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Email – When Branding and Efficiency Collide

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Google Inc.Image via WikipediaI’m jumping to gmail. Plain, vanilla, no bells and whistles gmail. As a marketer and writer, I hate giving up the my “wordsell.com” email address, but for me, the need for efficiency has finally trumped the desire for consistent branding.

My wordsell.com email was hosted on AT&T and ran on Outlook. I started having major service interruptions about two months ago when AT&T started changing servers and never let me know. All of a sudden my email stopped working — a major problem when your business runs on email.

Descent into email hell

Getting help from the AT&T service desk proved to be frustrating in the extreme. They are too big, too bureaucratic, and make it way too difficult to find someone who can solve your problem. I wasted literally 16 hours in one week drifting through their customer service and tech support departments. When I finally found a technician who knew how to reconfigure my Outlook email settings, it took him about 10 minutes to fix the problems. You know what? I would have been happier if it had taken 10 minutes to find the problem solver and 16 hours to fix it.

But problems recurred and recurred. One- and two-hour long service interruptions. Inability to sync with BlackBerry. Warning emails from Yahoo that my email would shut down unless I configured SSL, but no instructions for how to do that. Ports that worked one day and didn’t work the next. After a month or so of this, my email again stopped downloading to my BlackBerry. No warning, no explanation. It was the last straw. I switched over to my generic gmail account.

The bigger email picture – branding versus efficiency

My recent experiences reinforced the feeling I’ve always had that email service should be set up as cleanly and simply as possible. This is very difficult to accomplish, because of the number of email technologies out there and the complex interfaces among them. In my case, the combination of AT&T and Microsoft was an accident waiting to happen. I already talked about the nightmare that is the AT&T bureaucracy, but I’m sure at least some of you have had the misfortune to learn all about that.

Add to that the need to mesh with Microsoft’s exceedingly complex, over-engineered products, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. When I discovered that AT&T had partnered with Yahoo for their email service, well — time to jump ship.

I’ve never been impressed with Yahoo from an ease-of-use standpoint. And considering Yahoo’s management upheavals, who knows what will happen to their email partnership with AT&T? Whether Jerry Yang, Carl Icahn, or Steve Ballmer ends up calling the shots, I don’t see how any of them make Yahoo a better email provider.

Keep it simple for me, please

I would have moved to gmail long ago, except everybody told me a straightnorth.com email would look more professional and convey a consistent brand. It’s true. And hey, it may be a mistake to give it up. But having email that works is more important to me right now than having email that looks good. I know Google offers upgrade email services for business to deal with the branding issue, and that there are other workarounds within standard gmail.

But I keep thinking, why complicate matters? Why add functionality and increase the number of ways something can go wrong? I’m not a technician; I’m just an entrepreneur who doesn’t want to call an IT technician every time there’s a software/hardware malfunction. I’d rather save those calls for problems that really matter, like an infected hard drive.

Google and BlackBerry do keep it simple
Importing my contacts from Outlook to gmail took about 3 minutes following these simple instructions.

After using gmail for a couple days, I couldn’t figure out how to stop emails I sent from downloading to my BlackBerry. One minute of searching led me to this gmail discussion string, which led me to this BlackBerry help page. Problem fixed in less than 10 minutes. Versus 16 hours plus from the AT&T -Yahoo – Microsoft morass.

The three s’s of SSSimple

Google and BlackBerry, which I’ve used for years for various services, are consistently straightforward, seamless, and safe. The entrepreneur’s dream. I love to promote my brand, but I don’t mind promoting theirs one bit.

Questions about branding and email

Let’s talk!

What do you think? If the choice is between branding and efficiency, which way would you go? Would using a gmail or yahoo email address hurt your business? As a buyer of products and services, would you be turned off by sellers using a generic email?

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