The Email Wasteland Of Former Employees

Picture this: you shoot an email over to a contact at a company you work closely with. Maybe it’s a vendor or a benefits provider or your landlord. Point is, it’s someone that you have done regular business with for a while and have probably spent a ton of money with. You rely on them, they rely on you.

A few days go by and you don’t get a reply from someone who is normally pretty prompt. You think “maybe they’re on vacation or just super busy” and then you make a note to check back a couple of days later.

A few more days go by and you shoot over a follow-up. Nothing.

After another no response, you decide to pick up the phone and call. When you finally do get in touch with someone who knows what’s going on (which can sometimes take a while), they tell you “oh Jimmy, he left the company a few weeks/months ago. Let me put you in touch with someone who can help you.”

This happens to us ALL THE TIME. It happened to me last Thursday. And then again it happened today. I’m sure it’s happened to you to. It drives me nuts!!!

It’s a cultural and systematic breakdown on so many levels.

First off, shouldn’t the same IT guy who sets up their email address be the one to remove/forward it? New employees don’t wait weeks for their email account to be set up, so why should it take any more than a day to close down their email after they leave?

It’s also a sign that the remaining staff doesn’t care too much for their clients/customers. Astonishingly no one – not even Jimmy’s former boss – ever thinks “gee, once Jimmy leaves, shouldn’t someone else pick up Pure Adapt as a customer and shoot them a courtesy email updating them?” or even “gee, I bet Jimmy gets a lot of important email, maybe someone should start checking it.”

Furthermore, leaving the email in place with no one checking it is the worst possible option. You know what a better option is? Well, forwarding it to the person who is taking over for them is probably ideal (that’s what we do). Or having someone log in and check it regularly, that’s not a horrible idea. Or, even, sending an autoresponse that the person has left the company with the new point of contact in the auotresponse. Hell, even a bounced message is better because it lets the sender know something is up. Actually, a bounce is significantly better than doing nothing because at least the sender can address the problem immediately and not three weeks down the road.

I can’t imagine a better way to quickly lose good long-term customers. It’s like lighting cash on fire.

So why do so many seemingly good companies make this mistake? I have no freaking clue. Do you?

3 comments on The Email Wasteland Of Former Employees

  1. Rob says:

    It is really annoying – we handle it a similar way to you – set the email address to forward any new mail to the new person, then move any relavent email to the new account using IMAP and THEN do the last reply to emails before the person leaves, so even if someone responds immediately it’ll go to the new contact.

    Perhaps non-tech savvy companies just don’t think of the issue or realise it could happen. After all, they’re getting no notifications that your email isn’t being responded to. “Out of sight, out of mind” and all that. It’s obviously not your responsibility, but once you spoke to them on the phone and realised the issue did you suggest how they should fix it?

    • Adam McFarland says:

      You know, I’m usually so frustrated that I don’t bother to suggest a fix…but I am going to next time now that you’ve put the idea in my head 🙂

      • Rob says:

        Definitely. I give free advice to businesses all the time… Whether they want it or not!

        It you know a freelancer who could do the fix, you could always try and help them out by putting them in touch.

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