Has this ever happened to you? You start off an email to a co-worker warning her about this customer of yours who is a real jerk and outlining a potential problem they are about to cause for no good reason but that he is a jerk who likes to push people around and if you had your say you would refuse to do business with him. Then you proceed to outline in detail the problem. Then the co-worker writes back agreeing with you about the jerk and telling you what you should do about it.
Then the problem you predicted does occur and you start working on it and for the next two days you work with your co-worker and some of the others in your office on the solution to the problem and how you are going to solve it. You spend time carefully crafting the perfect email response to your customer. You check and double check it and then when it’s absolutely perfect you send it to him.
And it explodes right in your face. The customer calls the president of your company screaming about how he is pulling his business and will never do business with your company again.
I bet you can guess what happened? That’s right you forgot all about the initial email exchange with your co-worker where you did your little “the customer is a jerk dance”, while she clapped along and yes it was at the end of the long string of emails you had worked on before you sent your customer the final perfect email. IDIOT!
Yes, emails can be exploding time bomb if you’re not careful so with a little help from Seth Godin in his book, Whatcha Gonna Do with That Duck? And other provocations, 2006-2012, Here is a list of what you should consider before sending out that next email.
Is it going to one person?
Is it is going to a group, have I thought about who is on my list?
Are they blind copied?
Did every person on the list really need to opt in? Not sort of but really asked for it?
So, that means that if I didn’t send it to them, they’d complain about not getting it?
See # 5. If they didn’t complain take them off!
Have I corresponded with this person before?
Really? Have the written back?
Am I angry? (If so, save it as a draft and come back to it in one hour)
Could this work better with a phone call?
Am I blind-CCing my boss? If so, what will happen if the recipient finds out?
Is there anything in this email that I don’t want the attorney general, the media, or my boss seeing? (If so, hit Delete.)
Is any portion of my email all caps? (If so, consider changing it.)
Do I have my contact info at the bottom? (If not, consider adding it.)
Have I included the line “Please save the planet. Don’t print this email”? (If so delete the line and consider a job as a forest ranger or flight attendant.
Could this email be shorter?
Either start a fresh email or make it a habit to clean up the previous correspondence below your latest signature.
Are there any 😊 or other emoticons involved? (If so, reconsider.)
Am I forwarding something about religion? (Mine or someone else’s? (if so delete.)
Did I hit Reply all? If so, am I glad I did? Does every person on the list need to see it?
Is there a long legal disclaimer at the bottom of my email? Why?
Does the subject line make it easy to understand what’s to come and likely to be filed properly?
And now that we have heard from Seth, a few of my own:
Are you in the middle of a hot email fight with someone? If so close the computer and pick up the phone, call the person and settle it. Or better yet walk the three feet to her cubicle and talk to her face to face,
If you are using abbreviations and other shortcuts, are you certain that anyone besides you knows what you’re talking about?
If you are sending photos make sure they are right side up, otherwise you’re not sending a photo, you’re sending a problem.
If you want to set up a meeting set it up in English or whatever language you speak, mention it in the email itself, don’t use a third party something or other that takes 5 minutes to open to see that the meeting is at 8 o’clock tomorrow morning.
Don’t use your email as a weapon. You know what I’m talking about, like trying to get someone to do something and copying her boss on the email for no good reason except to arm your email.
And yes, the big one, where it all started, make sure you know exactly who any email you send it going to…any email no matter how long or short it is, know who is going to see it.
Look, emailing is a great tool, but it is also a tool, like a band saw that needs to be handled carefully and with great respect. Please keep this in mind the next time you launch…er, I mean send that next email. It’s only common sense.