The lost art of business writing skills in online communications – And how to get it back!
It’s a fact of modern life that we are bombarded left, right and centre with emails. They are often pinging our work and personal inboxes from the minute we get out of bed in the morning to the minute we lay our heads back on the pillow at night.
As many as 333.2 billion emails are sent and received daily, according to figures from the Radiacati Group. Experts agree that the average person will receive approximately 120 emails per day.
Similarly, in other online communication news, we hear that the live chat software market will be worth $987.3 million by 2023. With no wait times, live chat provides a highly convenient way for customers to communicate with organisations. Around 79% of customers said they prefer live chat because of the immediate response.
Naturally, with all these emails going back and forth throughout our daily existence and the uptake in live chat, our collections and front-line teams are all absolute whizzes now at communicating online!
Quite simply, it is common practice to see organisations giving priority to voice communication channels when it comes to training and coaching in our line of work. Conversely, business writing skills are often left hiding in the shadows.
In this digital age with heightened importance around the overall customer experience, it’s fascinating that so many of us grapple with the lost art of written Communication and struggle to communicate effectively with our customers online.
There is no doubt that customer service, contact centres, and collections teams benefit significantly from conversational training on inbound and outbound calls. But when it comes to email and online chat (business writing training), many staff are left floundering. Unsure of the correct language, tone, or grammar to keep emails professional yet engaging and online chat conversational and easy.
The result? Communication becomes highly transactional or cold and often ineffective.
Transactional & Cold Language
Here are some examples of what we mean by highly transactional and cold business writing:
- No customer name
- Difficult circumstances are not acknowledged
- Customer or third-party effort, not recognised.
- Sensitive circumstances’
- ‘I am writing in regards to informing you about….’
- ‘kindly note’
- ‘If we do not hear back by the due date, the accounts could be declined from hardship and exit our care. Leading to collections and legal activity.’
- Bolding or highlighting text
Such language makes us sound detached from our customers and uninterested in their situation or finding an appropriate solution. It sounds scripted and, as such, is counterproductive for building trust and rapport. Without trust, any attempt at customer engagement will be ineffective.
Shakespearian Language – Formal Writing
At eMatrix, we also refer to it as ‘Shakespearian language’. It often includes bureaucratic talk and can come across as impersonal. Here are some examples of what we mean by Shakespearian language:
- ‘Furthermore, I also refer to our previous email and would be pleased if you could confirm…’
- ‘I hope this email finds you well.’
- ‘However, I would like to counter propose the following.’
- ‘Please do not hesitate to call us.’
Using this type of language can often sound too formal and stuffy. We would rarely use this language in conversation with someone, so why do we think it’s an appropriate way to engage our customers through email?
Other ineffective written Communication
While some emails are cold and too formal, others can be unprofessional, and others are just plain ineffective. Here are some more common reasons many of our emails fail to get a clear message across to our customers.
- Spelling errors
- Grammatical issues
- Overloading the email which makes it difficult for the reader
- Multiple calls to action
- Too many numbers or figures
- Underuse of bullet points
- Using Emojis
Top tips for practical business writing skills for emails:
So, whilst more and more customers are looking to engage businesses in writing, whether it be email or webchat, we are finding that very little to no training is given to staff in how to write emails. And if it is, the focus is usually on grammar, auto signatures, and generic corporate one-liners.
As a direct result of seeing this firsthand in our collections training reviews and audits, we have commenced regular email calibration sessions for our clients, which has led us to design tailored programs for them to run internally.
Here are our top 7 tips that have emerged from putting together these Written Communication programs:
- Emails should be designed to build a high level of trust – you have to pedal harder when you don’t have your voice to support the tone. Re-read your emails and check for cold and transactional language.
- Limit your use of ‘Shakespearian language’. Maintain a conversational tone. Ask yourself, would I use that language in person or on the phone? If not, there’s a good chance it is too formal or bureaucratic.
- Keep the structure of the message simple and professional. There are no long and rambling sentences, good use of bullet points and paragraphs with a clear call to action.
- Always ensure professionalism with correct grammar and spelling.
- Teach staff to identify opportunities to acknowledge difficult situations peppered through a customer’s email.
- Use a purpose or action statement combined with empathy in your return email to the customer.
‘It does sound like a really difficult time. Thanks for reaching out. My role is to support you with the best option to take some stress away with the account.’
Acknowledge customer efforts – not through generic blurbs such as; ‘I appreciate your proposal’,
‘Thank you so much for the detail around Mr Daniel’s situation and completing an income and expenditure.’
Despite more organisations investing in training and coaching to improve voice conversations, many forget about training for effective written Communication through online mediums such as email and webchat.
Don’t fall into the same trap. A simple email review or, better yet, a calibration session with your leaders that highlights strengths, opportunities, and tailored training can make your written Communication as effective as your voice.
For a review of your online Communication, you can contact Jodie Bedoya, Director of eMatrix Training (Collections & Vulnerability Training Specialists), on 0438 391 500 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.