Aug 18 2010
I recently saw a cartoon in the New Yorker in which a woman held an iPad at an Apple Store, and asked the clerk, “But will it make me happy?” It spoke powerfully about our collective attachment to technology. (By the way, the answer is “not really.”)
But it needn’t be just an iPad, or an iPod, or an x-Box to trigger such a question. It could easily have been email. Because at the end of the day, despite social networks, iPads, and whatever new technology is around the corner, e-mail is still king. E-mail is still the language of business. And, as anyone who’s checked their Inbox 200 times a day or has sifted through 2,000 messages can tell you, e-mail is still an imperfect art and a productivity-killer. In other words, if you’re trapped in the weeds of overgrown, persistent e-mail, check out InboxHarmony. It can be your e-mail weed-wacker.
InboxHarmony is a tool to help you and your team better prioritize, allocate, and respond to customer e-mail. This is important. I can speak from experience of a mistakenly-overlooked e-mail resulting in lost sales (it wasn’t me, by the way. It was, err, some other guy. Mark.) And in this culture of instant information and instant (un) gratification, customers want responses immediately. Next thing you know, you’re juggling emails rather than actually working. InboxHarmony, like some kind of digital Zen mystic, restores a sense of equilibrium to your life. So let’s see how.
The home page articulates four main pillars of the service: Triage, Collaboration, Control, and Free. The triaging piece, in my opinion, is the most powerful. By triaging (aka prioritizing), users can set how urgent a response is, how much work is required for the response, and add supporting information. But how? Glad you asked. InboxHarmony lets you assign “Ticket Attributes” for e-mails. It can be as simple as “low,” “medium,” or “high” importance. When an email hits, simply hit the corresponding button.
The collaboration piece is important as well. InboxHarmony allows you to share the job of replying to emails across your whole team. And InboxHarmony, being a wise, transcendental shaman, knows what you’re thinking: what about the “too many cooks in the kitchen” problem? By that I mean the dark side of collaboration: too much access to unlimited information equals further chaos and sorrow. InboxHarmony is on the case. Once an e-mail hits your inbox, after establishing a set of potential recipients, you simply click a button notating the chosen recipients at the bottom of the e-mail. Calibrate the audience as you see fit.
Navigationally speaking, the site itself leaves no stone unturned. The tour page is robust, rife with screen shots. I particularly liked the call-out windows on each screen shot. In fact, I could use even more guidance. For example, on a page like this, the text at the top tells me what I’m looking for. I’d also put some corresponding text along with the red call out boxes. (e.g. “Users” can click “Low” priority.) In addition, some of the buttons distracted me slightly (e.g. I saw a “wire” button. While it may not be critical to the page’s main focus, it’d be nice to define what it means.) One other navigational comment: I’m sure InboxHarmony does this, but something as simple as sorting by Task importance – e.g., sort by “Critical” – is worth dialing up, screen shot-wise.
From a Web copy perspective, I’d consciously draw out the areas of integration with similar tools, namely Outlook. InboxHarmony alludes to this, noting that since the service is synced with your regular client, visits to said client will become unnecessary, thereby saving time. That’s good – build on that. In other words, what can InboxHarmony do that Outlook can’t? Or, conversely, how can they work together in perfect – brace yourselves – harmony? And, figuring this service is ideal for small-to-mid-size businesses, why is this a step above your average firm’s current set-up? (One answer: Inboxharmony’s contact management tools – see screen shot below – essentially act as a mini-CRM system, saving time and money; answer number two, beyond mere functionality: personalized and attentive customer support.)
Also, let it be known: InboxHarmony requires no complex configuration steps and no local installation. Simply enter your support email imap account details, add supporters and the service is ready to use. And I know what you’re thinking: what about cost? You non-Buddhists, always so focused on money. Jeeze. Well, lucky for you, InboxHarmony has a free and paid versions. It is easy to sign up and start getting your inbox under control in 10 minutes.
So, back to our initial, metaphysical question. I’m no Zen master. I can’t walk through walls or talk to grasshoppers. But my logic is thus: life is suffering. Work, especially, is suffering. And like it or not, you have to work (you have a mortgage, after all. And those college loans.) And your work requires spending time in your inbox, which is in shambles. So, by organizing and prioritizing your inbox, thereby making you more productive and with more free time to get things done, like, say, dance a dance or paint a painting, will InboxHarmony make you happy? My answer is thus: at best, yes; at the least, most probably. Or to paraphrase an old Buddhist adage:
“If a man speaks or acts with a pure inbox, happiness follows him, like a shadow that never leaves him.”