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Email Etiquette: 5 Ways to Respect Your Customers' Time

By Ryan Ayers, writer
Jan 29, 2019
Image Credit: TierneyMJ / Shutterstock
> Marketing

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!

So 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 dos 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. 

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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.

This isn't just important for when you're emailing customers, its also important for internal communications as well. Misunderstandings and even bullying and harassment in the workplace are all too common, and can take place over email. Keeping the office a safe and friendly place is absolutely crucial, and everyone needs to be aware of how their emails may be perceived by colleagues. 

Understand 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. 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. 

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. 

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 actually going to send. This method can prevent you from sending something you’ll regret that could ultimately tarnish your company’s or your own reputation.

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.


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Ryan Ayers
Ryan Ayers
See Ryan Ayers's Profile
Ryan Ayers has consulted a number of Fortune 500 companies within multiple industries including information technology and big data. After earning his MBA in 2010, Ayers also began working with start-up companies and aspiring entrepreneurs with a keen focus on sustainable scaling, professional development and business growth.
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