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I work for a logistics company, and we deal with the sending and receiving of packages.

A customer has written in and explained that his package is damaged, and he has asked for the compensation to be credited.

I am the transport manager (basically I decide where the packages go), but we also have a specific cargo manager who specifically deals with these type of requests (shipment of packages, as well as damaged goods and compensation).

I received an email from one of our team over at HQ, who put my name, as well as the cargo manager's name in the "to" field of the email, asking for the compensation to be processed. I had assumed that our cargo manager would have actioned this. However it has been a few weeks, and I received a follow up email from our HQ team today, asking for an update. In this email, the HQ team CC'd in our senior managers.

This follow up email makes it look bad, as it may appear to senior management that I am not responding to the email (as well as the cargo manager). However, the cargo manager (who has the specific experience to deal with this issue) has not actioned this.

I have decided that I will respond to the email, but advising that I will write on behalf of the cargo team. e.g:

Hi John Smith,
I am happy to respond to the customer, on behalf of the cargo manager.

I also note that this cargo manager often does not reply to his emails nor action any of his assigned tasks leaving these items for me to complete.

How can I reply to this thread, nicely, explaining that I'm happy to action this. I don't want to say 'it's not my job'. Would the above be sufficient?

Thank you for your help!

NB: I note that there have been other questions asked about being blamed by not responding to emails, or this 'not being my job'. However, this question is different as this is relating specifically to a follow up, where the other employee is not responding, but I am willing to help.

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  • 34
    To be honest, it sounds like your company has some serious problems in how it handles customer service. This shouldn't be tracked or handled through email, but using dedicated customer support / service management software, with clear assignment and escalation rules, as well as SLAs. Sep 9 at 12:42
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    Can you give the compensation right now to keep the customer happy and then go about correcting the internal procedures? Sep 9 at 17:31
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    What about calling the cargo manager, straighten things out - is it your responsibility or mine? Then replying the email updating everyone with the outcome of the conversation?
    – Mr Me
    Sep 10 at 11:35
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    Can you clarify why you can reach out directly to cargo manager and ask if they are going to action this and why they haven't? Maybe there is a problem with this compensation and is getting delayed for a reason.
    – Konrad
    Sep 10 at 12:49
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    Are you sure they didn't leave you out of the response, and just replied to the sender? This may have already been resolved, you just don't know about it. That's why contacting the other manager without involving the customer is a first step. Sep 10 at 16:17
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First of all, drop the customer out of your next email if that hasn't already happened.

Then, I would send an email explicitly addressed to the cargo manager, with the senior managers, HQ or whatever CCed in and just say:

(Removed customer)

Cargo Manager,

Please let me know if there is anything that you need from me in order to action this.

Regards,

Debbie

It signals a few things:

  • You're willing to assist the Cargo Manager with anything they need
  • You've seen the email from HQ / senior managers
  • You believe it's the Cargo Manager's responsibility

I would certainly keep the customer out of any email chains where there may be conversations about who is or isn't responsible for something. Otherwise, it makes the organization look disorganized. If there is any follow-up discussion that occurs around this, it should be sorted out and then whoever is responsible for moving this issue forward should get back to the customer.

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    Good answer. Also, for next time I'd do the exact same thing up front after a day or so if the Cargo Manager still hasn't responded to the chain. That way you get in ahead of the escalation — it makes it obvious to senior managers that you have been available and willing to help from the start it's just not your area of responsibility (as opposed to needing prodding via an escalation to take action) Sep 9 at 13:31
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    "action this"? Is that some trade specific jargon grammar? Consider "act on this". It'll stop my 11th grade English teacher from screaming about respecting idioms in the back of my head. Sep 9 at 17:01
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    @candied_orange seems like it is business jargon english.stackexchange.com/a/15653
    – Tyberius
    Sep 9 at 17:14
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    @RossPresser How am I supposed to keep up a decent dissociated fugue state if you keep reminding me that all the voices in my head are mine? Sep 9 at 19:36
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    Using "action" as a verb is idiomatic business speech in the U.S. and not strictly wrong (see denominalization).
    – John Wu
    Sep 9 at 20:51
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I am happy to respond to the customer, on behalf of the cargo manager.

