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Banning email?

I saw this article on CNN
http://www.cnn.com/2003/TECH/internet/09/19/e-mail.ban/index.html

about an English company that has banned internal email in favor of phone calls and face to face communication.

According to the article, they have 2,500 employees. Is it just me or does this seem nuts?
So now instead of sifting through emails are they going to have to listen to 4,351 voice mails a day? Or be interrupted constantly during the day by people who need to communicate with them?

Seems to be a nearly literal example of "shooting the messenger."

Mark Hoffman
Wednesday, September 24, 2003

"owner of high street retailer Phones 4u"

Thankfully it was not "Email Clients R' Us", but this seems like stupidity at first glance. However, phone retailers maybe are not the most frequent users work related emails.

Maybe the guy saw the zillions of cute images and movie clips being sent around to everybody. I sure could do without the "internal spam" also :-)

Still, a strange and uninformed descision.

Patrik
Wednesday, September 24, 2003

There is a bank here in Canada that has a no email and no voicemail policy.  Basically, you're always supposed to be able to talk to human being.  If the person you want isn't in, you get forwarded to reception.

On the surface, it seems like a good customer service decision.  In reality, it's a huge pain in the ass.  Phone calls are not always the best way to get things done!

I know lots of people who prefer email over phone-calls or face-to-face in a business environment.  For one thing, you have a paper trail; this is hugely important.  Furthermore, phone calls are distracting.  Voicemail leads to phone tag.

Almost Anonymous
Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Voice mail is better than email because...?

Funny that a telecomms tycoon would turn out to be a luddite.

Philo

Philo
Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Probably the smartest thing they've ever done, the world did just fine before email.  It's not the boon evangalists would have you believe.

Email doesn't enhance communication, it obstructs it.  The vast majority of email, even when it isn't commercial spam, is pointless noise.  People use it to delay and procrastinate, gather ammunition, trap and annoy people.  People spend hours crafting messages when a simple quick phone call would do better. Email is dead, dead, dead. 

Another part of the problem is that people have come to regard Internet access and email as a right, not a privilege.  The Internet is supposed to be a means to an end, not an end in itself, which is something A LOT of technical people forget.

Corporates have wasted loads of money wiring up employees to a technology they do not need, that wastes time and costs more money to maintain.  Most of these people abuse the facilities, download porn, virusus and perpetuate jokes on their co-workers. 

Instead of cutting employees, they should be cutting Internet access.  It would be more productive and produce greater savings than otherwise.

cut the cable
Wednesday, September 24, 2003

"People spend hours crafting messages when a simple quick phone call would do better".

Conversely, people spend hours trying to track down the one person they need to speak with in order to waste a half hour of their time explaining details which can be more clearly and unambiguously set down on paper.

Giving your employees telephones and no email is a bit like giving your carpenters saws but no tape measures.

Alyosha`
Wednesday, September 24, 2003

I find it hard to believe that a bank in Canada decided that it would rather face-to-face over e-mail. e-mail creates a log of everything that happened, face to face communication doesn't. It creates a fuzzy area when someone sues you because you did or didn't do some transaction on their behalf.

Mark T A W .com
Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Im with Alosya on this one,

I see email as having two major advantages to phones

1) Email is non-intrusive communication, you do not get interrupted in your work by getting one. (You could if you have Exchange pop-ups enabled, but that another thread).

2) Written communication is if not always, at least sometimes more clear than spoken. If you need technical details, like passwords and ip numbers and things I usually tell whoever is calling to write me an email so there is no missunderstandings.

Patrik
Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Why not get every employee in your company into a single room so they can communicate face to face. This is much more efficient than just using a phone.

m
Wednesday, September 24, 2003

"I find it hard to believe that a bank in Canada decided that it would rather face-to-face over e-mail. e-mail creates a log of everything that happened, face to face communication doesn't. It creates a fuzzy area when someone sues you because you did or didn't do some transaction on their behalf."

Have you ever tried to get bank to send you something in writing?  It can be very difficult!  I think the banks prefer that ambiguity. 

Besides, the bank still has fax machines for sending instructions and getting things in writing.

Almost Anonymous
Wednesday, September 24, 2003

For me, the number one reason that email is preferable to voice mail is simply that my email is searchable.  Sometime in the future, somebody will encounter a tricky problem that is identical to or very similar to some problem that I've solved once.  If the details of that old problem are preserved in an email thread, then when the problem happens again it doesn't matter that I only have a very vague recollection of the old problem.  A few keywords are all I need to search my mailbox and find the old email thread.  You can't "google" your voice mails.

