Have you ever tried to get through your emails in the morning, only to spend all afternoon in and out of your inbox, ending with even more new emails? “Ping-Pong Threads” could be the culprit. A “Ping-Pong Thread” is when both parties answer the obvious questions in the email but do not take the time to think about the next step. When I’m unfocused, in a hurry, or feeling lazy, I try to save time by responding very quickly to all my emails. While I may save a few minutes or seconds on the first email, it often creates the Ping-Pong Thread, which then proceeds to eat up my productivity for the rest of the day.
Let me give you a common example…
[Each line is a separate email]
Me: Would you like to schedule a time to meet?
Customer: Yes. That would be great!
Me: Sounds good. What are the best days for you?
Customer: Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays are normally best for me.
Me: OK. Would Thursday, June 35th work for you?
Customer: Yes. That would be great.
Me: OK. Is morning of afternoon better for you?
Customer: Morning is usually best for me.
Me: OK. How about 10:00am?
Customer: I have a meeting at 10:00am that day.
Me: How about 11:00am?
Customer: OK. That works for me.
Me: Wonderful! Would you like to meet at your office or at Rocket Jones?
Customer: Let’s meet at your office. What is your address?
Me: Perfect. Here is a Google Maps link to our location.
Wow! I’m exaggerating… but only slightly! This example is really not far from some Ping-Pong Threads I have had. This conversation seems benign but has hidden poison. The pinging notifications every five minutes shift my focus constantly. How could I possibly tackle larger tasks without time for concentration? And more importantly, my customer is probably just as annoyed by the dip in their productivity. Not a great place to be.
Here’s the trouble: the easiest way to send or answer an email is rarely the most efficient way. I’ve noticed that my “lizard brain” tends to want to keep things moving and check things off of my list quickly. But, that does not lead to strong communication or a productive day.
To communicate more clearly through email (and eliminate Ping-Pong Threads), I believe we need to do two things. First, we need to read back through the message and make sure that we are answering the obvious questions.
But, secondly, we need to read back through the email and ask ourselves, what comes next? What if the answer to my question is yes? What if the answer to my question is no? What question is the customer going to ask next? Could I keep the conversation moving and, more importantly, show the customer that I’m actually engaged and able to find a solution?
Imagine if my example conversation above went like this instead:
Me: Would you like to schedule a time to meet? If so, I would like to recommend a meeting at the Rocket Jones office so that you can meet our team and we can easily demo our work. Would one of the following times work for you? [Add a good list of suggested meeting dates and times here.]
Customer: Yes. That would be great! How about the 35th at 11:00am?
Me: Great! I have included a Google Map link to our office location in case it helps. See you soon!
I am using the scheduling example to demonstrate the idea. But, please don’t limit this concept to scheduling — don’t write it off because you don’t do much meeting planning via email. What does a Ping-Pong Thread look like in your job? In what ways could you improve your communication AND build customer confidence by thinking ahead and being more proactive?
Here’s the end game. We think we’re saving time by quickly shooting off a reply when we are busy. But, are we really saving time? Ping-Pong Threads seem easier at first. But, let’s be honest, they are a great way to destroy your focus and drain your productivity. Eliminating Ping-Pong Threads will save you time, make you a stronger communicator, and build customer confidence.
From our beginning over 15 years ago, the Rocket Jones team has provided strong communication to our customers. In fact, we promise it. Communication is part of the Rocket Promise.