We’ve all been overwhelmed by our inbox at times. In the age of instant communication, it can often feel imperative to fire off a rapid response, however in our eagerness to reply are we guilty of letting our professional standards slip below the expected level? Does every email response meet your personal levels of diligence?
For the vast majority of us, the answer to the last two questions will be a resounding no. We don’t always have the time to respond fully or perhaps we don’t have the information to hand at that time or we are simply out of the office. This is when we need to re-evaluate our communication practices.
The most important rule for professional email communication is to never respond instantly. I know this can feel alien but a well thought out, the professionally crafted response is worth waiting for – it lets the recipient know that you have taken the time to read their request thoroughly and are willing to invest your time in them – put simply it demonstrates that you care about them.
Your starting point in delivering professional email responses is exercising some inbox discipline. That means when you open your inbox, you are able to give your messages undivided attention; by all means, take a quick scan to make sure you don’t miss any emergencies but unless you are able to fully focus, then keep your fingers off of the reply button.
A fantastic technique for this is to set up specific times throughout the day to read and reply to your emails.
Depending on the volume of emails you receive, fifteen minutes in the morning, fifteen minutes before lunch and fifteen minutes late afternoon should work.
It may seem a lot, three blocks of time during the day to solely concentrate on emails but you will be amazed how quickly those minutes add up during the day if you answer emails on an ad hoc basis and what’s more, the professionalism and focus of your responses plus customer relationships will increase immeasurably by simply taking the time to concentrate and craft professional emails.
Be mindful of your tone
The words you choose to respond with the matter. In written communication tone can often be misread or misconstrued so it is important to remove any doubt and be cautious of how you compose your response.
Consider a request for an update on shipping – being under time pressure you could simply forward it to your shipping department and reply with this –
I have forwarded your inquiry to our shipping department, they will be in touch to update you
Mr. Not my Problem
Or you could reply with this –
Thank you for getting in touch about order xxxxxx
I have contacted our logistics department to update me on the status of your shipment.
As soon as I receive your current shipping status, I will let you know
If there are any issues or delays in obtaining your shipping status, I will keep you informed.
Mr. I care about my customers.
Ok, so you’ve added to your email workload by promising a response when it would’ve been easier to pass it on to your shipping department.
Take a moment to think about how these two responses appear to the recipient and what they say about you and your company – one is obviously passing the buck and the other is letting them know that their order is important to everyone in the company and that you will personally see to their request. Which company would you rather deal with?
Examples of Professional Email Responses 1 -The order acknowledgment
Dear Dr. Brown,
Thank you for your order of Vision Plutonium 0rder No. xxxxxx
Your shipment is currently being processed at our factory and we aim to ship out the same day.
Please take a moment to review your order and shipping instructions.
3 x 1500cc of Vision Plutonium
Dr. Emmett Brown
If anything appears incorrect then you are still able to amend details on your order page or call us on xxx-xxxxxx and we’ll be happy to amend it for you.
Once again, thank you for your custom, if there is anything else that we can help you with then don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Examples of Professional Email Responses 2 – Request for further information
Dear Mr. Trotter,
Thank you for your inquiry regarding our executive business suitcases.
In reference to your questions, we do offer preferential rates for bulk orders that work on a moveable scale depending on the size of the order.
At present we are able to ship 500 units immediately with a further 500 units available for shipment in 10 business days.
Our shipping partner is UPS and can guarantee delivery to London from our factory in 2 business days.
I have attached our catalog that shows our full range of products plus their respective lead times for your convenience.
I hope this is helpful. If you have any questions whatsoever then please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
As a courtesy, I will follow up with you over the next few days to offer any assistance.
Examples of Professional Email Responses 3 – Newsletter signup response
Thank you for taking the time to sign up for our newsletter.
Fairly soon you will be receiving our welcome email which covers a little of the history of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, our ethos for developing the minds and abilities of our students and our vision for the future.
After that. you can expect to receive a fortnightly newsletter with all of our latest news, updates to our academic calendar and notice of any upcoming events.
Don’t worry, we won’t bombard your inbox relentlessly.
Once again, thank you for expressing an interest in the work we do at XSGY
The previous three scenarios are often when businesses fire off a template response. The problem with template responses that are designed to cover a range of inquiries or requests is that by their very nature they come with a highly impersonal feel to them.
You may think that you are increasing your productivity and efficiency but how many potential customers are being lost through your streamlining and how many sales could you be closing with just an added level of professionalism?
As customers become more sophisticated and experienced with digital communication so does their ability to sniff out generic, robotic replies and due to the widespread practice of firing off template responses, it doesn’t take much effort for your business to stand out from the crowd and impress potential customers.
The final professional email response example we are going to cover is one that we all have to use at times but most of us get very wrong – the out of office reply.
It’s very easy to just click on the out of office response switch and forget about it for two weeks but considers it from your customers’ point of view.
You may be their only contact at your company so when they are greeted with this it doesn’t feel particularly helpful –
I am out of the office from July 18th until August 1st.
Please direct all inquiries to xxxxxx@xxxxxxx until my return
This response feels like you have completely washed your hands of any and all responsibility for the duration of your absence regardless of your client’s needs.
Now consider this auto-response instead –
Examples of Professional Email Responses 4 – The Out of Office Auto-Reply
I am currently on annual leave from July 18th until August 1st.
I have fully briefed my very capable colleague Dwight Schrute on all ongoing orders, and he has access to all of my customer files.
If you have any questions then please don’t hesitate to contact Dwight on either d.schrute@dundermifflin or on xxx-xxxxx-xxx Ext.7
I’ll be back, fully refreshed and ready to work together from August 1st.
This second response is not only more personal but it clearly demonstrates that you have taken the time to make arrangements so that your clients will face the minimal amount of disruption during your absence and crucially, you have introduced and supplied them with an informed point of contact should they need it.
It’s a very simple step but the difference in how it makes your customers feel is enormous.
The key to always maintaining the very highest standards of professionalism when crafting email responses is to take a moment before hitting send to ask yourself these questions.
- Am I responding relevantly to the initial email?
- Does my response convey care and diligence?
- Does my response sound robotic and generic?
- How would I feel if I received this response from a company?
- Could I do more?
It may feel like an unwelcome increase to your workload but once you adjust your approach to email communication and allow yourself the time to think thoughtfully about your communication it will very quickly become second nature.
Also, check a similar topic: How to ask for a letter of recommendation.