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Email Etiquette: 10 Ways to Respect Your Customers’ Time

Skye Schooley
Skye Schooley
Staff writer
business.com Staff
Updated Sep 07, 2022

Following proper etiquette in customer communications will build trust and loyalty.

When it comes to digital marketing, it’s hard to beat the raw power of email to connect with customers and get a lot of value out of your marketing dollars. With that said, no one likes to get rude, tone-deaf or inconsiderate emails. We’ve all been known to hit the unsubscribe button on more than one occasion.

How do you prevent your customers from doing the same to you? You’ll want to practice proper email etiquette and be considerate of your customers’ preferences, time and attention. Aside from following any spam laws, there are more subtle do’s and don’ts for business emails, especially when you’re trying to connect with customers.

Here’s what you need to know about email etiquette and why it’s so important to think before you hit that send button.

1. Reread your emails.

This might sound obvious, but the first principle of email etiquette is to reread your emails before you send them. This isn’t just about preventing typos (though those errors can be embarrassing and send the wrong message!), it’s also about clarity and politeness. Sometimes, we write something that is perceived as rude by others when that wasn’t the intent at all. Keeping the office a safe and friendly place is crucial, and everyone needs to be aware of how their emails may be perceived by colleagues.

FYIFYI: Taking the time to reread your emails is the best way to be respectful of your customers’ time. If you cannot understand your emails in terms of message or tone, neither can your customers.

One way you can be sure you have reread your emails before sending them is to put the recipient’s email address in last. This gives you time to craft the right message without the possibility of accidentally sending the email before you are ready. If you are replying to an email, simply delete the address from the email, write and edit your text, and then repopulate the address when you are ready to hit send.

2. Understand (and cater to) your audience.

Etiquette changes depending on who you’re speaking to. Different audiences have their own preferences and perceptions. For example, cultural differences can have a huge impact on what is considered rude and what isn’t. Age plays a role as well.

What’s considered professional will change quite a bit depending on who you’re trying to reach. If your business has a fun and sassy brand voice, then that’s what’s expected from your email communications to customers. What about when you’re emailing the CFO of that same company? Clear and professional is the way to go. Think of it this way: It’s not rude to be informal to a good friend of yours. But it would be inappropriate to communicate the same way with an executive you don’t know or a police officer. Know your audience when you’re speaking, and when you’re writing.

3. Train new employees.

The ways we communicate are changing, and while learning on the job is important for some skills, communication is so crucial that all new employees should be trained on proper email etiquette. This is especially important for younger employees who may have mostly communicated via text message in the past rather than email. There are lots of guides available for improving business communications, and just about everyone can benefit from brushing up on these concepts. There will always be some missteps along the way, but taking the time to prevent as many of them as possible can be very beneficial.

4. Respond in a timely fashion.

You may be busy, but it is important to respond to emails in a timely manner. If you know you won’t be able to address a lengthy email for a long period of time, consider sending a quick reply to let them know that you have received their request and a time frame for when you will get around to it.

If possible, it is best practice to respond to every email, even if you think the email wasn’t meant for you. If this is the case, you can simply reply letting them know that you think they may have reached the wrong person – this way they are aware that they need to resend the email to the proper address.

If you get a lot of customer emails that are difficult to quickly respond to, you may want to set up some email automation that allows you to send an automatic response letting them know you have received their email and will respond in a timely fashion. This will at least let them know they message went through successfully.

TipTip: If you are going to be out of the office, leaving your inbox unattended, be sure to set up your “out of office” reply to inform others of who to contact in an emergency.

5. Don’t write emails when you’re upset.

We’ve all had moments of anger when we’ve wanted to say exactly what was on our mind right then and there. While it can be cathartic to write emails when you’re upset, resist the urge to send them. If you really can’t wait to cool down before typing out your feelings, write them in a document that’s not attached to your email. You can blow off some steam and calm down before you write the email you’re going to send. This method can prevent you from sending something you’ll regret that could ultimately tarnish you or your company’s reputation.

6. Remember, email is powerful.

Out of all the types of digital marketing and in-office communications, email is the most intimate. It is powerful and can contain a lot of nuance whether we want it to or not. It’s so important to think about how your messages will be perceived. If you’re not sure, think about how you’d feel if you received the email. Would you be annoyed? Offended? Hurt? If you’re still not sure if a message is appropriate, asking someone else for their opinion can be very helpful. Email etiquette is deceptively simple. But it’s a difficult skill to master, and one that everyone should learn for smooth, effective and respectful communication in the workplace.

7. Keep it simple.

One important thing to remember if you want to respect your customers within your email communications is to keep it simple. Given that most people get tens, if not hundreds of emails daily. Sending long, drawn-out emails is a great way to waste your customers’ time. Be sure to create emails that are succinct and include only the necessary information.

8. Include accurate subject lines.

According to Selling Power, another thing you can do to be respectful of your customers and their time with your email communications is to create accurate email subject lines. If you are using subject lines that are misleading, unclear or irrelevant to the matter at hand, you are only wasting your customers’ time. To fix this, you need to be sure your subject lines are as clear and specific as possible.

Did you know?Did you know? The average email open rate is only 21.3%. This emphasizes the importance of clear, accurate subject lines.

9. Maintain a personal touch.

Additionally, Selling Power also asserts that no matter what the subject of your email is, maintaining a personal touch is important to making your customers feel comfortable and safe. By starting with a simple greeting, such as “Hi”, “Hello”, Hey there”, etc. You can start to establish a rapport and eliminate feelings of distrust or other negative feelings.

10. Know when to “reply all” – and when not to.

Understand the proper etiquette that comes with replying to all participants on an email thread. We’ve all been there – stuck in an infinite email thread that has nothing to do with us. This behavior can needlessly fill up everyone’s inbox, causing frustration. In general, it is best to use “reply all” sparingly. Some instances you may want to reply all are if there are other members on cc that need to remain included in your reply, other people on the email may have the same question as you, or you are told to reply all.

Image Credit:

kerkez / Getty Images

Skye Schooley
Skye Schooley
business.com Staff
Skye Schooley is a staff writer at business.com and Business News Daily, where she has written more than 200 articles on B2B-focused topics including human resources operations, management leadership, and business technology. In addition to researching and analyzing products that help business owners launch and grow their business, Skye writes on topics aimed at building better professional culture, like protecting employee privacy, managing human capital, improving communication, and fostering workplace diversity and culture.