Jumping to E-Conclusions

As I inched along the 10 freeway, my earpiece beeped. I tapped it and heard my client, John shout "Hello?" His voice competed with the sound of his traffic that was moving faster than mine.

John is the CEO of his company and typically a quiet and laid back fellow who rarely calls me directly. I knew he wanted to discuss a serious matter if he was calling me with enough urgency to raise his voice over traffic.

"Geoff, we have a client who is angry because he hasn't received any email messages from us for weeks. He claims to receive messages from everyone else, but not from our staff." I told John I'd look into it and went to his office.

If you ask me the least-fun tech problem to tackle, the winner might be figuring out why a single person, located in a distant land, isn't getting email messages from my client.

Fiona, one of John's employees, saw me arrive and pulled me into her office. She was nearly in tears and confessed that it was her emails that this client hadn't received. The annoyed client had called John, and accused Fiona of dropping the ball and failing to respond to his inquiries. He threatened to pull his account, citing Fiona's incompetence as the cause.

I gave Fiona all the assurance I could -that we would figure it out -and then left to check the email server. I discovered an empty send queue, a perfect email activity log and no NDR's (Non-Delivery Reports).

Back in Fiona's office, she showed me a history of sent emails stored on her computer -further proving her case. The perturbed client worked at a large university so I asked Fiona if she had another contact there we could use as a test. She did and a reply came back successfully.

I offered to call the angry gentleman to assist him with checking for spam filtering that may have tucked Fiona's messages out of sight. She shuddered at the thought, and waved it away like a bad smell. She told me the situation was too precarious and this guy's ego too fragile. She said, "Offering help implies that the problem is his and he can't hear that right now." I shrugged and she nodded, knowing I was helpless.

When John got back to the office I gave him an update and suggested that he not fire Fiona. After listening to my hunch that a spam filter on the receiving end was the culprit, I saw Fiona's job security spike again. .

The following week a happy, smiling Fiona told me her emails were suddenly reaching the client who had been so upset with her. "Did he find your messages in his junk folder?" I asked.

"I don't know." She pointed to some flowers sitting on her desk. "But he apologized."

The lesson? If someone isn't getting your email, it might not be your fault.

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