by Paul Rudo on 19/03/12 at 4:30 pm
Email is a fast, simple and convenient way of interacting with customers and other employees, but that doesn’t mean it should be treated with a lower degree of professionalism. You should take the same care when composing an email as you would with any other formal business correspondence. Here are a few best practices every professional should follow when communicating by email.
- Spell-check is free, fast and easy. Make sure to check every email before submitting. Even a small spelling error or grammatical mistake can leave a negative and lasting first impression on prospects and external contacts.
- Create well-structured, standardized templates for the most common types of emails, and insist that all employees rely on these email templates for their communications. Not only will this improve productivity, but it will also ensure that the company is communicating a single consistent message to everyone.
- Remember that the people you’re emailing are receiving hundreds of emails every day in their inbox. Because of this, you should keep emails short, focused and to the point. Avoid ranting on with pointless details which will only waste people’s time.
- Signatures should be standardized across the organization, so that everyone has the same styling applied to their email messages. The best practice is for each signature to includefirst and last name, contact phone, cell phone (if necessary), position, company web site URL and any relevant social media links. The signature should also ideally contain the company’s tagline. Microsoft Outlook also allows you to create “electronic business cards”.
- Unless you’re absolutely certain that the recipient is an expert in the field, avoid using industry jargon when speaking to customers and potential clients. Try to explain concepts in terms a layman can understand, and always assume the person on the other side is an absolute beginner. If you’re wrong, they’ll let you know.
- Use the recipient’s name frequently, and try to make the email “you”-focused. Too often, we’re too focused on “me” and what “I” want. However, this is the last thing your reader wants to hear about, and talking about your own desires is the worst way to influence people to your way of thinking.
- Company leadership needs to make decisions about what disclaimers are to appear at the bottom of corporate emails, and implement a policy which forces everyone to apply the appropriate disclaimers.
- If you need to send a file which is larger than 10MB, don’t send it as an attachment. Instead, upload it to an FTP or file hosting service and send the URL to the recipient.
- When writing business emails, never use slang, social networking abbreviations like LOL, smiley faces, or ASCII art.
- Although you should always be professional, avoid being overly formal. Nobody likes to be treated like a number by a bureaucrat. Speak in the first person as if you were having a face-to-face conversation.
- When replying to a long email from someone, consider addressing each point within the body of their original email. This way, all of your answers will be in context. If the thread gets too long, wipe out the conversation history and create a list of bullet points outlining the important points from previous discussions.
- Bullet points are easy to digest and easy to read. Use them.
- Never forward, BCC or CC an email conversation unless you know the other party or parties involved would be comfortable with having someone outside of the original conversation read the whole thread. And if possible, remove any part of the conversation which does not apply to the party you are copying.
- If you forward an email to another person, make sure to add details about why you’d sent the message and what you expect the recipient to do with it.
- Try to answer all emails within one business day.
- Never send confidential information via unencrypted email. Email is an unsecure medium, so passwords and other confidential information should only be relayed in person or via an encrypted delivery technology.
- Whenever you write an email, always imagine how you would feel if the recipient decided to copy/paste it onto a public message board along with your personally identifying information. Would you be embarrassed about anything you’ve said? When in doubt, don’t send the email or edit it.
- Always assume that your recipient is a busy person. Never use business email for personal or entertainment purposes. This is a waste of time and makes you and your organization look unprofessional. Also, risqué or off-color jokes could land the company in hot water.
- Never make inappropriate remarks about the company, customers, or other coworkers. Once put into writing, these comments will be permanently preserved and might come back someday to get you in trouble.
- Never send unsolicited “email blasts”. This is spam, and it will get you in trouble. If you want to operate a bulk mailing list, get an email marketing automation service and build a list of customers who’ve explicitly requested to be placed on your mailing list.
This article was made possible by 123Together.com, the leader in cost-effective hosted business email services like Microsoft Exchange 2010 and other cloud computing business services.