There are varying opinions on email correspondence. Out of those opinions, I have condensed what I feel to be the most important aspects. I am writing this article mainly from the perspective of interacting with your customers – however, some points may apply to any types of email.
- Different levels of formality:
You may approach email with differing levels of formality. For instance, you may take a casual approach with your friends. However, with your customers, you want to be as professional as you can. Although, too formal may turn people off. Try to think about how you are coming across in your email. What “image” are you trying to put across. For the “first time email” – a first time contact with someone – consider who the person is and the level of formality that you want to take. Read their email carefully – how formal is their writing? Base your level of formality on the way they approach you.
- Respond quickly:
Responding to your business email within 24-48 hours is a subject of controversy. However, it is my feeling that responding quickly will let your customers know that you are a “real person” and you are concerned about their happiness.You need to analyze the type of email that you get. For instance, some email may not be as important as others. Customer email is of utmost importance and in my opinion you should respond the same day.Prioritize the types of email that you get and base response time on those priorities.Consider an “autoresponse message”. For instance, when people fill out our “free consultation form” or send an email to [email protected] – we have an autoresponse that says that we will look over their information and get back to them within 24 hours. However, we always get back to them within 24 hours. If you say something like that – make sure you stand behind it.
- Reread your emails before sending them out:
This may sound crazy, but sometimes I spend up to 30 minutes to an hour composing a “first time email”. If I am trying to make a good impression on a new customer and I have never spoken to this person before – I will go over the email several times before sending it out.
- Fill a need:
If you are speaking to a potential customer – this is your big chance to fill their needs. Be clear about what you are offering, but also think about that customer – what are they asking for – are you able to give them what they are asking for? If not – can you help them out and refer them to someone who can give them what they are asking for?
- Clarity and focus:
Are you trying to explain something complex through email? If you are – take your time with it. You don’t necessarily have to explain everything in one email. Perhaps begin with basic things and then answer their questions through more emails.Remember that it is more difficult to read on a monitor than on a piece of paper. People may not have the patience for reading a long, drawn-out explanation. Can you keep things brief? (Those of you who communicate with me through email – you know that it is very difficult for me to keep things brief. This is tough – especially when you are trying to explain something that you feel is very important and you want to thoroughly explain it.)It may be much easier to just pick up the phone and call them.
- Spell check:
Spelling and grammar errors definitely do not convey a professional image. Most email programs have a spell check – if you are not a great speller – it doesn’t hurt to run it through the spell check.
- Just ask if you are unclear:
If someone asks you a question and you aren’t really sure what they are asking – before you hop on the answer – ask them to clarify. Ask nicely, but ask.
- Build relationships:
Think of email as a way to make contact with people. I have business relationships with people all over the world – I have never talked to these people face to face or on the phone – it’s all done through email.You never know when these relationships might throw some business your way. I always try to keep responding to people – to keep relationships active. It’s difficult – but worth it. These relationships can help you in several ways – you may be able to ask advice, share marketing strategies, and offer each other leads to customers.
- Be as polite as you can:
If the aim of your email is to critique someone elses views or work, it may be important for you to have a colleague read your email first. They might read into it things that you don’t see. If your aim is to “help” rather than to “make angry”, it will benefit you to have a second view point.Even though they may seem silly – sometimes little symbols may help you say what you need to say without being harsh. These symbols are especially popular in discussion lists and forums. However, I don’t use them when communicating with new clients until I become more familiar with them. I’m not sure if they are perceived as informal or unprofessional. However, I do use them all the time in discussion groups and forums.Here are a few:
(lol) laugh out loud
🙂 smiley face
😉 smiley face with a wink
- Think before you hit that send button:
What is your mood when you are writing an email? Are you feeling a little unhappy or even angry? If you are – save the email – don’t send it out right away. Go back and reread it when you are in a better mood. You may find that you said something that you really didn’t mean to say.