You spent years building a business. You rent or maybe even purchase a space. You decorate it with expensive displays and furniture. You install a phone system. You set up computers for you and your staff to work on. You build a website for your business to help market your business. You give your employees email address so they can work efficiently and do business across the block and around the world. You establish relationships with vendors, customers, and patients. Life is good.
Then one day an employee moves on. Maybe they find another job elsewhere. Maybe they retire. No matter the reason, one day, they are no longer working with you. You replace with someone else. You get this new person their own business cards. You set them up with their own email address and get back to work.
What did you do with the old email address?
Far too many companies make the worst choices in how to deal with an email address for an employee who is no longer there. They simply delete or cancel the email address.
So, your customer who doesn’t have either the opportunity or desire to keep up with your employee roster on a day to day basis has an email in their address book of someone they once worked with, once trusted, and based on simple reasoning when they try and email that person again, wants to do some sort of business with your organization. What do they get for their trouble of keeping an email address? They get a message that says something like “the email address cannot be found at XYZ.com”, or in nontechnical terms, “We don’t give two #*!% about you”
I am not just talking about small practices who deal with something like this once every 2 or 3 years. I am also talking about quite large businesses with hundreds and sometimes thousands of employees and individual email addresses. Just over the past couple of weeks alone, I have reached out by email to a number of companies, only to have over a half dozen of my messages returned as undeliverable. How many of your customers and patients get a similar response from your business?
Deleting a former employee’s email, even with a polite autoreply is one of the quickest ways I know of to tell a patient or customer to consider taking their business elsewhere. Nowhere does a bounce-back say we care, that all the time and money we spent getting you to consider doing business with us is important to us. It, in fact, says quite the opposite. When someone says they want to give us money, most of us never ask the customer to repeat themselves. Yet by deleting an ex-employee’s email, that is exactly what you are doing. You are saying “Can you repeat everything you wanted to somebody else, please”? (once they can figure out who that someone else is)
Unless an employee was only there a week or two, any departing employees email should be forwarded immediately to their manager or the person who replaced them. Depending on how long the employee has been with you, that forward should continue for at least one year and if you are an ECP, by the very nature of most people getting exams every 2 years, that forward should continue for anyone involved for those 2 years as well.
What is the cost of an email account? For most businesses, emails are free. They cost nothing. They are included in the hosting plan you buy. If you are an ECP, running email accounts that are fully HIPAA compliant, you have an email service charging you around $10 per person per month per email. Sure, those costs can add up, but what is the cost of losing a customer or patient?
Would you change your phone number every time an employee leaves? Of course not. Why are you in such a hurry to delete a working email address? I have had people reach out to contact me using email addresses I haven’t used in 10+ years. How many of your former customers are trying the same thing?
Here’s an idea for you. Take things a step further. If a longtime employee is leaving, no matter the reason, use their departure as an opportunity to reach out and market your business. Tell people so-and-so is leaving and introduce their replacement. If no replacement has yet been hired, how about a nice note from the manager reaching out and letting everyone know that if the customer has any needs during the transition the manager is more than happy to help. You will be amazed at how many people respond back, offering you a great way to build on your business relationship with them.