When you want to get better at writing start with your emails

When you want to get better at writing why not start with your emails?

I was inspired by an article by Maurice Fitzgerald in which he wrote about the two most critical skills for Managers.

“Quite simple really. We can have all the knowledge in the world. Unless we are able to communicate it effectively, we can’t get anything done.

The only ways we can get our Teams and Organizations to do what we want are:

  1. Writing
  2. Speaking

There is nothing else, there is no other way we can communicate. There is no other way we can get things done. 

The better you are at these two skills, the easier it will be for you to get things done.”

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/only-two-ways-managers-get-things-done-2022-every-other-fitzgerald/?trackingId=CNRXgVmMQgWJ9CsXWUhfWA%3D%3D

Since Maurice knows I train these skills he asked me if I had any quick suggestions on how folks can improve their writing.

Here’s what came to mind.

Get better at writing – start with your emails

It’s unlikely the people reading this are planning on writing the next great American, Malaysian or Irish novel.

I think for most people at work, it’s about enhancing the levels of clarity and effectiveness in written communication.

So to get better at writing, I’d suggest starting off by improving how you write emails.

Because nearly everyone has to write emails.

Yet, as is probably your experience too, the caliber and clarity of email writing out there is all over the place.

Email writing is not just for Customers

Clients are embracing new ways of thinking about how their people communicate with Customers and with each other.

In the past, the training request I’d receive would sound like this –

“Dan, we have a big Customer Service Team. Please help them improve their email writing skills.”

These days, I hear a new variation on this request – particularly from global & regional leadership. It sounds like this –

“Dan, of course we want to improve our email writing with Customers. So much of how we communicate with Customers today involves writing – email, chat, text, social media. So yes – let’s help Customer Service improve.

But we also want to improve how the people in our company write to each other. Because it’s not enough for us that our Customer Service folks can write well.

To build our Customer-centric culture and our organizational effectiveness, we want everybody to write well – it’s that important to us.”

That’s the single biggest trend I’ve seen in email writing classes and I think it’s a terrific one.

This trend is directly related to creating a Customer-centric culture

If you truly want to build that desireable Customer-centric culture, then everyone should be able to write as if they were writing to a Customer.

And after all, isn’t another Colleague your Customer too?

Everyone is your Customer when you want to get better at writing.

A point I highlight early on in email writing workshops, is this one –

Why would you write differently to a Colleague than you would to a Client or Customer?

Doesn’t your Colleague deserve clarity?  Don’t they deserve ease or recognition of their emotion?

Because everyone is a Customer.

And the way you write is a direct reflection of how you think and how you see the world.

So when you write you’re thinking about your when your Colleague.  You’re thinking about what is going on in their world.

How are they going to feel?  How are they going to perceive and then remember you?

Business writing protocols have ruined some of us

One of the hallmarks of a great email is that it sounds the way we speak.  And I qualify that by saying when we speak as our best selves.

When we’re thinking of someone else.

Yet so much of what we see when we evaluate email transcripts is the use of heavy words, lengthy expressions, negative positioning, jargon and even the dreaded ‘we regret to inform you’ or ‘we would greatly appreciate if you would…’.

Some Participants tell us they learned to write this way in school – often under the heading of ‘business writing’.

And that to dress up the email with fancy words & phrases somehow made it more ‘professional’.

Oh dear.

Where business writing refers to recognizing the tone and content of the Customer – I say yes – go for it.

That’s an approach to ‘business writing’ I can get behind.

But where business writing refers to being murky in word choice and stilted in how we present our ideas and suggestions – I’d say that’s an approach to ‘business writing’ that’s not doing anyone any favours.

It’s a strange world we live in when a Chatbot ends up having more personality and better word choice than a human being does.

We came across this case in a Mystery Shopper program we undertook last year for a Client.  Their Chatbot was friendlier than their people were.

To say it was an eye opener is an understatement.

In an increasingly digital world – when one human being chooses to reach out to another human being – don’t we have an inherent responsibility to be human?

And why would we use words or phrases on which we know people get stuck? And then don’t actually ‘hear’ what we’ve said next?

