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How to send better emails

Learn how to send emails to colleagues or clients that are more precise and have more impact.

Structure your email from important to less important

You have time to think about the email you’re sending. Structure your email with these tips:

  1. Sort the points from most important to least important OR chronological order
  2. Use bullet points
  3. Use paragraphs and give them a title in bold or underlined

Communicate as soon as possible about changes or deadlines

Inform your team or client as soon as possible about important information. If your deadline needs to be moved and my work is impacted, it is helpful if I know this beforehand. This way, I can reprioritise my work and that gives me more time and flexibility. So let the other person know if something changes.

The more you put on paper, the better you can refer back to earlier agreements. So make sure that your verbal agreements are also sent by e-mail. This way you always have proof of the agreements that have been made. Always be clear in your emails: use a CTA with a date indication.

Be concise, complete and clear on next steps or deadline

You should aim to be precise and complete in your emails (and use the appropriate channel). The goal is to reduce as much back-and-forth as possible.

Instead of sending an email: “Can you deal with this?”. Rather than sending this quick - but unclear - email, you should be more specific and precise.

Subject: Schedule a meeting with client X this Wednesday, as they’re unhappy with the tooling.

Hi Ewoud (Stefan & Gaby FYI)

@Ewoud can you please help me to solve the client’s unhappiness about the tooling issue by scheduling a meeting with them this Wednesday morning?

CLIENT is unhappy with tooling issue Y. I’ve spoken to them on the phone to explain the situation and try to solve this myself. I feel like this wasn’t helpful and they’re still unhappy.

I’m lost here and would like emotional support as I don’t know how to solve this on my own. I feel like this is an important client to us, so it’s stressful to me.

My suggestion is to set up a call with a more senior manager (Ewoud) to smooth this out with the client. Looking at both your calendars, Wednesday morning would be good (CLIENT doesn’t work on Wednesday afternoons)

More information and history on this client can be found in the CRM here (link to CRM company page).

Let me know if you need anything from me to help you make this client happy again.

Although it might take you a bit more time to write this email, it’s clear, precise and proactive.

Think about the email and what the next step is.

Questions to help structure an email

  • How urgent is this?
  • Who of the two people the message was sent to should follow up?
  • What is the problem exactly? (or what caused it)?
  • What have you done to solve the problem?
  • What’s the best way I can help you?

Be clear on next action in subject line and end of email

If you use the subject line to share what kind or response you’re expecting, it’s much easier to skim through emails.

State your expectation: action, decision or FYI

Also, use a clear call-to-action. What do you want your colleague, client to do?

If the email has tasks, tag the person using @person name in the email. Their names will show up as blue. This makes it very easy to spot tasks.

Be clear on expectations 

Either in the email itself or have Communication guidelines -> which channel to use when (and how)

Action required

Is an action required from a client (or, for example, Ewoud😄)? Then send a clear email with the tasks that the client must do. You should include the following in the email (if applicable):

  • In the subject line: [action required] + the action + the person who must complete the action
  • When the action must be finished
  • Where to send the action when finished

Do you notice that even with these clear emails, someone still doesn't perform the actions? Then schedule a meeting in the agenda of the person concerned as a "last resort". During this time they can perform the actions required. Do you want to be sure that the action is actually carried out? Join the meeting for the first 5 to 10 minutes and check whether the client/colleague is there. Then you can immediately find out if there are any questions and answer them. Then you leave the meeting and give the person in question time to complete the tasks.

Ewoud Uphof

I hope you enjoy reading this free chapter.

Read the full guide by clicking here.

Give alternatives

If A is an option, here what I expect next

If A doesn’t work, perhaps B is an option, here are the actions linked to B

This reduces the back-and-forth. Here’s an example

Use tags in Gmail - action = TO:, FYI = CC

As a general rule, if someone has a task in an email, add them to the TO: field (Gmail does this by default when you @tag someone)

If you’re adding someone for their information, add them in CC. If you do this consistently, it’s way easier to skim through all the emails everyone on the team receives. You can start with emails directed to you, and only after completion of the action emails, move onto the FYI emails.

Out of office example

When you send an email, always check that everything is clear to the recipient of the email. Structure your e-mail, indicate the reason why you are e-mailing and indicate how urgent the question/action in the e-mail is. For example, if you want to indicate to a customer that a colleague is sick or on vacation. Always state exactly what you are emailing about. About a proposal, the feedback for a winback flow, etc.

See below (mail 1) an email that can be found unclear and below (mail 2) the same email has been rewritten more clearly.

Recap/Summary

Write down what you have discussed with customers (orally or via e-mail) and send an e-mail about this to the customer (approx.) at the end of the week. This way, both you and the customer know exactly what has been discussed and how to proceed. Are there any action points or things you need from the customer following the summary? Then put this at the top of the emails! When the customer quickly reads your email, he/she has at least read what his/her task is. In addition, use bold headings in your emails, so that it is clear what each paragraph is about.

Ewoud Uphof

I hope you enjoy reading this free chapter.

Read the full guide by clicking here.

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