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The Use and Abuse of E-mail
By Michael C. Dennis, MBA, CBF

E-mail is faster than a dunning notice or a collection letter. It is less intrusive than a collection phone call, and requires fewer steps than sending a Fax. Using e-mail, language barriers and time zone differences are less of an obstacle to communication with a delinquent customer, but even with the best of intentions, misunderstandings will occur. Here are some tips to reduce the likelihood of misunderstandings, and help ensure that your e-mail messages are read and understood.

  • If you expect the same courtesy from others, try to reply to e-mail messages received the same working day, and if that is not possible then within 24 hours.

  • E-mail messages should always be concise, and to the point.

  • If you're asking the customer or the salesperson to take some action, such as calling you, don't forget to say "please". Good manners cost nothing.

  • Abbreviation use/abuse in e-mail messages is rampant. Only use abbreviations that are already common in your line of business [For example: FYI, DSO, A/P, POD and COD].

  • Always include a meaningful subject line in your message. The subject line is sometimes the only clue the recipient has about the contents of the message and its importance.

  • Include your title and company name at the end of the e mail message.

  • Use proper spelling, grammar & punctuation in your messages.

  • Just like you should not invite people to attend meetings that don't need to be there, don't send copies of e-mails to people that do not need to read them.

  • Remember that there is no such thing as a private e-mail. Always write e-mail messages as though you were going to have to read them in open Court. Never use the e-mail to disseminate confidential information.

Two final thoughts

1. The good news about e-mails is that the message arrives seconds after it is sent. The bad news is that if you send an inappropriate or erroneous message, there is no practical way of retrieving it. Therefore, carefully consider the text, the tone, and the content of each message before sending it.

2. If you are inundated with e-mail messages, get two e-mail accounts. One for routine correspondence, and a private e-mail address one for use by important customers and other priority contacts. Check the general e-mail once or twice a day, and the private e-mail system more frequently.

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