A few years ago, I wrote a well received blog on email etiquette. This was pre-Covid. I think the time near the end of Covid restrictions and especially now, post-Covid, the tone of emails has sharply declined.
To be serious about awesome service, it starts with the intricate details. The following is my original blog post, with some edits…
If People in Business Spoke Like They Write Emails
I am a huge advocate for transforming how people write emails in the West.
There seems to be a school of thought that writing nice emails filled with softeners (see further below) are either, (1) an unnecessary, inefficient waste of time, (2) not professional, and (3) only for underlings, not important people.
I do not buy it. Emails are still used more than texts or phone these days, and if people spoke on the phone the way they write emails, it would be rude.
It certainly would not create an aura of awesome service in your company. You have all heard it said, “how you do one thing, is how you do everything.” And we have come to tolerate abrupt emails as if that is acceptable.
Here is an example of a pared-down efficient email I could send to a client:
Attached fs for Dec 23.
Here is it gussied up a wee bit:
Attached fs for Dec 23.
Now, this is the “awesome service” version:
Good morning, John,
I hope you are having a great start to the week…
Please find attached your Financial Statements for December 2023.
Kindly let me know if you have any questions at all.
Thank you John and I am looking forward to talking soon,
Its true that it takes a few seconds longer to type the third email. However, how it is received by your customer/client is night and day. And how does it make you feel writing it? For me, it feels uplifting to add softeners.
Kenya versus Canada
My wife and I have spent a lot of time in Kenya, Africa and I have noticed how polite and gracious all the emails are written there in business. They are a bit more formal than what we write in the West yet filled with kind softeners.
Here is an example (real email redacted) from a businessperson in Nairobi:
I am grateful for your swift response, and I hope that you have had a good start to the day.
I wish to confirm that I am a full CPA, MBA (finance), and BComm (accounting) with 21 years experience in both the private and non-profit sector…
[the email goes on from there and ends with….]
Looking forward to hearing from you…
The reason Kenyan emails are much softer and more gracious has to do with cultural differences. In Africa, relationships are more important than tasks. In the West, we are much more task-focussed and less relationship-centric. However, what about awesome service?
Softeners are Crucial in Email
Softeners are words that add “tone” to emails that are toneless. They are words and phrases like:
- Good morning/afternoon/evening
- Hello (versus “hi”)
- Thank you
- I was wondering if…
- Would you mind if…
- I hope you had a great weekend/day/holiday
- Welcome back (from your holiday, time off etc.)
- I hope you are feeling better (if they were sick)
Use their name once in while.
Do not use too many emojis (one happy face or two maximum per email).
All the above inject a soft, friendly tone into your emails.
A Way to Create Awesome Service
A lot of businesses talk the talk about awesome service and claim to provide it. Remember this though, awesome service is in the details. It is in the littlest of things.
And how you email, text, and answer the phone in business will be the greatest indicator of how your culture operates.
In fact, in the spirit of “how you do one thing is how you do everything” consider that this will be even more indicative of how your culture is if you email/message/talk on the phone in the same way you would to your external customers to ALL internal Team members, including suppliers.
To train yourself for awesome internal communications, just imagine your clients are listening in on ALL those internal communications.
It Will Transform Your Own Mindset
There is a great side benefit to writing with softeners – you will feel great! It is always what we generate in life that creates how we feel, not how others treat us.
What Not to Do
Regarding awesome email communications there are a few never-do’s:
- Process your emotions in an email or text (especially when upset)
- Say anything that you could regret later
- Use it for negotiations
If upset, get on the phone, or meet in person. My personal rule is – Never email/text when upset. It will not go well! It will go back-and-forth until either the communication is broken or one of you picks up the phone.
How We Got Here
If you look at how people post on Facebook (with exceptions of course), they use a lot of softeners and emotional words. They would never post on Facebook the way they may write curt, unemotional, tone-dead emails.
In my research what I discovered are two schools of thought – (1) my school of thought, where softeners are liberally used to create a message of caring, awesome service, and, (2) the Fortune 100 Executive school of thought, where softeners are seen as weak, and a waste of time.
The rationale for the Fortune 100 School of Email Writing is this – “I am important, and I do not have time to waste with sprinkling softeners throughout my emails. And, frankly, I really could care less what you think of me, or what I am saying” because I am an Executive.
Here is my final bit of advice – be yourself, and if too many softeners seem like a waste of time and inauthentic for you, then try just adding 2-4 words that lift the dry tone of an email.
Start with “please” and “thank you,” and “hello, instead of “hi”” …and see how it goes!
Thank you for reading…