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Business Email: When the Bee Stings Give Them Honey

Always respond in business emails with courtesy.

Rational or Reactional?

How do you handle customers who send terse emails that make you wonder why they are so angry so quickly? It could be they do not realize how they sound.

Or they could be intentionally rude. Regardless of the motive, as a business owner responding in kind is not wise in most cases.

It’s easy not to respond to rude emailers. You may think that since they were rude, the heck with them!

But that could mean a lost opportunity to learn why they are upset and if you can improve things to avoid this from happening again. So instead, look for ways to defuse the anger, determine if you can improve, and solve the problem.

How to Handle a Rude Customer

Here’s an example I had through one of my eCom sites:

I tried to place my third order today. The site refused access. I tried the password reset procedure. That was in vain. Trying to do business shouldn’t be difficult. We’re done.

When I saw that email in my inbox, I said “Wow” aloud. No greeting, closing, formalities. If this was their third order, they know how we run our business. They would know this wasn’t typical. Why not just email asking if there are any known issues or for assistance? Why the “we’re done!”?

My response:


Thank you for reaching out! I wish you would have contacted us. I am not aware of any site problems as orders have been flowing in all day today.

If you can let us know any error messages you received that would be helpful.

As far as password reset email, your provider, Comcast could have sent the email to junk/trash. Did you check there? You’ll also want to whitelist our domain @xxxxxxxxxxxxx.com to make sure our system emails get through moving forward.

I reset your password for you. It is: XXXXXXXXX

For your trouble I’ve created a 5% discount coupon for your use. Use XXXXXXX at checkout.

The above approach turned his frown upside down! It turns out the reset email was in his trash/junk. He placed an order and didn’t use the coupon because he felt terrible about how he reacted.

You Always Have a Choice

I can tell you from experience that I get emails that sting regularly because I have so many sites. But unfortunately, in our rush-rush-rush culture, emailers often blurt out what they perceive is happening. And rarely do they assume it has to do with anything they did or didn’t do.

I would have emailed asking nicely if there were known site problems and if the retailer could offer assistance in the situation above. That approach indeed would have been perceived as a more valued customer.

On the other hand, some type out curt, cryptic requests or comments that, in many cases, can be perceived are terse or demanding. They may not mean that to happen — they are just in a hurry. Regardless of motive, ignore the tone and respond professionally with courtesy.

Your Business Email Address is Your Business

This is even the case when emailing other business sites for partnerships, information, or assistance—or responding to those who approach you in less than a professional manner. Remember that whenever you email anyone, anywhere for personal or business reasons, using your business email address reflects on your business.

Not making assumptions in an accusatory tone and asking for help first lends to a positive initial impression. Then, of course, the staples, including a friendly greeting, a coherent message, and a “Thank you in advance for your help!” requires minimal effort and are not worth the risk ignoring these basics can produce.

When it comes to your business email activities, never cut corners because you are in a rush or assuming. For example, refrain from typing cryptic sentences and hitting send instead of taking the necessary time to communicate clearly.

Yes, it does take a tiny, minuscule, negligible amount of time to make sure your perceptions, intent, and tone are unmistakable. And adding that extra touch of a thank you will most certainly ensure that others will be pleased to be of service and want to help you out. Or be a repeat customer.

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