While there’s an ongoing debate over whether emails or phone calls are more effective in business, two things are clear: email is the appropriate communication choice in many situations – and poor email etiquette can impact your professional image.
Rightly or not, when we read emails that convey the wrong tone or are littered with typos, we tend to question either the sender’s business intelligence or their attention to detail. Neither reflects well on your company if that sender is you.
Make sure your email communications do justice to your professional standing by backing them with basic business email etiquette.
Business Email Etiquette
Business email etiquette rules exist to help your company communicate efficiently, respectfully, and in a trustworthy manner. With verbal cues like voice inflections removed from written transmissions, it’s easy for recipients to misunderstand your intent.
Email demands a decidedly different approach to interacting with others than a voice or face-to-face conversation. But when done right, e-messaging offers many business benefits that die-hard phone chatters miss out on.
Email is an excellent format for:
- Following up on an introduction or meeting with a new client or prospect,
- Recording pertinent discussion or agreement details like delivery dates and pricing for transactions or contracts, and
- Keeping everyone from customers to team members in the loop with timely but brief status updates
Take steps to ensure your business is sending the right message with the help of this email communications primer.
Your Email Set-Up
Much like personal and business expenses, individual and professional emails don’t mix well. Rather than conducting all your correspondence through a single email channel, you should maintain separate accounts for private and business use. Not only will this help organize and prioritize your business messages, but it will also prevent the accidental crossing of wires.
Make sure the account name associated with your business email promotes a respectable image. Email addresses that contain your personal name are ideal, and can usually be set up through your company’s website domain. But regardless of which email platform you use, opt for a clear designation that presents you as the professional you are.
The best email signatures offer recipients options in terms of how to get in touch with you or your business. Consider setting up an automatic signature that includes one or more of the following: your office phone number, fax, and physical address, your mobile phone number, your website domain address, links to your social media accounts.
Your Email Content
Subject lines are important. Making the purpose of your message clear before the content is opened and read demonstrates respect for the recipient by making it easier for them to prioritize their email responses.
Your content should be courteous and succinct. Whenever possible, stick to a single topic of conversation, and be clear about why you’re making contact. Whether you require information, a decision, or some other form of action on the part of the recipient, ask directly for the response that you need. And don’t forget to do a quick proof-read before you hit send!
It’s best to avoid attaching large files or images to your emails. Many people access their messages from a mobile device or from locations outside their regular work space. Automatic attachment downloads chew up bandwidth and time, so check with your recipient in advance about the best way to get large files to them.
Your Email Timing
Don’t leave others wondering whether their email correspondence reached you or not. Prompt replies are a professional standard. Even if you don’t have the time or the necessary information to respond to a sender’s request right now, a short note letting them know you’re on it – and when they can expect to hear from you again – is always appreciated.
If you plan to be unavailable to respond to your emails for a period of time, make a habit of using your messaging platform’s out-of-office reply feature. You can quickly set this tool to respond automatically to emails, alerting senders by way of a customized note when they can expect to hear from you, or who they can contact in your absence.
Despite what some digital-age users believe, email is not the be-all and end-all of business communications. There are times when live voice interaction – whether by phone, in person, or over VoIP – is the better approach.
This is especially true when circumstances call for persuasion, explanation, or apology - or when it’s time to (re)introduce a human element into your professional relations. Knowing when to use one communication form over another is a small but important part of running a successful business.
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