March 14, 2011, 11:34 AM — It's a rare e-mail user indeed who hasn't experienced the awful moment that can come right after hitting "send." It's the moment when you realize that you just said something you shouldn't have in the e-mail, and there's no way to get it back.
Such faux pas can be damaging to any user; for a business, it can be a disaster.
Need an example? Angelo Mozilo, former chairman of Countrywide Financial, drew considerable flak a few years ago by describing a mortgage customer's e-mailed plea for help as "disgusting." Unfortunately for Mozilo, he inadvertently chose to use that turn of phrase in a "reply" to the customer's e-mail, rather than forwarding it, as he intended to.
Not surprisingly, the lender issued a public apology later that same day. Countrywide and Mozilo, of course, have since left their own special legacy in the annals of time.
The risks aren't reserved just for high-profile CEOs at troubled companies, however. How can the rest of us avoid making e-mail mistakes of our own? Fortunately for us, an assortment of IT tools are on hand to help.
Now in beta, ToneCheck is a software package from Lymbix that uses sentiment analysis to identify and flag emotionally charged sentences within e-mail messages. Currently offered as a free plug-in for Microsoft Outlook 2007 and 2010, ToneCheck allows users to set an individual tolerance level for emotional content. Using that level as a guide, the software monitors e-mails and a "Tone Alert" indicator turns red when the language used exceeds the user's tolerance level. Flagged sentences can then be revised accordingly.
2. Reply to All Monitor
Sperry Software's Reply To All Monitor, meanwhile, is an Outlook add-in that focuses on e-mail replies and especially replies to all. Priced at $14.95, the tool offers a number of prompts and confirmations to prevent users from accidentally revealing too much to the wrong people on e-mail. First, as its name suggests, the software asks for confirmation before you send a "Reply to All" message, thereby making you think twice about who will see what you're about to send. If you were BCC'd on a message, it also prompts you before replying so that you won't inadvertently reveal that you were an undisclosed recipient.
3. Safeguard Send