If you run an online business or at least do a portion of your work online, you are likely doing a lot of your communication via email. When email communication goes poorly, it can cost your business and waste a lot of time. Here are a few quick tips to keep your email communication professional and your customer happy.

  1. Answer quickly. Even if their email requires more research on your part, send the sender an email as soon as you read their email to let you know that you are on it. People are a lot more patient when they know they are just waiting and not being ignored.
  2. Write intelligently. Most email programs have a setting that forces the email through spell check before you send it and I highly recommend it. But beyond spelling words correctly, reread your email from grammar as well as clarity before you send it out. There are many mistakes spell check won’t see so read your email out loud to make sure it reads easily. Even if you are offering wonderful customer service, if it isn’t clear to your customer what you are saying, it can result in misunderstanding and anger. As for grammar, that is just an issue of professionalism.
  3. Give the benefit of the doubt. Don’t assume the sender is wrong or to blame. To start with, be very careful with the tone of your email. If the sender has a problem, don’t go on the offensive and attack. Emotions can be hard to read over email so be sure your meaning is clear and that you do not come off as sarcastic, mocking or something other than you intend. Misunderstandings do happen on both sides of a business transaction.
  4. Respect the sender. In addition to keeping a respectful tone in your emails, respect what the sender is saying in their email (read the whole thing and make sure you understand what they are saying) and also who they are. DO NOT ASSUME GENDER. Seriously. You should address your reply to whatever appellation they signed their message with. Do not improvise articles (Mr, Mrs, Ms, etc) or gender specific terms (“Sorry, sir”) unless you are 100% certain that you know the sender’s gender. Also, and this is something I run into all the time, spell the customer’s name correctly. Hillary is not the same as Hilary or Hillarie or whatever other spelling you make up. Hillary is also not the same as Heather, Heidi or whatever other H name you might think is an interchangeable substitute. Make it a habit to just copy and paste the sender’s name from the original email to avoid misspellings, mis-namings or other issues. 
  5. Understand the implications of putting something in writing. When you send an email, there is a permanent record of what you said. This is not something to take lightly. It is never a good idea to fire off an email without considering the long time affect of those words.

What other tips would you add to this list?