Are you making a great impression with your emails?

Are you making a great impression with emails?
Emails are one of the top three, and sometimes in the top two, ways governments communicate with their clientele. Emails play a key role in creating a great customer experience and are pivotal in providing quick information that is technically accurate.
Here are some easy things you should keep in mind when communicating via email.
Technical Accuracy Considerations:
It is much more difficult to communicate via email than via telephone because of the inability to ask clarification questions in real time.
  • If it is unclear what the person is asking, a response could be sent including both a request for clarification and a response based on what the customer is likely asking.
  • If the question requires a detailed or complex response, the person reviewing the email should consider contacting the requestor via phone.
  • If there is more than one question, be sure to answer each of the questions.
Customer Experience Considerations:
  • Emails to external customers should be in a formal style, as are official letters
    • Formal style refers to using a proper greetings, closings, and contact info
    • Greeting: “Dear Sir or Madam”; “Dear Mr. Smith”
    • Closing statement: “Please feel free to contact us again if you have any questions or would like additional information.”
    • Contact information: formal signature block include first and last name, title, agency, phone number and web site (if applicable)
  • Thank requestor for the email
    • Start the body of the email with a statement that shows you appreciate being contacted and are ready to assist
  • Always proofread/edit before sending
  • Use Out-Of-Office Assistant when you are out for a day or more
Detailed email SOPs and tip sheets can be created for your agency with these core concepts as the starting point. If you need any help, let me know!

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Teresa Lynn Zell

Thank you for the reminder of the important roll that e-mails play in creating a great customer experience. The few extra moments it takes to draft a proper email will save much time and frustration for all parties involved. This step will help in creating an atmosphere of cooperation between members of the emails.

Will Saunders

Here are a few of my own that I preach often:

Don’t presume a person’s intent. In personal, face-to-face conversation, you have body language, facial expression, tone and inflection, volume, and other verbal cues to tell you the other person’s mood and message meaning. An email is written text that should be considered just words, without further confirmation or clarification of the sender’s meaning.

Be mindful of the ‘REPLY TO ALL’ function. In some cases, this is an essential feature and should be used. But most of the time, it is a nuisance. Some dialogue is meant for just two people not the entire team.

If you receive an email seeking information, instructions, or other guidance and you do not have a complete answer, provide a short answer immediately just to let the other person know you will get back to them shortly. It is poor customer service to leave someone waiting while you research the answer for them. They do not know that you’re checking and will get back to them. To them, it appears that you’re either ignoring them or are inefficient. In addition, if the message asks a question or seeks information and it was sent to several people, do not assume that one of the other people will handle it. They may assume the same of you. If nothing else, you can ask your colleague if they saw the email and whether they can answer it. If you know the answer – particularly if the topic is in line with your area of expertise, go ahead and take care of it.

Try to make your message as succinct as possible. There is no need to write three or four paragraphs when just a sentence or two will suffice. Likewise, do not just write a few words when a more thorough response is needed.

Lastly, at work, your emails are considered an official record and will always represent not only you personally but also the organization. Be sure that you always maintain a professional and respectful tone. Many an email has been subpoenaed and use in both criminal and civil court cases. Unlike going to a file cabinet and shredding paper, an email is forever. Once you send it, it will never go away, even if it is deleted. If you receive an email that is upsetting or makes you very angry, go for a walk and get some fresh air before replying. You may even want to have a co-worker read it before you send it to help ensure you’re not sending back a message with as much fire as the one you received.

Jana Opperman

If it’s an important communication-save paper-don’t print it out-save it to a file in your computer-archives. Someone once had a great idea with “Open Government” to make many files open to the public so they can go and get whatever OPRA information they want and free up personel to do regulatory or other out reach assignments. But in the DEP all emails are archived (be careful how you say things!) and why waste paper and hard copy file space? It’s a little step toward being more green with saving a little more of the environment and with money and increasing efficiency.

Steven W. Oxman

The signature of an email should be succinct, yet complete. The people receiving your email will have your email address. But other communication contact information should be given, as appropriate. In my signature, my mailing address and my office phone number are provided. Below that, any appropriate marking like “For Official Use Only” need to be provided. Lastly, I prefer to keep the signature simple and in text only format without the use of specialized colors, fonts, graphics, or quotes. I treat emails just like I treat official memos and letters.