Email can be a godsend or the bane of your existence. At its best, it’s quick, professional, efficient, eco-friendly, and simple way to share information, documents and links. If you’re using VOIP, it’s also an easy way to keep a handle on your voicemails (yeah, people do still use this form of messaging.) It might seem quaint to be talking about it, however in an instant-messaging society, our ultra-casual attitude tends to blur the lines between busy and just plain rude.I hate sending the “Did you receive…” email, just because someone was not courteous enough to let me know they did.
In the course of a week, I, like many of you, get several hundred emails. I have a lot of filters set up to help sort on the fly, but even so, I’m diligent about responding or handling these pieces of correspondence as quickly as possible, even if it’s just a “I’ll get back to you.” Why? Your time is as important as mine.Repeat: Your time is as important as mine. It’s a common courtesy to respond in some way, but this is not always the case; whether it’s carelessness or haste, many business emails I receive (or don’t receive) fall short in terms of any kind etiquette. Now seems as good a time as any for a email refresher moment:
Reply… and do so as promptly
While it can be tempting to just ignore emails until you have adequate time to respond at length, sending a quick “thank you” and confirmation of receipt is very important in maintaining a professional, appreciative manner. It also lets the sending party know you value their effort to get something to you. This is of particular importance when you’ve asked for something and the other party responds with something useful to you, taking their own time to find your request, then furnish you an answer. A response should ideally be sent the same day an email is received. If you are unable to do so, at least send a quick, “Got it, thank you!” email assuring the sender that you received their message and will get back to them.
Be concise and easy-to-read
Excessively long emails, or those full of spelling or punctuation errors, and dense blocks of text are all a pain to read. Emails that use varied formatting, colors and fonts can be distracting and confusing, sometimes losing your message in the “fun”. Instead, include only relevant information and make sure to format the email so it is easy to understand. Give your emails a once over before sending them to make sure they make sense and convey your intended message clearly. If your email program has a spell-check feature, use it, but apply some common sense: “too” and “two” might be spelled correctly, but which do you really mean?
Respond thoughtfully and completely
If someone sends an inquiry, make sure to provide all the information they have asked for. This is a big time-saver, even if it seems to be a big time-sink at the moment. Doing so preempts another email by anticipating what further information they may need as well. For example, if a customer emails asking about your good or services, answer their specific inquiry, but also provide a link or attachment indicating where they can purchase your product and instructions to do so. Don’t send canned responses to common inquiries. Instead, use a customizable template that you can personalize to suit the individual customer.
Beginning your emails with “Hello, so-and-so” and “Thank you” or a fun salutation can do wonders. Given the volume of emails we get in a given day, these common person-to-person courtesies will help your email stand out from the pack, project a professional image and encourage a warm and swift response.
A business of one or more? Use an email address that sells YOUR brand.
Using a personalized business-specific email is a simple but extremely important piece of your image as a reputable entity. Email received from a generic account (@gmail.com, @yahoo.com, @hotmail.com, @aol.com) does little to tie things to your brand and online presence. Sure, they’re free, but why not promote your domain with your email? You already pay for a domain name, so get the email addresses to match.
More than a handful of emails to send at one time? Use a tool.
If you’re sending out a mass-mailing, make sure to use an appropriate email service provider (ESP). It helps prevent your email from landing in your recipient’s spam folder, plus allows you the ability to customize the look and feel of the correspondence. Not all ESP’s are created equal, so make sure to do your homework and go with a reputable company. We use MailChimp.
To read more about business email etiquette check out http://www.emailreplies.com/ and http://www.businessemailetiquette.com/, and couple of great posts on the topic. In the meantime, maybe Maybe keyboards should come equipped with a “Thank You” button right on them, so it would make it push-button easy to reply. 🙂