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Business Email & Empathy

Reflecting empathy in your business email conversations.

So many of us are now doing business online, and with that, we often forget they are living, feeling human beings on the other side. As a result, with technology now tightly integrated into our business activities and tools, it has become one of our primary relationship-building tools.

The Human on the Other Side of the Screen

Showing courtesy, being thoughtful, and ensuring clarity in your communications help build confidence in doing business with you. And contributes to relationship building. But, on the other hand, if you have an “all bout me” mentality in your use of email, that opportunity will elude you.

Invaluable are the emails that reflect concern for the other side. When you need assistance and someone is there to respond to your request with a prompt and thoughtful reply, those are the individuals and companies you want to continue to do business with. These are the folks that we naturally want to nurture a relationship with.

Empathy Lost

As I often do, I use my experiences as examples for my posts. Today, I’ll share one event that many of you have experienced as well — your computer’s hard drive crashes.

When I had a hard drive failure, it solidified some of my client relationships and damaged others. One morning I woke up, booted up my computer only to hear a weird clicking sound. I knew what that was. Drat.

Because of this, I had to send out a notice about the failure apologizing for any requests that may have been lost requesting they be sent again. I have a pretty solid backup program in place, but that didn’t cover what had come in since my last overnight backup.

The responses I received were very telling and disappointing. Most sent notes of sympathy and wished me luck. Been there, done that, and “I feel your pain. Take your time — no hurry!”

But, unfortunately, from others, not a word about my situation other than “What about my changes?!” “Can’t you figure out a way to do them today!?”

If you’ve ever had hard drive problems, you know what it is like. You are scrambling. Trying to backup and save all possible data can keep you pretty occupied. Then, determine if you have to run out and get a new computer to set up.

Indeed, I didn’t plan on this happening, nor would I wish it upon anyone. However, I intended to keep folks posted. I’m known for my prompt responses to client requests. Therefore, I wanted to keep everyone posted so they would not be concerned about my lack of response and confirm that I would process their requests as soon as possible.

The Worst Scenario

Then, when realizing my hard drive was shot and that I would have no choice but to go out and purchase a new computer, I sent out a courtesy notice explaining that over the next 24 hours, I would be out of pocket but would get to requests promptly as soon as I was back up and running hopefully by the end of the next day.

Finally, I thanked everyone again for their patience and understanding. Here again, kind-hearted clients sent notes of encouragement. But, then, this email came in:

thanks for sharing your joys.
Client Response

Wow… That’s all the email said. No greeting, no sign-off, just the above comment. What do you think that says about a person who replies like that? All I could do was shake my head.

You’ll run into all kinds of people online. Many times you don’t really get to know them until a situation exposes their true colors. Good and bad. Don’t underestimate for a moment how your emails and how you react to others’ problems, dilemmas, or misfortune will reflect upon you.

And what it will be like to do business with you. Would you want to do business with someone that responded in this manner to your misfortune?

For me, I am blessed to have a group of great folks I work with and will always go the extra mile for those who do the same for me. However, these outliers — relatively new clients — clarified what type of relationship ours would be. Ones I no longer felt I wanted to be part of.

Type unto others as you would have them type unto you. Your business partnerships depend upon it.

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