Why are you happy to respond to the customer? Do you have the capacity to resolve this from start to finish? Will you make things better or worse?

If you have been improperly targeted then say so.

(Remove customer from email thread)

Hi HQ,

These requests are handled by Cargo Manager. If there is anything specific that I can do to assist then please let me know.

Thank you

Email signature with your details specifically pointing out that you are the Transport Manager

If HQ replies "yes, handle this immediately" then handle it. It might require that you learn something new or preferably you get the cargo manager on the phone.

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  • Would you recommend to exclude the cargo manager and/or senior managers in this email to HQ?
    – Drake P
    Sep 9 at 20:51
  • @DrakeP No, leave those parties on the thread. Removing them implies a lack of confidence in your duties.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Sep 10 at 12:24
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What we don't know here is why the Cargo Manager does not appear to have done anything (there might be communication in the Cargo Department, and possibly with the customer, that you - and HQ - don't know). There could be complexities with this case, or considerations with staff, or other things that may have taken priority.

It's always best to assume good intentions. In most cases that will be the right answer, but even in cases where there are not good intentions, assuming they were there will usually give the best outcome.

I'd call the Cargo Manager. On the telephone. Say something like "about this e-mail from HQ. Were you in the middle of that, or can I pick this up? Anything I should know?".

If you're unable to speak to them or hear nothing for a couple of days, you could forward [Cargo Manager] the earlier e-mail and say what you would have said on the phone, and "any news?". If covering your back was a major concern, you could send a copy for information to [HQ person]. (I'm suggesting a separate copy for information to just that person, as we've already seen here how the "cc" line can come over as passive aggressive.)

It's also worth wondering why [HQ person] included you on the "to" line. This suggests that HQ are not as certain as you are that this would be a Cargo Department responsibility.

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The essential point here is that your own HQ have emailed you both, thinking that at least one of you is responsible.

It's actually a poor practice to email multiple people to perform one task, as it generally leads to a poorer response rate than if just one person at a time is approached, and forces the recipients (if they are more diligent than the norm) to start issuing more broadcast messages to try and coordinate their response and settle on the individual who will actually action the request.

If you are happy to process the request, and can see (perhaps from the records on the system) that the cargo manager has not, then the simple way to deal with this is to process the request then tell everyone that you've done it. Problem solved.

If you want to broach the problem of whose responsibility it is to action these requests - in other words, you're not actually happy to handle these requests, although you can do so if exceptional circumstances are explained to you - then (depending on your own judgment of the circumstances) you can either raise the issue with your own manager that you're being burdened with matters outside your normal responsibility, or it might be worth investigating why the cargo manager is struggling.

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  • @eckes, yes, but the OP said her name was in the "to" field. I agree that, in general, names in the "cc" field are not normally obligated to reply to the sender or take action.
    – Steve
    Sep 10 at 11:50
  • you are right I missed that and will delete my comment
    – eckes
    Sep 10 at 11:53
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I have decided that I will respond to the email, but advising that I will write on behalf of the cargo team

This seems reasonable.

I also note that this cargo manager often does not reply to his emails nor action any of his assigned tasks leaving these items for me to complete.

I'd recommend do nothing this, at least not on this mail unless you're very sure of how the politics will play out. By "dropping them in it", you're significantly escalating the situation - instead start a discussion with your manager and take guidance from them on how to proceed. As always if you're going to say things like "often does not reply to his emails", make sure you have a documented list of instances when this has happened so it can't descend into a "he said, she said" situation.

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Existing questions already covers very well what you should do in current situation.

I'd like to address what you could've done in the beginning and how future cases could be managed:

It's generally not a good idea to ignore an important mail (financial topic with an external customer sounds to be important) where you are in "to" field.

Receiving the mail clearly indicates the sender thinks YOU should act, if it's incorrect, you need to correct them, somehthing like this:

Dear Sender,

I am generally not responsible for this topic.
@CargoManager could you please follow up the topic?

this clearly indicates to sender who to contact in the future, also if higher management will be involved later they'll see you've proactively put your part in the solution (pointing sender to the right responsible)

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