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Customer Communications in 2018

We now have many ways to communicate with customers, too bad they never read or answer what we send

Email is still relevant, but it is easier and easier to get lost in the mountain of communications that your customer receives every day.  Here are a few best practices:

Three emails to get one answer

It is now normal that you will need to remind someone 2 times to get a response.  Assume this is the case and plan your reminders in advance.  You want to give your customer a way to “save face” and you don’t want to appear pushy.  That means, that reminders should be simple, professional, and timely.  If you were promised/expected an immediate answer, you should remind them in 48hrs and again in another 72hrs.  If you wait too long, the customer will feel the need to make an explanation– further delaying the response.  Too early and it seems pushy. Reminders should always include the original email.  First reminders can be something simple like:  “Reminder” or “Resending so this gets back to the top of your inbox”.

Your second email can check to make sure they got the original email.  “Hi Joe, is this getting stuck in your spam filter or do you need a bit more time?”

At this point, you can feel free to use another channel such as phone or message since you can credibly only assume that your messages are not getting though.

What makes all this manageable is an email productivity tool like Boomerang (for Gmail browser or Outllook) or Mail Butler (for MacMail).  These tools allow you to set a reminder for all emails you send that tell you when to send a reminder to the customer and clear themselves when the customer responds.  In addition, they also tell you when the customer reads the email (although not really 100% accurate).  These are must-have tools since timing is far more important than wording and nearly every email to anyone is at risk of not getting a reply in the first email.

Email notes and next actions

Three principles apply here: 1) “own the notes”– he who writes the minutes of the meeting interprets what was said.  2) Email is the only durable channel that can always be searched– all other communications are easily lost or forgotten 3) this is an opportunity to setup a next action from the customer (mutual commitments create trust)

As your meeting wraps up, suggest that you would like to send a summary of what we discussed and next steps.  Ask him if he would send back a quick confirmation that you didn’t misunderstand anything.  Permission is important and a conformation is important– it is the first commitment he makes to you.

Executive level decision makers read most emails on the phone

The best emails to decision makers will be no more than 8 sentences– 3 is even better.  In addition, it should be very clear what action you want this person to take.  Emails that take longer to answer, will usually wait for the computer and often get lost.  This means there are two times your email can get ignored.

Sell the next step, not the final product

Your email call to action should focus on what they need to do to more one step further and what will be the immediate benefit.  Sell the meeting, not the product when writing emails.

Voice vs Mathematics

Standup comedians talk about the mathematics of a joke and the “voice” of an individual comedian– these means technique and style to everyone else.  There are lot’s of useful templates for action from a message, but none are your voice or your style.  Since most selling / persuasion skills are learned through imitation, even those who are successful often confuse style with technique.  If your friends and family saw a message you sent to a business relationships and would not believe it was sent by you, then you are probably doing it wrong.

Who is your message helping

I come from the “high integrity” school of sales & persuasion.  This means, my interactions must first help the other person before I look at how I will benefit.  When you re-engage with a prospect, how is this helping them?  A few rich areas: i) People’s lives are constantly changing, what was not needed then, might be needed now– how can you help them do that eff.  A short respectful invite to think if it is worth re-engaging with us is usually not seen as a negative.  ii) We don’t remember all the solutions we ever saw.  As a receiver of these emails, remind me what I knew before and allow me to recompute if I should dig deeper– it you can help me do this in seconds, then I will not push you to spam and might even reply with an invite to go further. ii) There are lots of things that are very important but don’t get done.  They are either complex / painful or simply can’t otherwise push through the person’s “urgent” backlog.  Professionals that help re-start their college into doing a project they know is important and usually appreciated even if they can’t start now.

Other dos and don’ts

Never have more than one person on the To: list unless no action by anyone is to be taken.

When introduced by an manager to a subordinate, “Thanks for the introduction Joe.  Mike, nice to virtually meet you.  I am moving Joe to BCC” don’t keep polluting their inbox with your conversation.  Managers delegate to those that are expected to solve problems.

Always send the last email.  If the customer sends an email to tell you that your email IS getting though, just reply with a “thanks” (and set your next followup date reminder for yourself)

Be relevant.  No one wants a form email– they are easy to detect.  That said, use templates of common emails– customize them all, but don’t consume energy writing the main text over and over.

Long emails and big words indicate lack of thought clarity or a desire to create or communicate emotion. (Email is not for communicating emotion or creating emotion in others– call or meet in person.)

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