Are You Practising Electronic Etiquette?

Posted on Aug 2, 2012

Have you ever thought about the way you interact with people via email and text and what image that conveys about you?

I imagine you always take care to communicate in a professional manner but how you use these electronic mediums is equally important. In short, I believe it’s all about etiquette.

Practise good etiquette and you will be perceived positively, practise bad etiquette and it will negatively affect the professional image you are trying to create.

Here are some thoughts on practising good electronic etiquette.

Use text instead of email to show you respect people’s time – text should be used to communicate short bits of information, send a reminder, send a happy birthday wish or ask a quick question. Sending a text in these instances won’t clog up inboxes like an email or interrupt workflow like a phone call. It shows that you respect people’s time and it’s easy for them to respond quickly when they’re available. The funny thing about email is that even a short response can sometimes feel like a lot of work!

Respond to every text to show your appreciation – unlike phone calls, a text doesn’t require an immediate response but an appropriate response or a quick “thank you” or “okay” within a couple of hours is good practice. It’s a little thing which takes only seconds but doing this sends the message back that you’ve taken the time to read and respond and it will be appreciated by the sender.

Respond to every email to show you value receiving their information – many of the emails we receive are information only and obviously there’s no need to respond to bulk emails and newsletters which go out to a wider group (unless of course you want to). However, when an email is directed at you personally, be aware that not responding at all is perceived negatively by the sender and can affect your image accordingly. Consider how you might feel if someone didn’t respond to something you had sent. I imagine you would be left wondering whether they received it, what they thought about it and whether they actually value the fact you took the time to send it. Even if the individual is only sharing information with you a simple “thank you” is all that’s needed to create a positive impression at the other end.

Place a half day turnaround on emails to show you are efficient – although emails don’t require immediate response, a half day turnaround is a good habit to develop. Sometimes you may need to do further work before you can respond, in which case simply acknowledge receipt and confirm a response time. To the sender this confirms that you’ve received their email, will take action accordingly and when they can expect a response (don’t forget this also allows you to plan your workload!). In certain situations (e.g: ill health, an extremely busy day, away on leave etc) this may not always be possible and people will understand. Explaining the situation and apologising for the delay shows it wasn’t because they or their query were unimportant and again it will leave them with a positive image of you.

Remember that responding appropriately to electronic communications is like saying thank you to someone who has just given you something – it’s common courtesy. It’s such a little thing to do but it can make the difference between people enjoying dealing with you or doing their best to avoid you and your business.