“My Email’s Fine”

As someone who runs a business in the IT/telecoms sector, I now and again hear of folk who have been in touch with our support teams having had problems receiving an email, for whatever reason (maybe a password reset, or another notification of some sort). After checking their spam folder, often the temptation is to presume that the issue must therefore not be email-related, because – as they often say – “my email’s working fine, I’ve received other emails just fine”.

Email is deceptively simple due to the fact that (most of the time) it works very smoothly so appears to be a simple beast, when it’s in fact anything but. So, it’s perhaps understandable that the general public’s basic understanding of email can lead them to over-simplify things, although it can be frustrating for the support staff who have been called for their expert advice to have it immediately rebuffed by a customer who thinks they know better!

My advice to those in that situation is always to remain professional, and gently (without lecturing) explain email’s complexity using the analogy of the UK motorway network:

Image Credit: http://www.highways.gov.uk/our-road-network/our-network/key-roads/
Image Credit: http://www.highways.gov.uk/our-road-network/our-network/key-roads/

It goes like this: Imagine your email inbox is London. If someone in Exeter sends you an email, it will travel up the M5, along the M4 and around the M25 until it gets to you.

If someone in Birmingham sends you an email, it’ll go down the M40.

If there are roadworks on the M6 and someone in Manchester tries to email you, it’ll probably get held up, yet the ones from Exeter and Birmingham will be unaffected.

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link and in the world of email there are many different routes and chains that an email message might take. Just because emails coming from elsewhere reach you fine, doesn’t necessarily mean that all ones from everywhere will!

I generally find that most people understand things when explained in terms of cars and travelling, as it’s something that pretty much everyone does and experiences. What works best for you?

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