Sunday, July 15, 2007

Make Your Email Say More

As a small business owner, you probably depend on email to maximize your productivity and keep tabs on all the balls you have in the air. But email is more than an efficiency tool. Because it’s one of the ways your business “touches” customers, consider email content as seriously as you would any other element of your business’s communications.

In our modern cyberworld, where we increasingly interact in a virtual landscape rather than face-to-face, the little things you do to convey your small business’s personality can have a lasting impression on your customers. Conveying humanness in your customer service correspondence helps your business stand out. Conscientious electronic communication builds loyalty by making customers feel good about interacting with your business.

Alternatively, being casual about email can make a bad impression or cause an unintended negative consequence. From a management standpoint, you may be pleased at how many quick responses your business can churn out in a day. But what does such efficiency matter to your customers? Your brief, to-the-point emails might convey indifference or disregard to them.

Consider creating a company policy that sets standards for email correspondence and shows your employees how email fits into the business’s communications strategy. Here are some suggestions to get you started.

Use a descriptive subject line.
Title emails in a way that encourages your customer to trust it and want to open it. Phrases such as “Our answer to your product question,” “We need your help regarding your order,” or “Following up on our conversation,” create a friendly tone right away.

Greet customers personally.
Include salutations in emails. If “Dear Jane,” makes you bristle, consider “Hello Jane,” instead.

Use an appropriate tone.
If you’re a professional service firm, employees should be instructed to use a formal tone that reinforces the business image. If you’re a whimsical e-commerce company, encourage corporate emails to be lighter and friendly.

Include contact information.
At the close of each email, be sure your customers can readily reach you by phone if necessary. Invite them to contact you personally. Employees should sign emails with their first and last names as well as their titles.

Share appreciation.
Your company is gaining access to the customers’ in-box and gaining an audience. Reinforce how valuable the customer is; say thank you.

Clearly state what’s off-limits in email content.
It should go without saying that business emails should be free of slang, profanity, and negative comments about company employees, products, or services. Nevertheless, state it in your company policy and let employees know that there will be consequences for violations.

Check spelling and use proper grammar.
Poorly written email letters and frequent misspellings make your company look unprofessional. Some employees may have consistent trouble crafting grammatically correct emails or spelling correctly; make it a company policy for managers to proofread emails for individuals who need extra help.

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