It’s no secret that, while allowing us to function efficiently in ways we thought were only possible in Science Fiction movies, technology has greatly hindered our society’s ability to communicate in a personable manner. I will admit that I am just as guilty as anybody to fall into the email trap. Email is a fantastic tool, but like anything, too much of a good thing can be detrimental. Following are a few rules I try to follow to keep myself in check.
Your email is too long. Review your email as you are writing it or prior to sending it. Does it read more like a novella than a memo? If so, it might warrant a phone call to discuss the contents, then you can send the email later to confirm the conversation. Keep in mind that everyone is just as busy as you and just as likely to skim over a too-long email. Good rule of thumb is to keep the email short enough to fit on one page if printed (including the headers and your signature).
Numerous emails have been sent back and forth. Everyone has been there before — emails keep going back and forth, but the message isn’t getting across or the argument is escalating. Whatever the reason, there comes a point where you need to get on the phone and discuss the matter at hand. I wish there was a magic number so we could all know when to stop the maddening email chain, but a good sign is when you see another reply in your inbox and you get the sinking “not again” feeling in your gut.
What you have to say is sensitive in nature. If you have to deliver bad news or discuss a sensitive topic, it is always best to do so in person or on the phone. You don’t want the recipient to read your email the wrong way and turn a sensitive subject into a huge disaster. If you are speaking with the person live, you also have the opportunity to gauge their reaction and troubleshoot on the spot if necessary. When emailing on a sensitive topic, you never know when the person will read your message, how they took it; you are also giving an untold amount of time for them to sit and stew on it — good or bad. Again, no magic formula here, if you keep wondering “how should I say this?”, it’s probably best to deliver the message personally.
Your client is upset. It probably goes without saying, but if your client is upset, the email is probably somewhat sensitive in nature. You also could end up sending a very long email or numerous emails back and forth. At the core of good customer service is relationship building and you should not expect to mend a relationship with an upset client simply by sending an email. Please refer back to our 5 Things Clients Love to Hear blog post to learn why clients dig personal service and they love talking to you.
Your client almost always calls you rather than emails. Clients love personalized service and at the core of that is knowing what they want. Not just clients in general, but that person specifically. You will have a happier client if you service them the way they want to be serviced, so it is important to know what each client prefers. If your client calls more often than emails, call them first to discuss the topic and then send an email when you are done to confirm the conversation.
I hope these simple tips help to put email in its proper place — as a great tool to help us manage our busy days, but not the end all and be all.