Is it important to personally answer the company email?

IStock_000010998849LargeAs the owners of The Spice House, my husband Tom and I often wrestle with time management issues, there simply is not enough time in the day for all of the hats we must wear. We have learned that, while painful, you can delegate chores. They might not be done to the standard to which we aspire, but they can come close enough. I personally answer the company email for hours every day, and we have discussed whether this is something that could be given to one of our staff members. Many of these emails are very simple, but others are quite complex. Often times, simply out of politeness, unless my box has over 200 emails to get through, I will seek out an answer for someone who is looking to find a product we do not carry, or a recipe. I sometimes wonder if it is possible that so many people out there have no idea how to google the information they need. Or perhaps I have unwittingly turned myself into a Ready Reference resource. Growing up, before the days of computers, we used libraries and reference books. The families that could afford encyclopedias invested serious money in these books which their children could use as a valuable resource for schoolwork. Tom even sold encyclopedias on the road awhile in his youth, if you want a good laugh ask him about those ?good old days?! If you were not lucky enough to have some serious reference books at home, the library had a Ready Reference number you called for help. The person who answered was not hooked into any computer, she would leave the desk, go get a book, and look up the answer for you. So, on the most generic level, I may now be this person. HOWEVER, on the most valuable level, I can?t tell you how many emails I read that are written by remarkable people.

It really could be considered virtual foodie networking at its most extreme, the whole world can connect with you. I have become email penpals with high end restaurant chefs, who initially did not reveal their names, cookbook authors, again beginning anonymously, perfumers, farmers, food activists, food bloggers, food column writers, producers for food television shows and many more. Many of these come to us for spice advice at first, and once they see how seriously we take this role, it opens up further dialogs. There is not a day that goes by that I do not learn of something extremely interesting in the food world. I want to share some of these more interesting emails with you, and I intended to begin with a fun story about bacon fest. Alas, I have already rambled on too long for one blog, so it will have to be the next blog, and it will have a great customer recipe, provided you like bacon.

A Visit to Old Town

Working at The Spice House’s helpdesk, I spend each day answering calls, live chats, and emails from customers seeking spice suggestions, future customers tracking down that hard-to-find item, and Spice House fans relaying their experience…

Spice Boss’ Top Three

People always ask about my top blends and seasonings. For me, Bronzeville Rib Rub is number one. My father-in-law created this seasoning at the original spice shop, located at 33rd Street and Galena in Milwaukee….


    Patty, I feel your pain, but as I’ve expressed in the past, I really enjoyed the fact that my email was personally answered by you. If you’re feeling especially snarky on a particular day, you can try out “Let me Google that for you!”, a site that creates an animation of you googling somebody’s question. Here’s one I put together…
    Thought you might get a kick out of it. Oh, and welcome back to the blog!

    I think it’s great that you respond to all the email you get! And while efficient is not always better, there are more efficient ways to share and interact online that should relieve some of the burden and leave the fun parts of email correspondence.
    One idea is to set up forums or a question and answer site so that your knowledge can be stored in a searchable and publicly available format. One platform for doing that is . (A list of sites that use this platform can be found at .) That way you could share your knowledge as well as allow others to chime in! This would allow you to respond to people, but in a way that others can benefit as well, hopefully relieving the “human reference via email” strain over time. I think it could build into an invaluable online resource for foodies everywhere!

    To be honest, if it takes you away from doing what you do best, i.e. the best herb and spices in the world, then I would say to delegate. Oh, I will have to say this though, one of those touches that will always get me to come back, is that on every packing slip, there has always been a handwritten thank you. Well, that on top of the best products out there 🙂

    There is something to be said about being the “go-to-person” for questions regarding your industry. Being the first person that people think of when they think “spices” is a position your should strive to maintain. Now that does not necessarily mean that has to be you but being a resource for people can be an essential marketing tool. Yes, they could just Google it but would you rather then Google it or think to email you? Just M2C

    For the most part answering email is quite enjoyable, but that is in big part because we have great customers. Not a day goes by without someone emailing us about how much they love our shop,staff or product. It would be a different story if I was in the complaint department of some large corporation! It also does help us to keep our pulse on what our customers are looking for, or what is the next hot spice.

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