Taking Care of Busines... E-mail

By: Erwin Steneker

In this digital day and age, communicating through email is getting more and more important. This is of course also true for customer service and help desks.

Looking at the incoming stream of calls I see a growing trend of email communication.

Most companies have a protocol for handling telephone calls, but taking care of business email is clearly underestimated. I have assembled 12 valuable tips you can use directly to improve how you or your company is handling email.

1. Keep your customer in mind:

As with everything you do, keep your customer firmly in mind: Is this info appreciated? Is the tone of voice appropriate for this customer? Could the customer be offended? It is best to place yourself in front of the customer, as if you are face-to-face, talking to each other. Choose your words wisely. Format your email professionally.

2. Canalize your business email streams:

Customers are emailing you for many different reasons; they may have a sales question, or just wants some info, or have a complaint. By creating different mailboxes for the different streams customers can help you by selecting the most appropriate mailbox for their request. And they will do it, if you tell them that it will speed up the process (for them).

3. React quickly (within 8 hours):

Email is a fast medium. Customers expect a quick reaction when they use email. Same day response is the ABSOLUTE minimum, but to make a good impression you should make every effort to react within 8 hours. All the time. No exceptions.

4. Use auto responders:

Don't make customers guess whether the email they sent has arrived at your company.

Make use of auto responder technology to send a confirmation immediately.

5. Choose your subject wisely:

Customers are getting lots of email every day. They scan the subject field and from field to see what's of interest. So make sure your subject line attracts the customer, and doesn't look like a load of SPAM. So, do not use ALL CAPS or overuse exclamation points!!!!

6. Proper salutation:

Think of your customer: would he rather be greeted with "Hi Erwin!" or "Dear Mr. Steneker"? Don't fall in the trap of the fact that email feels informal. Choose a salutation that fits your customer.

7. Spell the customer's name correctly:

OK, I know this is an open door, but so many folks don't take the time and effort to properly spell the name of the customer. And a misspelling puts down customers FAST. Think how you feel when your name is spelled incorrectly.

8. Introduce yourself:

Remember tip #1? You have to put yourself in front of the customer. So what is the first thing you do when you meet a customer? You introduce yourself! Don't let your customer guess who he is "talking" to.

9. Format your email:

Email is mostly read on screen, so format your email accordingly. Use short sentences and plenty of white space. Also make sure that your text lines are a maximum of 60 characters wide, otherwise they may strangely be truncated, with one or two words flowing over to the next line.

10. Emails and Emotions:

Emails are notoriously bad for conveying emotions. If you feel it is appropriate for your customer, you can make use of so-called emoticons. Emoticons are combinations of letters and punctuations that are designed to show emotions. Here are some examples (Note that you have to tilt your head left to see it):

:-) Smile

:-P Extending tongue

:-( Sad

:'-( Crying

:-D Big smile

;-) Wink

8-) Cool

*<||:-{)} Santa Claus

Also, if you are upset about something, for instance you are receiving an email with a lot of swearing and other inappropriate language (in other words, you are flamed), don't react immediately; wait a while to clear your head, so you can react professionally.

11. Spell check every mail you send:

Email with spell checking errors is not only very annoying, they are very unnecessary. Every good email package offers a spell checking function. Most of them offer the possibility to do it automatically before sending. Do yourself a favour, and use it.

12. Don't SPAM(!):

Once your customer has contacted you, you've got hold of his email address. You may be tempted to use it to send other mails, perhaps to bring something to his or her attention. Even though the info may be totally on target for your customer, I urge you not to do it. It is called unsolicited email, also known as SPAM. Most customers do not think lightly about spam, it's a sure killer if you're trying to build up a relationship with your customer. Don't do it. Don't spam.

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