Wednesday, February 1, 2012

What Your Email Habits May Be Saying About You

I write a lot of emails. Every day. Sometimes they are to complete strangers I’d like to do business with. Sometimes they are to people I know really well. Sometimes people I know not so well. Sometimes I am responding to a reader of my blog or someone who wrote me a note just to say how much they loved my novel. Sometimes I am asking for something.

I’m not one to let my inbox pile up. It goes back to my early days in sales when I was taught to act on a phone call or letter immediately because it could mean money. It was a way to build relationships. My response time made the statement that I cared, enough to not let them wait. It was a chance to make an impression. Like the clothes you wear, the choices you make in hairstyle and eyeglasses, the way you shake someone’s hand when you meet them for the first time, I was taught this was a window to my personality and a barometer for whether they might want to do business with me.

We don’t have a lot of chances to make impressions into today’s virtual world.  Email is one of those opportunities and yet so many throw it away. They use it carelessly, never considering the message they are sending is also one about who they are. Think about it.

  • We use texting symbols like u instead of spelling out the whole word and forget that spell check does not know if you meant here or hear.
  • We ignore people we have never met as though they are something that got caught in the spam filter.
  • We ignore people we know because we are too busy to deal with them or their issue. We accidentally hit reply all when we only wanted one person to receive our message.
  • We write like we speak, often off the cuff and without forethought, forgetting we are putting this in writing without any idea on whose desk it might ultimately land. Then we wonder how we got into so much trouble. 
  • We let it pile up until we really are too busy to get through it all.
  • We lie and say we never got it, underestimating the sender who has already started to notice that you are the only one who never gets anything they send.
  • We wait just long enough to answer to imply to the sender they are really not that important.

Before email, we relied on the telephone or perhaps a letter typed on real paper that was proofread for typos and put into an envelope with a stamp on it. Of course now we worry about killing trees, and the telephone, well that is so yesterday. But making an impression is not.

How you respond to my email tell me about who you are and how you do business. 
  • A high level executive for a major corporation who emails me back the same day or even forwards my email to one of her lieutenants  with a copy to me, tells me that person stays on top of their business and probably their life. It also insinuates that they really care enough about their company to know that I might have something worthwhile to share. I might be wanting them to buy something from me, but I am also a potential customer for them.
  • The newly minted best-selling author whose talk I attend and write a complimentary follow-up email who takes exactly one year to reply thank-you to me says scattered and thoughtless and makes me wonder why they are even bothering now. They missed their opportunity to gain a repeat customer for their next book.(this is a true story!)
  • The friend who takes days to reply to my email, but then harasses me with texts and phone calls when I don’t immediately respond to theirs implies self-importance.
  • There is the person who disappears in the middle of the email thread. That’s like hanging up the phone on me in the middle of a conversation.

I could go on but, I have email to answer.  Just remember whether this is business you or personal you, your email habits are a statement of who you are.  The question is, what impression do you want to leave?

Tomorrow: 9 Tips for Using Email


Liane said...

This is an interesting topic, Joanne. Here's what I often find - especially socially: people ask me for e-mail with news and pictures, then I take the time to write it and never hear back from them. Then they have a bad attitude because I stop. (Just like they'll fish about my life and want the details and when you're done sharing and you swing the table saying, "and how are you; what's up?" then they reply with, "oh, you know, nothing much." I find those so unfulfilling - like having a relationship with a couch or a brick wall. At least in those instances I don't expect anything so I'm not disappointed. At this point of my life that is a really big frustration. Perhaps it is time to start building some new relationships; surround myself with some new people? How do you deal with that?

Professionally I couldn't agree with you more: replies (thought through ones) do matter.

Unknown said...

Hi Liane,
Thanks for your comments. As to your question, it brings up a whole other conversation, one that it sounds like you already know the answer to.