By Jennifer D. Kluge
October 1, 2009
We all know the famous book “Death By Meeting” by Patrick Lencioni. Well, I think it needs a sequel, “Death By E-mail.” While there is value in e-mail, the problem is e-mail should not be the main communication tool between a business and its clients. It should never be the main communication tool for anyone.
The golden rule of e-mail: it is much easier to write a “no” to a proposal than to look someone in the eye and say “no.” So if you communicate solely by e-mail on proposals and requests, you are making it much easier to get a “no.” Plus it’s rude to speak with someone via e-mail before a courtesy call or meeting request. Hello, Generation X, Y, Z, calling all young people. Let me say it again, it’s rude to e-mail someone before you courtesy call them or meet with them. It’s also rude to e-mail, text and use a Blackberry at meetings and conferences while the meeting is going on.
Do you remember in one of the Harry Potter movies where they got a “howler” in the mail? For those of you who do not know, it was a magical yelling e-mail where the voice was screaming at the character. We’ve all had an e-mail where someone comes across as terse or upset, let’s call it a “howler” just for fun. Those howlers can be misinterpreted many times; either way if you are in receipt of a howler, pick up the phone. Do NOT reply with a terse e-mail. Many times, when you actually talk to that person, in fact they are not upset. I cannot tell you the number of times when I have decided not to reply to a “terse” e-mail and I picked up the phone. Problem solved. If you are sending howlers, know that it is a written legal document that lasts forever and can be used against you at any time. I strongly urge you not to yell in e-mails. Another golden rule: never write an e-mail when you are angry.
How about when you get an e-mail from someone you have never met, they are not a client, and they are expecting something from you that day? Gotta love those. I blame the Blackberry on those “rude requests.” My philosophy - if it is urgent and has a deadline then they will call.
What about the “CC the world” e-mails where one or two people reply to all. The next thing you know, your mail box is filled with one line responses from a variety of people you never met talking about something that just doesn’t matter. The proper etiquette on group e-mails is to Blind Carbon Copy multiple names for privacy of your colleagues’ e-mails as well as preventing the “reply to all” option.
Ok, how about the “dissertation e-mails.” Those are the e-mails that are five pages long and are hard to read. I once got a dissertation e-mail in all caps, I had to make an eye appointment the next day.
All kidding aside, e-mail can be useful. A good effective use of e-mail is as a meeting follow-up tool with notes and attached action items. It’s effective and efficient, but the follow-up should be in person or via phone if you want to keep things flowing. Another good use of e-mail is to coordinate calendars with several different parties. So e-mail does have its merits, however, it sure does have quite a few faults. So, dust off the phone and see what a difference it makes in your business.