Matt Latourette
Wednesday, September 24, 2003


I'm going to offer an alternate view, in favor of the policy, just for s**ts and giggles.

If you find you have to frequently (say daily or hourly) e-mail someone as part of your work, I say that represents a broken work environment. Better to re-organize your work environment to remove the need for these e-mails.

Since the written word is a "lossy" form of communication, speaking face to face is always preferable.

Now, before the deluge of edge cases pours in, let me put in a disclaimer by saying that I think you'd still need e-mail for those once in while or once only communications. I also assume that the people in your group are mature enough not to abuse their face to face privileges. Hey, I'm a dreamer.

anon
Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Alyosha, you point is taken, but there are other ways of dealing with that issue.  Let me reiterate:

"People spend hours crafting messages when a simple quick phone call WOULD DO BETTER"

Which shows that written words, even though they're reviewable, are just as fallable to misinterpretation as any other form of communication. 

If we we're having this discussion by phone it would be easier to have that to-and-fro necessary to clarify meaning.  Alternatively I could send you an email, wait half a day for you to check it, wait another half a day while you mull over a response, wait half a day for me to check for a response, then read your message which says something like "did you mean A or did you mean B?".

Your carpenter anology does not relate.  What you are in effect saying, is that it is not possible to be an office worker without email.  To that I say, god knows how we ever got around to inventing the Internet in the first place.

cut the cable
Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Email is dead anyway.  IM is where its at.  Its interactive, and you don't spend "hours" composing messages.  (Ok, one guy I talk to does, but he just doesn't get it yet.)

DereK Woolverton
Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Yes, and vinyl record is dead because of radio. Oh, wait, radio has been killed, too, by the cassette. Cassette dead? Ah, yes, CD killed it. Which is being killed now by MP3.

Johnny Bravo
Wednesday, September 24, 2003

"People spend hours crafting messages when a simple quick phone call would do better".

I've never seen ANY evidence of this. If anything most people's email is short and full of abbreviations.

Any blanket statements that email is bad are preposterous. How do I attach a document to a phone call?

email and phones both have their place and can both be abused. Any company that bans email is abdicating its responsibility to actually *manage* its employees. Supervisors have failed if people are not getting their jobs done.

Maybe the best cliche here is "throwing out the baby with the bath water".

Just my (probably pointless) $0.02

sgf
Wednesday, September 24, 2003

The problem with this decision is that it is unbalanced.  Email, voice mail, spoken language ... all are just tools, means to an end, with their own unique pros and cons.  None of these communications techniques are inherently bad, or innately superior.  it's that those who make use of them may do so inappropriately.  Laying out reasonable corporate policies on proper communications usage, and educating the employees on those policies, would have made a lot more sense in the long term.  This just eliminates a valuable business tool, and I suspect that they will ultimately regret it.

James Karaganis
Thursday, September 25, 2003

I'm pretty sure email is abused at all levels of the corporation as far as using it for non-work related reasons. 

If email were restricted to only using it for internal use and client/vendor domains, it would be used more effectively.  Also, having an effective intranet cuts down on those mass-entire-company emails...

GiorgioG
Thursday, September 25, 2003

Phones4U isn't your regular kind of corporate company.

Its essentially a high volume sales outlet.  All of its mechanisms for selling from the retail outlet are purpose built.  As I understand it there is no business reason to have email as a separate conduit.

Phones4U is also run by a very driven guy who isn't interested in people wasting their time in spurious emailing, whether its text or pictures or movies.  I imagine its the loss of attention rather than any cost (which seemed a bit high), that he was concerned with.

Simon Lucy
Thursday, September 25, 2003

If I didn't have at least internal email, life would be so much harder.

Try phoning somebody up and saying "Hi, I've updated the spec in the usual location - E:\Archive\FooBar\1.2\Docs\Spec\FooBar 1.2 Spec.doc to include an update to how the WingWang dialog will run under 2000 Terminal Server. Also I've put in E:\Archive\FooBar\1.2\Docs\Spec\Screenshots\WingWang2000.bmp so you can link that straight into the help files and the user guide" ... and see if they can do it off the top of their head.

That's a typical day's email for me.

Better Than Being Unemployed...
Thursday, September 25, 2003

For crying out loud it's a shop. (aka store).

Next time you go to the supermarket to buy food, ask yourself "Why would the person at the checkout NEED e-mail?" or more to the point "Why would the supermarket NEED e-mail at the checkout?"

I work in an office and most of my work is done by e-mail but  I don't generalise my working experience to the rest of the planet. 

