The advent of the pandemic in 2020 has affected nearly all aspects of our personal lives. This is also the case for many of us with respect to our work lives with an increase seen in the number of professionals who are continuing to work remotely.
In the current work environment, information exchanges are more apt to take place via written communication, so now is a good time to review and refresh the way to approach communications, specifically with clients. With fewer in-person meetings, it can be easy to fall into a more conversational style of communication over email. And while that style may be appropriate for some communications, (such as via Slack or a text) it is imperative to not carry that style over to important emails, that is, those that are intended to communicate crucial information.
While some of the content might seem obvious, you could be surprised to see what might be omitted or unclear in some of the email communications you have received or sent recently.
Client Communication Examples
Below are a few examples of the types of email communications you might have with clients.
- Pre-Sale Activities – Such the Statement of Work, Proposal, Pricing, etc.
- Project Kickoff Meeting (client or internal)
- Project Status Updates
- Follow-up/checking in
- Related to the project
- Client specific – future work, personal
Effective Email Communications: Do’s
Thinking through what information you want to communicate is key in setting the stage for how you will structure your email.
- Identify Your Audience – Client or internal
- Will direct you on how to structure the email content
- Will determine the tone of the email content – professional or casual
- Select the Right Method of Communication – Email communication meets the need for most types of communications, but if the subject matter is sensitive or complicated, a phone call or in-person meeting might be the best means of delivery.
- Set Up – Determine what you want to communicate
- Identify the objective of the email
- Proactively gather/provide information you feel is needed to alleviate follow-up questions or confusion
- State any action items for the email recipient(s)
- Use the Subject Line to Your Advantage
- Clearly identify what the email is about
- Include action words (if needed): Example: “Review Required – Document Draft”
- Be Succinct – Don’t bury the lead communication and don’t over explain
- Think about what you want to know and determine what additional information will help to get your message across to the recipient.
- Structure the email in such a way that you make it easy for the recipient(s) to understand your message clearly, or exactly what you are asking if you need a response (if you want a response from a specific party, mention the person(s) by name).
- If there are multiple items included in the email, provide the items in the order of importance, or list those items which require a response first such that you are able to move forward.
- For client communications, is it likely that the email might be forwarded to other client stakeholders? Make it easy for the client to forward to others without having to “scrub” the email for extraneous information.
Effective Email Communications: Don’ts
As you might expect, the don’ts really are the opposite of the do’s, but are worth mentioning here.
- Don’t use the subject line as the entire email
- Some find it annoying to receive an email with no body
- Don’t assume the recipient of the email will read the full email chain
- Summarize the relevant content of the prior email if needed
- Call out the relevant content from the prior email chain
- Don’t make answering your email difficult
- Do as much work as possible before engaging the client (and internal parties)
- Don’t deliver information that might be considered surprising without a heads up
- Determine if this communication should be delivered via email
- Don’t distribute communications outside of an established approved “chain” without permissions
- Ask permission from the client to share or provide project details with stakeholder/employee from another area of the company
Employing the same steps outlined previously will also bolster the effectiveness of your internal communications!
Written by Vicki Wheatley, Senior Director at Big Village Insights.