15 Easy Email and Phone Communication Guidelines to Make an Excellent Impression and Get What You Need
Effective professional communication across different cultural environments empowers people to build real relationships and make a lasting impact. In our business, developing effective relationships is further complicated by the fact that we work with people all over the world. It’s one thing to nurture a relationship in your workplace. Entirely different to do it 9,000 miles away, where simple actions like having a cup of coffee with someone, looking them in the face – tactics that build empathy and mutual understanding – aren’t available. Instead, we rely much more frequently on email and phone communication.
Distance isn’t the only problem. Culture requires even more understanding: a communication style that is an asset in one setting may be a liability in another, and someone embedded in one culture doesn’t necessarily understand the cultural expectations for communication in another country. This creates fertile ground for miscommunication.
The effort to communicate effectively is always worth the investment. Despite distance and cultural differences, we can still build the kind of rapport necessary to establish mutual respect, build trust, and have a successful career in the U.S. Here are some essential professional email and phone communication guidelines to ensure success.
10 Email Communication Guidelines to Make a Great Impression and Get What You Need
- Be Concise – Your message should be straight to the point. This is usually best achieved when you’ve thought about the message you’re communicating prior to typing it.
- Organize – If the email requires a longer message or you have several inquiries/topics, organize the information in a meaningful way:
- Put the most important information first.
- List subsequent items in order of their importance or time sensitivity.
- If you have several action items or questions, format each as numbered or bulleted lists to make it easier for your recipient to respond.
- If the message is going to multiple recipients, bold corresponding names for action points and questions.
- Read – Review your email for typos and logical errors before clicking “send.” Also make sure to read emails sent to you carefully. There’s nothing more worse than responding without knowing all the information, because you didn’t read thoroughly.
- Be Specific and Descriptive – The unfortunate part about email is that the recipient doesn’t pick up on your non-verbal cues that we provide when talking in person. To help fill in the non-verbal void and provide tone, be specific in your requests or statements. Put yourself in the shoes of your recipient and write descriptive sentences that help avoid misunderstanding.
- Give the Recipient Time to Respond – A good rule of thumb is 48 hours, but if you send an email on a Friday and the respondent isn’t working over the weekend, provide a couple of extra days since many people don’t work weekends. If it is an urgent item, ask him/her to acknowledge the email upon receiving it by saying something like “Please respond when you receive this message and let me know when I can expect…” This prompts the recipient to acknowledge your request without requiring a complete response.
- Keep Negative Emotions in Check – It’s so easy to fire off an email when frustrated, and it can be tough to hold back when you’re upset by something or someone. But you’ll almost always regret sending an emotional email. A great strategy is to save the message as a draft and re-read it a few hours later when you’re less emotional. Maybe have someone else read it who is removed from the emotion of the situation.
- Be Sensitive to UPPER and lower Case – IN THE U.S., WRITING IN ALL CAPS LOOKS LIKE YOU’RE YELLING AT SOMEONE. Take a few extra seconds to capitalize only the letters that matter.
- Spell Words Correctly – In a world of text messages, shorthand can b gr8 4 saving time, but it looks unprofessional and can be confusing.
- Write Only to the Person You Need to Reach – Avoid copying (cc) or blind copying (bcc) additional people. Often when frustrated or unsure, we want to escalate or notify management or others in the organization. If, however, this is done too early in the process, it’s seen as unprofessional. Emails should only be directed to the person(s) directly involved with the issue(s).
- Use Reply All Only When Instructed – When replying to group emails, it is often unnecessary to reply all, unless specifically instructed to do so. Think about who needs to know your response. If it is only the person sending the email then choose reply, if you would like to share your response with the entire email group then select ‘reply all.’
5 Phone Communication Guidelines to Make a Great Impression and Get What You Need
- Use Voicemail – When the person you are trying to reach does not answer the phone leave a voicemail if the option is available.
- Speak Slowly and Clearly – Whether speaking on the phone with another person or when leaving a voicemail speak slowly and clearly. Phone communication is always harder to understand, so this makes it much easier.
- Make Sure to Give the Important Information – In a voicemail, make sure to leave your name, your preferred call back number, and a brief message regarding the purpose of your call. BONUS: It is often helpful to repeat your name and call back number a second time at the end of the message.
- Call Only Once – Remember, most businesses have a voicemail. Use it instead of hanging up and continually calling back. Even if you get an answer, the person most likely won’t be happy. Typically, 1 phone call and 1 voicemail per day is sufficient. If you do not have the availability to leave a voicemail, wait at least 30 minutes – 1 hour before calling back. This allows for the other person to finish with meetings or tasks that may render him/her unable to answer the phone.
- Make Phone Calls from a Quiet Location – Plan your calls during times when you’re in a quiet place. If you must answer a phone call from a location where there is a lot of background noise, use a headset to minimize the distracting background noise.
These email and phone communication guidelines will go a long way in your professional career, setting you on a path where you too can have the opportunity to build relationships and have a lasting impact in a professional setting in the U.S.