Email Etiquette for Professionals
Career

Email Etiquette in the Workplace: How to Optimize Your Communication with Clients

Your email etiquette in the workplace says a lot about you as a professional, regardless of whether that work space is at home or an office. 

You can offer the best service or product in your niche, but if your emails suck, you’re going to lose customers. Corresponding with your clients via email is customer service, whether you view it that way or not. How your client perceives your emails directly impacts their overall experience with your brand.

The challenge lies in the fact that you can’t see your customer or gauge how they are construing your emails. So you must craft your responses in such a way to optimize your chances that they are met with a positive reception.

Before we delve into specific responses, let’s start with the basics. Here are the Dos and Don’ts of email etiquette in the workplace:

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Do begin with a greeting

It’s good form to always start with a greeting. A simple “hello”, “hi”, or “good afternoon” will suffice, but skipping it altogether can come across as rude.

Don’t speak in abbreviated form or caps

WHEN YOU TYPE IN ALL CAPS IT READS LIKE YOU’RE YELLING. It just looks really unprofessional. It’s as if you couldn’t be bothered to take the caps lock off.

Also, write in full sentences. Writing your sentences as though they are bullet points or a text message sounds abrupt, unprofessional, and even rude.

“Will call u next week.”

Vs.

“I can call you next week to discuss.”

See the difference?

But don’t get overly verbose, either

Avoid jargon and lengthy words. It won’t impress your client and just makes you sound inauthentic. Speak plainly and concisely!

Do always sign off – and include your phone number in your signature

“Sincerely”, “best regards”, or even “cheers”, can be an appropriate closing depending on the client. Always include a professional-looking signature that includes your website address and phone number. (There is nothing more frustrating to a client who would like to call you but can’t find your phone number anywhere!)

Don’t email when its should be a phone call

If you’re drafting an email and its ten paragraphs long, it needs to be a phone call. If it’s a time sensitive matter, then it needs to be a phone call. The only reason you should be sending an email in these circumstances is to set up a time and date for said phone call.

Do be proactive

If you know your client is expecting word from you regarding a matter, don’t leave them hanging or let them chase you for answers. Even if you don’t have the answer yet, send them an email to let them know your progress, and that you are still working on it. Include a time and date you can commit to delivering the answer by.

Don’t skip the proofread

This is doubly true if you have to send emails from your phone. (In fact I would recommend not emailing from your phone, but I get that sometimes that’s not an option.) That autocorrect function on your iPhone can be your undoing, if you’re not careful!

There’s nothing more embarrassing than hitting “send” on an email only to realize you wrote “I’ll review the cocoa” instead of “I’ll review the contract.” (Actually, I’m sure you can probably think of more embarrassing typos than that if you gave it some thought.)

There is no excuse for typos or grammatical errors. If proofreading isn’t your strong suit, download a program like Grammarly that will catch most of the mistakes for you. (It’s even free!)

Do be mindful of your punctuationEmail etiquette for professionals: important whether you work from home or an office!

Keep in mind that how your client construes your words can become skewed by the tiniest detail in your punctuation.

For example, let’s look at the same three sentences with different punctuation:

“Thank you for your business…” The ellipses here is unsettling. It’s a pause that almost seems ominous, or insincere. Here’s an easy rule to remember: The number of times you should use ellipses in your emails is zero.

Thank you for your business.” Proper punctuation. There’s nothing wrong with this sentence, but depending on the context it might seem a bit abrupt.

Thank you for your business!” An explanation point shows enthusiasm. However, be careful with this too because overusing exclamation points in your emails can feel over-the-top and insincere.

Responding appropriately to each situation

Depending on what you’re replying to your client about, you may need to craft your response carefully. Check out these three strategies for optimal email etiquette in the workplace:

Troubleshooting

The reality is, there are times when you can’t give the client good news. But you can still put a positive spin on a negative situation. Your response should always include:

  1. Acknowledgement of the problem: customers want to know that they’ve been heard. Always start your email by respectfully acknowledging their issue.
  2. An explanation: An explanation behind why the issue occurred shows that you cared enough to investigate the problem. Be careful with this though, keep it factual and make sure you aren’t using a defensive tone.
  3. A solution: Instead of just ending with, “I apologize for the inconvenience”, close instead with the action you will take to resolve the issue.

For example:

Good afternoon (Client Name),

I am sorry to hear that you have not received your package yet. I called the courier, and they have been experiencing delays due to the inclement weather in your area.

We apologize for the inconvenience. I have the courier’s assurance that the package will be delivered to you by tomorrow. I will personally check on it tomorrow morning to confirm it is out for delivery.

Sincerely,

(Your name)

Follow-ups

It’s not uncommon to send an email to a client only to be met with silence. When this happens, it’s generally for one of two reasons:

  1. They’re busy and haven’t gotten around to it
  2. They’re not sure how to respond

When this happens, it’s time for the follow up email. Keep it concise and easy to answer.

Hi (Client Name),

Reaching out again to see if you’ve had a moment to review the contract. If you have questions, I would be happy to jump on a ten minute call anytime on Wednesday morning. Please let me know what works for you. 

Sincerely,

(Your name)

Thank-You Emails

When it comes to email etiquette in the workplace, many busy professionals underestimate the power of a thank-you email. Even if they are long-time clients of yours, it doesn’t hurt to let them know from time to time that you appreciate their business. At the close of any project, contract, or transaction, always follow up with an email to authentically thank them for their business.

Good afternoon (Client Name),

Just sending you a quick note to let you know the contract has been completed as scheduled. Thank you so much for your business, and please do not hesitate to let us know if there is anything else I can assist with!

Cheers,

(Your name)

Isn’t that so much better than just vanishing from your client’s inbox at the end of a job? And you’ve given them a call to action to reach out for more business.

Email etiquette in the workplace: a hidden art form

You can still maintain your professionalism while infusing some personality into your emails. Your clients want to know that you’re human too! So don’t be afraid to throw in a witticism here and there if you have the opportunity to make them smile.

If all else fails, read over your email and put yourself in your client’s shoes. How would you feel if you received this email?

What are your thoughts about email etiquette in the workplace? Shout out in the comments!

Related: The Top 3 Career Mistakes to Avoid

Corrie Alexander is an ISSA certified personal trainer, home fitness advocate, and founder of The Fit Careerist. A proponent of personal growth and a self-proclaimed fitness app-junkie, Corrie shares tips and product reviews with the goal of helping others on their own fitness journey.

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