Thursday, February 28, 2008

Replies to e-mails

I was sitting and thinking today, "Why is it so difficult to find the reply I sent to that person?"

Most e-mail clients track who you have replied to and, almost always, that message is sitting in the "Sent Items" folder or something similar. GMail includes all replies to a message in the view but I don't really like that. If an e-mail client can track what e-mails have been replied to...how much harder is it to also store a pointer at the message that was sent as the reply? Then you could right-click in the e-mail client, click a "View reply" menu item, and immediately jump to the reply message. If you replied more than once, a dialog box would pop up asking which reply to jump to.

This feature could be implemented in probably 30 minutes. Yet no one has bothered to do so.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Time of day for conducting business

It is useless to waste people's time. That statement is something we all can agree with. Yet, I have one question: Why is every last business open from 8 to 5?

There are several industries that we all agree have to be available and operational 24/7. Emergency centers such as hospitals, 911 responders, local police, and fire departments. And websites/web servers. Anything else running 24/7 is not essential.

Those businesses that are not retail and are not open 24/7 are open 8 to 5, Monday through Friday. Take banks, for instance. Let's say you are depositing a check into your local bank - assume someone gave you a check. When do you do it? Saturday morning, of course. Why? Because banks are open only during "regular business hours" and closed Saturday afternoon and all day Sunday. The only time available is Saturday morning unless you can go into work later or leave earlier. Here's a schedule banks should consider:

12-2:00 p.m., 4:45-7:45 p.m., 2-3 a.m. M-F (6 hours per day)
8-7 Sat (10 hours)

Total time: 40 hours.

Actually, similar schedules would work well for almost ANY service-oriented industry. Most clerks/tellers seem to twiddle their thumbs frequently during regular 8-5 business hours and are absolutely thrilled when a customer shows up. The customer gets way more attention than they really want and it is pretty obvious the employees are desperate to do anything - even "busy work".

Another example is dentists and other similar service industries. Dentists work 8-5, M-F and do the occasional emergency surgery on weekends. The problem with that schedule is regular 8-5'ers have to take time off from their employer to go to the dentist. Employers generally are not happy with their employees leaving to go to scheduled appointments even if they are aware of the appointment weeks in advance.

One major downside to the schedule is that many employees live a bit away from the employer. People would probably consume twice as much gasoline as they would likely go home to family and sleep after the second timeframe. To combat this, the 2-3 timeframe could be made to be every third day on a rotating schedule (1/3 the staff). Or fill that time-slot with part-timers (there are a bunch of older folk out there who are retired but who would also love to make a little extra money by working for just one hour a day).

The other major downside is school starts at 8 a.m. and lets out at 3 p.m. at most places. The above schedule works well for the 3 p.m. issue for most people but there might be some issues involving sleep with the 8 a.m. issue. Lots of things to consider.

Still, this is something worth giving a shot. It would significantly ease the "'rush here and there' before they close" mentality for the 8-5'ers. Less stress is a good thing.

Software companies should adopt a similar schedule but maybe provide some extra overlap with the 8-5 (shifting time away from Saturday). The 2-3 a.m. portion allows the software company to interact with people overseas. That is where many sales are mostly going to be in the not-so-distant future.