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The Green Sheet Online Edition

December 12, 2016 • Issue 16:12:01

Manners matter in email

By Jeff Fortney
Clearent LLC

We all have a basic routine that we follow on workdays. For me, after refilling my coffee cup, it's logging into my email and reading the emails I received overnight. On a normal day, I wake up to as many as 50 new emails.

These range from responses to emails I sent, to random marketing pieces. Sometimes I find informative emails I registered to receive (there are a lot of great sources for industry information out there) or they may be updates about various systems and reports. In almost all cases, I review the content and address any questions or concerns that are raised.

It's not an arduous task, but one that is important. One or two messages are always important, and an immediate response can either diffuse a situation or improve the odds of a merchant signing with one of our partners.

This morning, as I was going through my email, I realized both the power and the danger email can generate. I was copied on an email that was filled with criticism and laced with anger and sarcasm (at least with what I hope was sarcasm). Whether the anger was justified or not, my first thought was not the issue being addressed, but the consequences of the email. Even after an issue is resolved, it generally takes a while for the emotions created and the overall negativity fostered by an angry email to fade.

Email is a key component of every independent sales agent's or independent sales office's toolbox. It can be used as a powerful retention tool and is a great way to stay in front of customers and prospects. It's also a bonding tool that can be used to help build rapport. In addition, it can be used to address issues, request information or tackle any other use that does not require a conversation.

Mistakes to avoid

Even so, it may be the most dangerous tool in your toolbox. Like the skilled carpenter will say about a power saw, you must be fully conscious of your actions or you could lose a finger.

You may not lose a digit with emails, but if you're not careful, you could lose a deal, a merchant could leave or you could severely damage a partnership. And it doesn't take much to accomplish all three.

Here are common errors made when dealing with emails that must be avoided:

  • Replying and forwarding emails without reading the whole stream
  • Sending an email to the wrong person
  • Composing an email in anger
  • Failing to check for spelling errors and grammar issues
  • Using email as a replacement for a conversation
  • Shooting off a "rapid fire" response without fully understanding the issues at hand
  • Ignoring an email or not responding when a response is warranted

Five tips for effective emails

Luckily, all these can be avoided by following these simple practices when dealing with email.

  1. Leave the address blank until you're ready to send the email: Emails sent in anger, with spelling errors, or to the wrong person, can easily be avoided. If you have to think about who you are sending the email to after you compose it, you will also think about these other steps.
  2. Eliminate words that invoke emotion, as well as sarcasm: When composing an email it's all too easy to treat it as a monologue. You can quickly get into the practice of using phrases that can be misinterpreted such as "as I have said in the past" instead of carefully weighing what you would say. Intention and tone is not as easy to perceive in email as it is in telephone and in-person conversations.

    This applies to sarcasm as well. A joking, sarcastic response may seem witty to you, but if read solely on its own, and not in the same context you intend, it often leads to either confusion or a negative response.

  3. Do not compose an email in anger, no matter how warranted: Unless your purpose is to end or damage a relationship, anger should not be a component of any email. It will not solve the problem, and could actually make it worse – much worse – as it will most likely escalate the situation.

    Remember, anger will pass but an email lives forever. If you feel the need to vent, hold your response until you can calmly address your concerns. An angry email may feel cathartic, but the aftermath may be catastrophic.

  4. Use emails as letters, not as conversations or texts: Yes, we live in a text-filled world. Texts have become a means of holding conversations, with abbreviations and emojis. Emails are not texts. Treat them as letters. Keep them respectful and use complete sentences and proper grammar.
  5. Always proofread an email before you send it: Read what you have typed before adding the recipient's address and hitting the send button. You may have left a word out of a sentence, which changes its meaning. For example, forgetting to type the word "not" when it's appropriate could result in you agreeing to something when you don't.

    You may also have spelling errors that should be corrected. Never trust auto correct either. How many times have you received a marketing email and the one thing you noticed was a misspelled word? You may also find that you are not giving the impression you wish to portray. Use this simple rule: if an email sounds rude, mean or abrupt, rewrite it.

Email is an important tool that when used correctly can build relationships, address issues, encourage cooperation and generate more business. However, if you fail to treat the medium with respect and care, it can do just the opposite.

Don't be like that careless carpenter. You could lose something just as valuable as a finger: your income and your reputation. end of article

Jeff Fortney is Vice President, ISO Channel Management with Clearent LLC. He has more than 17 years' experience in the payments industry. Contact him at jeff@clearent.com or 972-618-7340. To learn about how Clearent can help you grow faster and go further, visit www.clearent.com.

The Green Sheet Inc. is now a proud affiliate of Bankcard Life, a premier community that provides industry-leading training and resources for payment professionals. Click here for more information.

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