Posted on: Sunday, August 17, 2003
Business e-mail not always best
|||Boss may be reading your office e-mail|
By Marybeth Matzek
Appleton (Wis.) Post-Crescent
Tips to make your e-mails more readable, from "Writing Effective E-mail" by Nancy Flynn and Tom Flynn; Crisp, $13.95:
Be concise and to the point: Don't make an e-mail longer than it needs to be. Remember that reading an e-mail is harder than reading printed communications and a long e-mail can be very discouraging to read.
Use proper spelling, grammar and punctuation: Bad spelling, grammar and punctuation can leave a bad impression of your company. If your program has a spell-checking option, why not use it?
Answer swiftly: People send an e-mail because they want a quick response. So each e-mail should be replied to within 24 hours, and preferably within the same working day.
Don't overuse the high-priority option: We all know the story of the boy who cried wolf. If you overuse the high-priority option, it will lose its function when you really need it. And your message may come across as aggressive if you flag it "high priority."
Do not write in all capitals: If you write in capitals, it's like shouting. This can be annoying and might trigger a flame-mail response.
Appleton (Wis.) Post-Crescent
The advent of e-mail has changed how people do business, said Bruce Muszynski, director of the human resources consulting division for The H.S. Group.
"E-mail and voice mail are replacing conversations, and you can miss a lot without that personal interaction. You miss a person's body language or even the tone in which the person is speaking," he said.
Nationwide, more business is being done via e-mail. According to a recent Accountemps survey, 92 percent of managers said they use e-mail as a substitute for a face-to-face meeting. And after face-to-face meetings, 43 percent of executives said e-mail is the most effective way to communicate with workers.
"For busy managers, e-mail is the next best thing to meeting in person," said Max Messmer, chairman of Accountemps, a nationwide staffing agency.
While e-mail might be fast and efficient, it's not always the best choice, said Tammy Miller, president of Virtualtech Web Site Design & Promotion in Appleton, Wis. Although she works on the computer all day, Miller usually picks up the phone to talk to a client.
"I do use the phone a lot, especially with new clients as we are getting to know them. The phone allows you to provide better personal contact and customer service," Miller said.
When it comes to longtime customers, Miller said she's more apt to use e-mail, especially if it's something routine or if she is just looking for information.
"I think the key is matching up the kind of communication with what you're trying to do," she said.
Sandy Wight, director of marketing services at Secura Insurance in Appleton, Wis., said managers need to be careful when using e-mail as their main form of communication.
At Secura, e-mail is used to convey information such as when meetings are being held or just a general businesswide announcement.
"We take care that if there is an issue that needs to be discussed that we do it person-to-person," Wight said. "A lot can be lost via e-mail."
Messmer concurs. He said if a topic involves a debate or requires reaching consensus, then it's best to arrange a meeting or a conference call, he said.
"For one-way communication or inquiries requiring little discussion, e-mail may be the most effective and timely vehicle," Messmer said.
Another problem with e-mail is that people get so much of it, they may miss an important message, Muszynski said.
"The key to a successful e-mail is something with a catchy and informative subject line, especially if you're sending it to someone who may not be familiar with you," he said. "There is so much spam out there, and sometimes people just do a mass delete if they come back and have hundreds of messages."
But despite its flaws, e-mail is a great communication tool, Wight said. For example, Secura has a broadcast e-mail system it uses to communicate with its agents. The person sending out the communication can select whom to contact with the information.
"It's been a great invention. I think the key is to just always make sure you're using the right type of communication for what you're trying to accomplish," Wight said.