Keys to Effective Email Communications

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Being a marketing company, we’re usually concerned about how our clients communicate with their customers as a means of broadening awareness and increasing their bottom line. But to do that effectively, we need to operate at a high level with our internal communications as well.

Effective communication isn’t just for keeping your business running efficiently. It helps to prevent potential tensions between co-workers, clients, or customers, particularly through misunderstandings that can happen so easily in electronic communications.

When you communicate without the luxury of face-to-face contact, language is a completely different animal, and can seem to communicate something totally different than what you meant. Take the following Key & Peele skit (beware: f-bombs are aplenty, so it may not be safe for work).

Punctuation matters! Why?!? Because you may be misunderstood. This may be more of a personal pet peeve, as I know many people do this, but don’t use multiple exclamation points and/or question marks unless the issue warrants the heightened emotion that you are conveying.

While it’s something that many people do, multiple question marks convey panic, irritation, and maybe even a little condescension, depending on the context.

Of course, there are exceptions, depending on the dynamics between you and your co-workers or clients. An exception may be the informal happy closing (thanks!!!), though I would generally reserve that for co-workers and friends.

Try to keep emails to one subject. Not all issues related to effective email communications have to do with healthy relationships and company morale. Say, for instance, you have multiple issues or tasks you’re communicating about with a co-worker. It’s really easy to shift gears in the middle of the communications and bring up a separate topic. This may very well have little or no negative impact, but sometimes, if you mix up subjects in a single email, it can be a little more challenging to retrieve the information, requiring someone to go back through their email.

Avoid emoticons, but not always. Conventional wisdom dictates that emoticons are unprofessional and should be reserved for personal interactions. While that’s true to some extent, I find that, occasionally, a simple smiley face can change the entire dynamic of an email, and avoid a potential misunderstanding. A sentence that may sound like you’re upset or concerned can be softened with a simple smiley face. When communicating with clients or customers, you usually want to err on the side of avoiding emoticons, but there’s no right answer here. You just need to use your own judgement based on the kind of relationship you have with the email recipient.

Don’t be in a rush. Before you hit the send button, give your email another glance or two. I’m often guilty of over-analyzing my communications, but I’d rather that than be nonchalant. For one, you want to catch typos or grammatical errors to avoid looking unprofessional, but also to make sure you are conveying your message the way you want it to be interpreted. Another common mistake? Sending emails to the wrong person due to email autocomplete. Slow down and be sure to look at the names of the people you are sending your communications to.

The cost of misunderstandings. If you’re in a management position where you are giving others direction in their daily work, it’s vital that you communicate clearly with them what they are tasked to do. If not, it could cost your company dearly.

In 2008, global analyst firm IDC researched the issue of employee misunderstandings and their financial impact on 400 businesses in the US and the UK. They found that human error, actions by employees who have either misunderstood or misinterpreted company policies, cost companies about $37 billion every year.

The moral of the story? There’s more at stake than hurt feelings when it comes to communications with your staff and clients. Clear, concise communications can improve both your business and personal interactions. When it comes to improving communications with your employees and clients, everyone benefits. 

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