Customer Experience News & Trends

The art of email: How to write effectively, professionally

With the demise of letters and direct mail, email could be the most formal business communication we use these days. So it better look good. Follow these guidelines for writing email customers will appreciate.

Many people have become so accustomed to texts and tweets in their personal lives that they might let those casual forms of communication spill over into customer communications.

Big mistake.

“… You’ll need to structure your professional emails differently than you would a text or a tweet,” said Ben Carpenter, author of The Bigs: The Secrets Nobody Tells Students and Young Professionals About How to Find a Great Job, Do a Great Job, Start a Business and Live a Happy Life. “‘Text speak’ and an overly informal tone can muddle the message …”

Before you hit send

Take emails destined for customers through this checklist before hitting send:

  • Keep it brief. Sure, there’s no character limit on an email, but that still doesn’t mean people want to — or will — read lengthy electronic communication. Give the pertinent information and offer to explain more if customers request more information.
  • Get to the point. Open politely — “Good morning,” “Hello Mr. ____” or “Thanks for your message” — and go right to the important information. That way, customers will know what the email is about and won’t get distracted by too many pleasantries.
  • Control the tone. Two important things to avoid in email: sarcasm and abbreviations. Sarcasm does not come across in the written word. Text abbreviations should be reserved for text. So avoid “u,” “btw,” “thx,” or “lol.”
  • Use proper names. Unless a customer tells you otherwise, address him or her with proper titles — Mr., Mrs., Dr., etc. Start messages with those titles, not “Hi” or “Hello” alone.
  • Be clear on the subject. Use the subject to tell customers something useful about the content of the message. Avoid, “Question,” “Meeting” or “Requested information.” Try, “Do you need a re-order,” “Conference call meeting today at 3 p.m.” or “Details on Model J included.”
  • Know when to stop email. Sometimes a phone call is even better than email — and the best email etiquette is dialing the customer’s number. If the subject is complex, confidential or easily misunderstood, make a call. If you’ve made more than a dozen exchanges on the same subject, call.

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