Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.
Many small businesses uses free email services such as Hotmail as a shortcut or cost saving measure. Unfortunately it can costs them business in the long run.
I've seen you rail against using Hotmail for "anything important", and you call out using it for business as a particularly bad idea. Why? What do you have against Hotmail? Why should I incur yet another expense for my small business if I can get email for free?
Because you want your email to get through, and because you want your business to be taken seriously.
I don't have anything against Hotmail, per se, or Microsoft for that matter. Remember, I worked there for many years.
My issues with Hotmail and other free email services arose mostly out of my experience here on Ask Leo!. Or, to put it more correctly, the experience of thousands of people asking me questions.
Those experiences lead me to this conclusion: using Hotmail or any free email service exclusively is bad for your business.
Let me explain why I hold that opinion that so strongly.
It falls into two buckets: technical and perception.
I get more reports of problems with Hotmail than I do for any other mail service. Mail that disappears, account access that's lost, email that doesn't arrive, email that can't be sent ... these are all common issues that I see every day.
Hotmail is not alone in this regard, but I do get the most email related to it.
So why do I lump all free email services into the same bucket as Hotmail?
Because they all share one common characteristic: there's virtually no customer service.
If you have a problem with Hotmail, or Yahoo mail, or Google mail or whatever free email service you're using, you have nowhere to turn. There may be a customer service email address or web form, but from what I've heard and experienced myself, it's apparently only there for show. IF you get a response at all, which is rare, it's likely to take a long time and be a "canned" response. If you need hands-on help to deal with your particular situation, there's nowhere to go.
Because you're getting what you paid for. You paid nothing, and that's what you're getting. The provider is under no obligation to do anything for you. They're well within their rights to ignore you completely, which is apparently what most do.
At least if you pay someone for service you have some leverage. First of all, these providers typically promise service, and if they don't deliver, you have the option of taking your business elsewhere.
OK, I'll put this as bluntly as I can.
When I see a business using a free email account, particularly a Hotmail account, I immediately think: "this business doesn't care about email, or using the internet to communicate with their customers."
And that perception is not uncommon among internet-savvy customers.
The perception might be wrong. I get that. The company may be deeply devoted to their internet-using customers. But using a free email account doesn't say that. A free email account says "we're not willing to take the relatively small expense to make sure we have reliable email".
And that's a shame.
In my opinion, any business small or large, should have their own internet domain, and handle their email using that domain. Most domain registrars make that easy, and offer very competitively priced packages. And customer support.
"Company@hotmail.com" will always look cheaper and less professional than "firstname.lastname@example.org".
Not to mention that "email@example.com" is more likely to have technical problems without anyone to help you resolve them.