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Rules For Doing Business Via Email

By Graeme Olsen
Posted Monday, August 16, 2004

One of the ways the Internet allows you to save money and time is through electronic communication (mainly email), which is cheap and convenient. But it can also be bad for business if you're not careful.

We all know that email is a valuable tool for business. Some of it's benefits include it's low cost (especially in comparison to normal letters and faxes), it's convenience (for example, being able to correspond after normal office hours), and it allows the recipient to read and deal with it when they are available (thereby avoiding "phone tag").

However, if email is used incorrectly it can be a source of confusion and negative feelings amongst your recipients.

Here are a few tips to think about when you are using email:
Using email doesn't mean you don't have to talk to your customers. It doesn't matter what industry you're in, if you think that you never have to talk to customers again, you're on the wrong track already.

Remember that email correspondence lacks all of the normal visual and auditory clues that are present in face to face communication. This makes it very easy for people to misinterpret what you're trying to say.

Related to that, don't rely on smiley faces :-) or other symbols to try and communicate a mood. In fact, any kind of symbol (eg. the exclamation mark!!!) can be misinterpreted. Other kinds of things that can be misunderstood are attempts at humour, and sarcasm.

It is very easy to be blunt or even rude to someone via email because you don't have to look at them in the eyes while you do it. This relative safety, combined with how easy it is to quickly fire off an email, make it easier to say something you will later regret. If you need to say something a little unpleasant to someone (let's hope that's not very often), you should try some of these suggestions:

- draft an email, but then wait 24 hours before re-reading it and sending it. You'll often change your mind about what to say after you've calmed down a bit

- do it by telephone instead

- do it face to face instead

- try to use facts and figures, rather than emotional arguments

Always enter a subject line in your email message. This allows the receiver to prioritise your message, and is even more important in this current age of spam and viruses where the recipient needs to know what to delete and what to open. Instead of vague headings such as "Meeting", try "Meeting to discuss xxx".

One last point, remember that technically your emails are not private. While we don't know of anyone personally who has had their emails intercepted or land in the wrong hands, it is possible.

About the Author
Graeme Olsen of South West eCommerce Strategies - (


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