Email JunkLately, I’ve been kind of swept up by this craze to own one of those ‘netbooks’, those ultra-portable and cheap notebooks. I was keeping my eye on getting an MSI Wind, and hoping to get in touch with various PC providers to find out when the product will be available.

So I went to check out three retailers and their website and found their published email contacts. Instead of calling them on the phone, I decided to drop them an email instead. Imagine my surprise when two out of the three got bounced for various reasons, and one just went missing into the ether.

Let’s look at where each of these companies went wrong.

Company 1: Fuwell (www.fuwell.com.sg)
Fuwell is one of the more established PC hardware vendors here in Singapore. They are not one of the big boys, nor are they a newly minted company. They have been around for a number of years and seems to be pretty successful in this tight market.

Judging from their website, its obvious they don’t put any focus on their online presence. At their contact us page, they’ve published their sales enquiries address.

When I sent them an email, I got a bounced mail with “Recipient’s mailbox is full, message returned to sender”. So, either their sales is so hot they can’t cope with the number of emails flooding their enquiries mailbox, or they haven’t bothered to check/clear their email. I’m more inclined to think its the latter.

I think the lesson here is pretty obvious, check your mail box!. Clear the old emails, so that new ones can come in.

To give them the benefit of the doubt, I have to also point out that it’s entirely possible that their email is flooded with spam. After all they published the email link out in the open for any spammer to get at. The best approach here is to use an email webform, so that your email address is hidden from those nasty spammers.

Company 2: Newstead (http://www.newstead.com.sg/)
Newstead is a similar company to Fuwell, but specializes in notebooks. With Newstead, I had 2 problems when I tried to contact them via email.

The first problem was addressing the email to enquiries@newstead.com.sg, instead of enquires@newstead.com.sg. A few hours later, I got a bounced mail with ‘unknown or illegal alias’. Obviously, I didn’t read the email address properly, so that was my bad. But there’s still a good lesson to be learnt here, and that is to choose the right keywords to use. In this case, it’s more common (in Singapore at least) to use ‘enquiries’ instead ‘enquires’. That one ‘i’ makes a difference in whether you get your sales lead or not.

The second problem was, after fixing the first problem and sending my email to enquires@newstead.com.sg, I still got a bounced mail with the same problem – ‘unknown or illegal alias’. In other words, the ‘enquires’ email address also doesn’t exist. This got me checking the address again, and this time, it’s NOT my bad.

I guess the lesson here is pretty obvious, if you publish an email address, make sure your email mailbox exists! You know what really got me, was what was written in huge bold letters above the email address. Talk about irony.

Ironic email message

Company 3: Carrefour (http://www.carrefour.com.sg)
Yes, this is the Carrefour, the giant supermarket chain from France. In this case, I filled up their feedback form and the email was off. But after 3-4 days, I’m still waiting for a reply, or at least some indication that they have received my email.

Now I know that this is seems nit-picky, since it’s only being 3+ days since I sent them the email, but being that Carrefour is a 1 billion euros market cap company, I think they need to be held to a different standard than the first 2 encounters. It’s not unreasonable to expect at least an automated reply from such a company, after all, that’s something pretty easily setup within an email system. Not only that, 3-4 business days is pretty decent service level standard to follow.

So finally, the lesson here would be, the bigger you are, the higher the expectations will be.

To close, it’s hard to imagine that a simple thing like an email contact on a website can mean a potential lost of a sales lead, but the simple truth is, it does, irregardless of whether you are a big or small company. In fact, it’s obvious that it’s even more detrimental to the smaller companies, since every sales lead could mean the difference between profit or loss. Think about it.