Some lenses you can use to better see your emails

This short article isn’t a replacement for a formal workshop or learning program.  There’s just too much ground to cover when it comes to better writing.

But there are a number of great lenses you can use to review your existing email writing and improve.

I use the term ‘lens’ deliberately.

What I find is that people look at their email, but don’t always ‘see’ their email.

What lenses do is provide new and powerful ways to relook (and rethink) how you write.

Here are three of my favourite email lenses

Lens #1: The 9 Step Pattern

This is the essential pattern we teach in our email writing workshops and covering these steps:

The 9 Step Process for writing a better email.

1.     Interpret Tone & Content (of the incoming email)

2.     Choose the right Response Action (Clarify, Response Template, Free Form)

3.     Write the Opening

4.     Craft the Affirmation or Empathy Statement (this is where we spend a lot of time on empathy and what it sounds like).

5.     Structure the Response

6.     Invite Interaction

7.     Conclude

8.     Re-read

9.     Send

Having a chronological step by step framework makes email writing both better and more efficient.

And the 9 Step Process is effective as well. It ensures that the Tone & Content of the Customer have been considered and where appropriate ‘matched’.

It’s not meant to turn writers into robots.

Rather – like a great recipe – it ensures that all the key ingredients are gathered and blended together for a great outcome.

Lens #2: The Customer Experience Pyramid

The CX Pyramid is so simple and yet so powerful.

It’s part of our CX workshops and we often use the CX Pyramid in our Mystery Shopper and Contact Audit work for Clients as well.

The pyramid covers 3 levels – each level with it’s own question to answer.

1.     Meets Needs – Did I help my Customer accomplish their goal?

2.     Easy – Did I make it easy for and on the Customer to understand and use my email reply?

3.     Enjoyable – What kind of emotional perception will be left in the mind of the Customer once they read my email reply? Is that the emotion I was going for?

Considering the answers to these three questions as you write is pretty much guaranteed to make your email better.

Lens #3:  The Customer Journey approach

This lens helps remind me that the Customer is on a journey to accomplish something. And that I’m just one point in that journey.

Something for Customer Service people to keep in mind.

By stepping back and looking at the’bigger chronological picture I can serve them better.

And here are the questions I ask myself using this lens:

The Customer Journey Lens

 

Sometimes people get very factory-like when they’re handling email. Head down, fingers flying, responses sent.

But taking a few moments to consider the Customer journey starting with what motivated them to write, what their goal is (and how my reply addresses that) and where they are likely to go next (including what I can share with them about what comes next) leads to better outcomes.

Including reduced ‘back and forth’ email trains and improved Customer perception.  Where your Customer says to themselves – someone actually listened to me.

Are there more lenses that we can use?

Absolutely.

In CX we talk about data architecture. How different layers of data can be combined to provide a full picture of Customer perception & outcomes.

I think that idea works for email writing too.

Different lenses can be ‘layered’ and combined to provide a complete quality framework for an email.

Another lens we could use is the Cultural lens. How does a German national prefer to receive their message as compared to a Japanese national for example.

Or how aboutwe can use the Value lens – in what way does or should our organization’s core values make their appearance in our communications.  I see many global Clients asking themselves that very question.

But I’d still start with the 9 Step Pattern (or convert it to any number of steps you choose).

Because it gives an approach that we can make our own.

And then layer on the additional lenses that I’ve chosen as the most relevant and meaningful for my work communication.

In closing

Thanks Maurice for what you wrote. I think that being able to speak well and write well has always mattered.  And that those who master these skills enhance and multiply their own leadership capabilities.

Warren Buffet, the famed investor – also believes this.  Here’s an excerpt from a business article I came across –

Legendary investor and billionaire Warren Buffet has a tip for young people: Focus on learning how to write and speak clearly.

“The one easy way to become worth 50 percent more than you are now — at least — is to hone your communication skills — both written and verbal,” says Buffett.

I couldn’t agree more.

Thank you for reading!

Thank you for taking the time today to read this article.

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Daniel Ord

[email protected] / www.omnitouchinternational.com

Daniel Ord speaks on Gustav Klimt’s, “The Kiss” for Frey Wille

 

 

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