8 Tips for Email Communication That Gets a Timely Response
Updated: Jun 18, 2019
Intentional communication is imperative when working with virtual teams (and in person teams, and also emailing your mother).
The phone, email and sometimes instant message is the only way we have of collaborating since we are not working face to face. Which is why if our communication within these platforms – especially email – is scattered, the results you are getting from your teammates may be too.
Tone also has a big role to play.
Have you ever received a text or email thinking someone felt a certain way (mad, sad) when to find out later you completely misinterpreted their feelings? If you have a bad habit of a weird tone in your emails, your teammates could constantly think you are miserable, or mad, or on drugs.
Communicating with intent ensures that you are deliberate, clear and it minimizes mixed messages and confusion.
I can’t tell you how many times something as simple as an email has slowed down a task or project because someone failed to review the whole thing, or their email was too scattered.
Here are a few tips to communicating with intent with your virtual team (and everyone else, too):
1. Use Clear Subject Lines
Think of your subject line as a “label” for the email you are sending. So if you were to ever have to recall the email to review something, what would you search for in your email? The subject line should be specific, short and relevent.
Tip: If an email thread has taken on a different topic, either start a new email with a new subject line, or to keep the thread of previous communications, change the subject line to reflect what the topic has been morphed into.
Subject: Where would I find this???????
Subject: Janice Smith Contract Location
2. Give Good Information, Not the Kitchen Sink
When you are giving information, you need to really consider what is relevant and appropriate for what is being requested or communicated in your email. Keep it short, you don’t need a long background history unless there is a direct correlation to what is being asked. Think about the reader and what questions they would have – that information should be included. If you need to go deeper into any communication, move over to Instant Message or the phone. And leave a way for them to get further information if the topic warrants it.
Hi Joan: Here is the person’s contact information that I was talking about on the phone. Like I said, we went to University together. She used to be a bit flakey but I’m hoping that has changed. At one point she was interested in doing business with us, but it wasn’t the right timing or something if I can remember correctly. She was talking to Dave in Widgets, you may want to talk to him to get some background on what was discussed. If you could call her that would be great.
Here is Lindsay’s contact information – the woman who touched base with us about 2 years ago to inquire about our Widgets. Dave has notes in the CRM if that would be helpful. I’d like you to follow up by Tuesday if possible.
If you have any questions, give me a call.
Thanks very much,
3. Separate Your Topics and Ideas
As with labelling (subject lines), we should be specifics and deliberate. So ideally, different topics should have different labelled emails, however, sometimes a “round-up” style email can work. It’s important to separate topics and ideas with different lines, headers or bullet points. I also sometimes bold things that need to stand out like appointment dates or questions I need a response to.
Subject: Our Call
I know you wanted me to follow up with you. I spoke to John today about the XYZ account. He is looking to upgrade. I also called Vicky about the policy we discussed yesterday and she is out of the office on Fridays, I will call her on Monday. Do you have the contract for Dave? I’m going to create an invoice for Joe now since we have just past his cut-off time?
Subject: Follow Up to Our Call – January 5th
Here are a few things I wanted to follow up with as per our call yesterday:
Vicky has been contacted about our policy and I have left her a message. I expect to connect with her on Monday.
Joe is now past his cut off time. I will create an invoice.
Dave has contacted me about his contract. Can you please forward it to me when you have a chance?
John is looking to upgrade from his XYZ account. – Can you please forward me his last invoice so I can process?
Please send over the above 2 requests at your first opportunity.
Thanks so much!
4. Watch Your Tone
Things like !!!!!!!!! or ???????? or writing in ALL CAPS are neither professional nor help you get your point across effectively. It comes across as confused or angry and if you are either of those things, you should probably be having a phone conversation. Remember tone comes across differently via email. Make it clear, undramatic and precise. Don’t let your emotions bleed out on the computer.
Where are we keeping the Jaybird account files now??????? I looked everywhere and can’t find them!! I REALLY need them ASAP!!!
I’ve looked in our usual spots and can’t find the Jaybird account files. I have a quick deadline, can you let me know where they are?
Thanks so much,
5. Make Your Questions and Requests Clear
People are hurried, which may affect whether or not people actually read your whole darn email. How many times have you asked multiple questions, only to get an answer for 1 of them which causes you to send off another email, bang your head on the desk and feel like a pest? Make your questions or requests clear and concise.
We’ve received the paperwork. Where is the location? How many people? Do you have a key?? How will I know when you are there?
Thanks for the paperwork!
Here is what I need from you:
The address of the location you would like to have the function.
How many people are you expecting?
Do you have a key? If not, will you be requesting one?
Please let me know what time you plan on attending and where I can meet you.
6. Think 2 Steps (or more) Ahead
To minimize the sometimes painful back and forth that comes with email, think a few steps ahead. What will the person require as their next step? Can I give it to them now and save an email, or two or three?
Bob is available on Tuesday and Friday at 9am. Will that work for you?
Great, I will book you in for Tuesday at 9am. What number can he reach you on?
Thank you for your number. Here is a form that you can print and fill out before your appointment.
Here are a few options that Bob has available:
Tuesday, January 5th at 9am ET
Friday, January 8th at 9am ET
Please let me know if either will work for you. If not, kindly suggest an alternate time.
When responding please let me know the best number to reach you on at that time.
I have also attached a form that Bob will need filled out before your appointment. You can bring it with you.
Thanks in advance,
7. Professionalism is Key
It doesn’t matter who you’re emailing. If it’s headed into the internet stratosphere and it’s coming from a business email, it needs to reflect the values of the company. Period. Many people act differently behind a keyboard than they would in person or on the phone. There is a false veil of unaccountability that sometimes happens via a keyboard. Slang and crappy/nasty behaviour should be avoided. Remember, your emails are records. Your name will always be attached to them. Be polite. If you can’t be, pick up the phone and try it that way. Save the WTF’s for text messages to your pals.
8. Quick Review Email
As a quality control method, quick review all email before you send it. Eyeball it, fix anything that doesn’t make sense or where the tone could be perceived incorrectly. Will your grammar always be perfect? Probably not (although Grammarly is cool to help with this), but you are looking for the best clear and concise email you can send.
All of this seems pretty simple, yes? It is!
Bring awareness to your email communications this week and where any bottlenecks are. Where are you wasting time?
Speaking of….what shape is your inbox in?
Is it dysfunctional and disorganized? Do you have hundreds of emails sitting in your inbox? Does it take forever just to find anything? Do emails slip through the cracks?
I am launching a free mini-course called Tight Ship Email Management next week. Subscribe to our weekly strategy list to be reminded when it launches!
In this free mini-training:
I will show you how to configure your inbox to save time and money.
I will explain how the more emails you answer the less money you will make.
I will show you how to create a triage system to prioritize and increase your efficiency and client experience.
I will show you how to get to Inbox Zero in less than 30 minutes, even if you have 10,000 emails in your inbox.
I’ll give you a few cheat-sheets to become a serious inbox expert.
See you then!