In a world where you’re constantly on the go from job to job, project to project, having a method of communication like email to keep your customers instantly in the loop can seem like the greatest technological invention since the computer or smartphone itself. But did you ever think how the smallest of missteps in one email may cause more harm than good?
Part of the challenge of email is that for all its convenience, some things can get misconstrued compared to ordinary conversations in person or over the phone. In fact, some people can go through their workday committing these sins of electronic communication without even knowing it. Which means the relationship you worked so hard to build could be dealt a severe blow. Here are some of the more common missteps you can avoid to ensure your next client conversation is about the work itself rather than explaining what you meant in that email.
#1: CC’ing someone who shouldn’t be a part of the communication
One of the worst things you can do to damage trust is to bring another person into the conversation without first asking permission to do so – the dreaded “CC” on an email can quickly cause this kind of problem. All of the sudden, there’s a new name involved in what the customer thought was a private matter. Why? Keep the back-and-forth dialog between you and the customer if at all possible.
#2 Sending an email today to see if they got your email yesterday
Clearly you have some urgency to know if your message has been received. But let’s face it – your customer has other things going on in their life, which you should respect. A follow-up email just to “see if they received it” so soon after the first one could give the impression that you don’t care about those other matters. Just your own.
#3: Replying to a new topic with the same subject line
Here’s what we mean by this: Many times people go back and forth on email for the sake of being convenient. Which makes sense at first, right? They reply. You reply. And so on. But in the course of your conversations, new topics are bound to come up. Sometimes a month can go by and you’re still emailing customers with a subject line from a topic you haven’t discussed in an awfully long time. Why? It takes next to nothing to start a new email with a new subject line that speaks to the topic for today, not several weeks ago. It keeps you organized and everyone focused on the real subject at hand.
#4 Writing in a highly emotional state
The customer just sent you an email that’s gotten your blood pressure up. You feel a very natural urge to send back a reply to set him straight – and that’s exactly when you should hold off. But here’s the funny part. We’re not suggesting that you don’t write it out. You actually should. Sometimes the best solution is to truly write your thoughts down on paper (or in an email draft) so you can get all of your emotions virtually out on the table. Then walk away from it for a while. Chances are, this is not the email you will wind up sending at all but a more cordial, professional version will emerge once you've calmed down. That bodes much better for a more rational dialog that diffuses the situation rather than escalates it.
#5 Trying to fix a situation online that should be fixed in person
At the end of the day, our best, most satisfying customer relationships are often not only verbal but face-to-face. When it’s clear there’s a disconnect between you and the customer that’s not getting resolved by email, continuing to send emails to them to try and clarify the situation may very well only make it worse. Especially if it’s a complex concept you’re trying to explain. In that instance, you certainly could pick up the phone and call them to elaborate. But it would probably go even further with the customer if you offered to come to them to explain what you mean in person. They’ll likely appreciate you taking the time to invest in their understanding, which can certainly help build and preserve the relationship.