time e-mail was a simple uncomplicated affair. It was a fantastic tool for sending out and receiving communications in "almost real-time". We put up with those slow 64k dial-up modems. After all, this was state of the art hi-tech. Even with these delays this new fangled "e-mail" beat the pants of regular snail-mail.

Somehow, perhaps because e-mail was technology based, many of us, who in the normal course were terrified of putting a real pen to a real sheet of paper, were turned into regular e-mail fans. We became addicted to this new way of communication.

Of course, as with any other communications medium, advertising soon got into the act. Advertisements, special offers, promotions, and all other sorts of rubbish got into our e-mail boxes too. "Junk-mail", so familiar our real-life mailboxes got into our e-mailboxes as well.

However, unlike its original physical manifestation that came via snail-mail, which had to be physically trashed, virtual junk-mail could be blocked, isolated or trashed by a host of automated devices - so-called technology solutions. Blacklists, Spam filters, Verification processes; you name it, someone has invented it.

The pity is that none of this system based e-mail protections really work as they should. To make matters worse, we human users act like sheep, and trust these so-called solutions implicitly. After all, can they really go wrong?

Our trust in these processes has become overarching that these technology based solutions are beginning to kill regular e-mail communications in a really big way.  

Genuine e-mails don't get through. Legitimate business communications are blocked. Vital documentary attachments are deleted or rerouted to some silo that requires the actions of some techie to release.  What should have taken seconds to complete is now back into the "days" category once more, especially if your Systems Administrator just happens to be on a course (what, another one?).

We have become prisoners of the systems that were supposed to protect us.

And all the while, the real junk still seems to make it into my Inbox, each and every day.

A case in point - my firm regularly bills clients for services rendered using e-mail. We send out PDF invoices. Its fast and its efficient and highly cost effective. Or at least it used to be.

Recently, after sending out one such invoice, which remained unpaid some three weeks later, we sent out our regular e-mail reminder. No response. A second reminder; still silence. Finally, a phone call had to be made. Given that the parties are some 4,000 miles apart this exercise was now starting to get expensive. And where were the missing e-mails? In the recipient's Junk-Mail of course.

I rest my case.



Comments: (2)

Michael Wright
Michael Wright - Striata | Secure Document Delivery - London 30 May, 2011, 12:18Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes


I certainly agree with large parts of your experience, the use of email for delivering bills and statements is a fast, efficient and cost effective mechanism - indeed we have built a global business on this model.

What you are experiencing is unfortunately not new - inbox placement (as opposed to just 'delivery') is now a crucial part of the email billing landscape.

This means that using email as your delivery method for invoices is no longer a mixture of an art and a science but a specialist skill that requires fulltime attention and the use of specialist tools to ensure the desired end result.

Greylisting, blacklisting, tarpitting, RBL, spam filters, priority inbox placement etc - all need to be overcome to ensure your cash flow doesn't suffer.

A simple way of changing this game is to get your clients to create a new eBilling email address - something that is not commonly used and is difficult to guess. They should then only use this address for all incoming email bills - ensuring that it is not exposed on their website or used for anything but bills - this makes it simplier to process the electronic invoices as they come in as they are all in the same place.

If you are still struggling, we have a wealth of information on this topic on our website.


Michael Wright - CEO - Striata


Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune 30 May, 2011, 13:28Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

@Stanley E: Props for making a very valid point and so eloquently at that.    

We've faced similar situations many times when a customer / prospect has rapped us on our knuckles for not keeping them informed about a new product / service / milestone etc., when the fact is, we have - it's just that their company's overzealous spam filters placed our emails in their junk folders.

I've heard it said that one reason why Twitter gained mass following during its heydays was because a tweet would always get into someone's timeline - in other words, Twitter guaranteed the email equivalent of "delivery" and "inbox placement" at no cost. For short updates, we use Twitter a lot nowadays. For longer ones, we're seeing better results with paper letters. For invoices, which anyway don't get settled at the speed of the "e" in email, it's back to snail-mail / courier - at least they reach safely that way!

Let's hope that spam filters become better and riddled with fewer 'True Negatives' and 'False Positives' over time, so that email can get restored to its days of former glory!