A cynic writes
Thursday, September 25, 2003

[Email, voice mail, spoken language ... all are just tools, means to an end, with their own unique pros and cons.  None of these communications techniques are inherently bad, or innately superior. ]

Actually, I would disagree with you there. Face to face communication is always preferable to any other form if information transfer is the goal. It's the oldest form of communication and it's the one we do best. E-mail, voice mail all lose something in the translation.

The reason that some people prefer e-mail and voice mail is that you can't delete a face to face communication without listening/reading it first. :)

anon
Thursday, September 25, 2003

No, it's because when Joe is standing in my cube, it doesn't matter what I'm working on - my agenda has just been changed by someone else.
When Joe sends me an email, I can read it when it's appropriate for me, then think out the answer, do the research, cut n' paste, etc, when it's appropriate.

How many "drop in" conversations end with "send me an email?"

And how come so many programmers are arguing *for* synchronous communication?

Philo

Philo
Thursday, September 25, 2003

"For crying out loud it's a shop. (aka store)."

I'm not familiar with the company, but the article states it has 2,500 employees. A company that size undoubtably has plenty of administrative and management staff that has nothing to do with the customer faced selling, just the regular corporate type job.

Mark Hoffman
Thursday, September 25, 2003

"Probably the smartest thing they've ever done, the world did just fine before email. "

Before email office environments used interoffice memos (remember those?) for internal communications. Email is simply a more efficient form of paper memos. Email *does* have its place. Yes, sometimes communication is handled better face-to-face or via telephone. However, I would go nuts if had to deal with a constant stream of interruptions caused by telephone calls or office visits for every minor issue that comes up.

Herb Singleton
Thursday, September 25, 2003

So a company named Phones4U decides to ban email because they say that PHONE communication is better than email?

Sounds more like a marketing ploy than a real attempt to enhance productivity.

But anyway, phone and face-to-face can be a much better way to communicate information. Email is fine for simple facts and details, but achieving even a simple dialogue on a subject is tough.

If you disagree with the above statement you have no way to gain immediate clarification from me. You will have to post a question to my response and then wait for me to respond. In a face-to-face you could ask a question and get a response immediately.

NathanJ
Thursday, September 25, 2003

Marc: I hadn't realised they were quite so big  - so I checked with their website.  They say they have over 330 shops, which I work out at roughly 7.5 people per shop.  I've seen a few of their branches and given the size that figure would seem to me to be about right - suggesting that they're a reasonably "flat" organisation. 

To the vast majority of staff I don't see that this would make a real difference.  They're there to sell you phones. 

Thinking about it at the shop level the principle legit use for e-mail would be to transmit sales figures & stock levels.  I'm not being funny but in Britain first class post usually gets there next day at a cost of 27p. 

Herb: your point on internal memos is also valid - but just think how often do people send you an unnecessary e-mail when if they had to talk to you they wouldn't bother? 

In all, I do think that there will be a few pissed off people at the company but I don't think the sky will fall in. 

A cynic writes
Thursday, September 25, 2003

There's no need to email sales figures or anything from the shop.  The transaction happens on line.

You choose the phone; yes the pretty one that looks like a Hong Kong fake toy camera of 1961 with little celluloid images of girls in Happi coats and would be crushed by the slightest over enthusiastic grip, and yes I want the camera that makes it look like a sex toy and no I'd never take pictures of bits of my anatomy and mail them, wow that vibration is strong isn't it;  they fill in the form whilst you annunciate clearly to the entire shop your personal details and credit and show your utility bill as proof of breathing at that address ; then they wait in a queue to phone someone at some call centre and gives them the details of the plan you chose and your phone gets activated; maybe, just maybe they key in a few bits and peices from the form onto a web form, but probably not.

Actually, the only thing I don't understand is that the regular demonstration of the phones these days includes peering at the screen whilst they thumb their way round the internet, more likely yahoo and impress you by sending a picture of your left nostril to his own phone.

But this requires they're demonstration phone to dial up to the net each time at the hideous rates that mobile phones have.

So, I really can't see that there'll be an actual financial saving.

Simon Lucy
Thursday, September 25, 2003

anon, you forget that face to face adds lots of noise to the communiction like gender, age, etnicity, etc. which unfortunately way in the answers some people give out.

Example: I know an Indian guy who will not buy from or help anybody who he deems Pakistani.

tekumse
Thursday, September 25, 2003

There are pros and cons for everything, and I'm not surprised a phone company would encourage the use of voice and personal interaction. Which is definitely more efficient and/or more socially appropriate in many contexts.

But I notice that when people are trying to be dishonest, they evade written communication, sometimes to the point of explicitly telling me not to use it. For this reason alone, I would hate to lose e-mail.

Fernanda Stickpot
Friday, September 26, 2003

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