Technology – How to get users to update contact lists

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This is another installment of my Technology posts, geared towards those of us who are technology professionals and support users or clients.

Getting users to update contact lists and address books is a tiring task. Let’s be honest, most people don’t change something once they’re got it set up. It doesn’t matter what it is and it isn’t even limited to the technology field. How one’s living room is setup. How things are organized in kitchen cupboards. How the seat in one’s car is adjusted. We’re simply creatures of habit, so once we’ve set something up, we don’t like changing it. The same is true for contact lists. You enter a name, e-mail, phone number, address, whatever, once and then you have it. Unless that person is a very close friend or relative, you’re not likely to change the information if you don’t absolutely have to.

Keeping this all in mind, let’s say an e-mail address for one of your user’s changes. There are several ways to manage the flow of e-mail that’s still going to the old address.

One way to is simply create an auto-forward. Not good, because then users won’t have a reason to stop using the old address (which is what you want in the end).

Another way is to auto-forward, but also auto-reply saying that the address has changed, but their message has been auto-forwarded. Again, not good, because users will simply ignore the auto-reply because their message was forwarded anyways.

The best method is to have an auto-reply only, stating that the e-mail address has changed, provide the new one, and also putIN LARGE LETTERS that the e-mail will NOT be auto-forwarded, and the sender must re-send it themselves. Even in this scenario, the first few times this happens, the sender will simply hit “forward”, then copy and paste your new e-mail address and hit “send”. It will take several auto-replies until they get irritated enough with the auto-reply that they will update their contact list and start using the new address.

Changing e-mail addresses can be a real pain, and it can take a longggggg time until everyone updates their contact lists with the new information. In the modern day philosophe of making things easier for everyone, and providing ‘seamless service’, this method of approach might seem chaotic to some, or even ‘un-friendly’. But we need to remember that sometimes, in order to get people to do something we need them to do, we are required to put the onus on them, to make them responsible for making it happen.


Martin Lehner

Martin Lehner is an technology professional working for an IT services firm in Whitehorse, Yukon (Canada). He has been working in the technology field for over a decade. With a degree in Business Admin and numerous industry certifications, Martin leads a team of IT professionals that provide third party support for clients. Originally starting a company to offer web development services, Martin quickly realized that clients wanted the entire spectrum of technology services. When Martin is not at work (which is not often, since his company offers 24/7 support), he is busy at home spending time with his family.

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