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September 10, 2012 (Updated: January 25, 2023)
Your workday has been extremely busy. No matter what you do, you can’t seem to keep up with your inbox or the piling papers on your desk. Despite the frenzied day, it seems like nothing has actually been accomplished. As soon as you find the time to catch up on your to-do list, –Ding– your inbox is suddenly filled with emails from clients. As if you’re not already dealing with chaos; now you’ll need to address & respond to your clients’ concerns.
What to do? Take a deep breath; rather than stressing about the sudden time-loss spent composing emails, focus on the needs of your clients, and keeping them happy. The last thing you want to do is ignore the client. However, your response email needs to be well written, and should not be “templated,” or written on your phone while walking to the elevator. Drafting a client email without your full attention can be disastrous. Emails can often be misconstrued to sound cold and impersonal. Since you are not verbally speaking to the client you have to carefully choose which words you use. To avoid a near disaster with a client, here are the top five things to never say in an email.
Never tell a client that your business “offers everything.” Don’t promise the moon and the stars to your clients unless you are actually willing and able to deliver. Although closing the sale might be your main focus, promising the world to your client whether you can deliver or not is an opportunity for trouble and loss of trust. Also, by saying “we can do it all” you might actually be persuading the client to purchase something you really did not want to(or cannot) sell. So watch out!
To stay on track with deadlines it’s best to schedule a weekly conference check-up call or just a quick Skype call with your clients. While it’s important to be available for your clients, you should still establish some boundaries. Make sure that your clients know your business hours, and be firm about calling your cell phone only during specific times or in case of absolute emergency. Once your client starts calling your personal number all hours of the night or on the weekend, that pattern can be challenging to break. Or worse, you could seem unreliable if you don’t answer – no matter what time of day it is.
Oh boy, even though the client has hired you to do their work, the last thing you should say in an email is that you are the expert. This is just not good business practice and should be avoided in any situation. Being a know-it-all is a sure way to lose a client (and colleagues too).
Instead of claiming your expertise, try a different approach in your emails. Give the client options and maybe state that you feel “Option A” would be more efficient for achieving results “xyz.” You never know how opened-minded your client might be and maybe they will be willing to collaborate with you, and compromise.
Personally I have seen many situations where an error or mistake occurred at the fault of the client. In one particular instance a client did not send their completed order for a project. The order that they requested was completed, but unbeknownst to us, they wanted another order that they forgot to send. This error resulted in a late delivery for the “forgotten order.” It’s important to be professional and address any errors with a problem-solving attitude.
Regardless of who is to blame, you should never point fingers. Take responsibility for the situation and move on. Email the client and let them know that your project is completed but next time around the work will be done correctly and completed on time. There is not much you can do. If the same error occurs repeatedly, maybe you need to delve deeper and work on preventing the problem, rather than fixing it. Ask yourself, “Why is this mistake being made?” For example, if the problem happens every time the client places a new order, maybe the UI for your software is not as intuitive as you thought. Or if the client adds a new order and doesn’t click “save” or “submit” the order is not processed. Another option would be adding a better notification system to alert the customer that their “order is not processed until you click submit” or pop-up warning as the customer exits the browser window. Work with your clients over the phone when they process their order and see which steps are causing the problem. Amazing customer service is the key to acquiring and retaining clients.
If you respond to a client’s email telling them that you can finish their project as soon as they’d want, you are setting yourself up for disaster. If you let the client know that you are on bended knees waiting for them, then this is what they will expect ALL the time, every time. There will be a time when you cannot finish something for that client, and they will see it as a failure on your part. Always make sure to follow your individual guidelines when it comes to setting a timeframe for delivery & completion of a project. Use your best judgment when giving a time, money or labor estimate to a client; setting strict deadlines and a firm budget is what makes you dependable.
Now that you have read the top five things not to say in an email to a client, I hope you’ve received valuable tips for how to communicate properly via email with clients. If you are starting a business or possibly just involved in the on-boarding process for your company, remember to always watch what you say in an email. It takes just one word to change the tone of your email. Remember that the client is not talking to you in person, so be careful.
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