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Email Style and Tone Matter Even More During Hard Times

Business Email Tone and Style Matter Even More During Hard Times

Some believe it is business as usual. Maybe they are not impacted by the economy or all the craziness we see around us every day. Everyone I know is, and there is an underlying concern.

Throw in weather events, and it is easy to see how business can get out of balance generally: no power, no internet, no email. Several visitors to this site asked what to do about customers who had no patience with the fact that “we have no power.”

Business is People

As I often do, I share my experience to make my point. Start with the thought that business is people. If you forget the people part, you are probably not someone folks look forward to doing business with.

In my weather-related example, a person who was a stark example of either thinking it is business as usual — or not knowing or caring — about what was going on in the world/country/your city. It’s called the news or current events.

On an Easter Sunday evening, several tornadoes, including two F-5s, hit our area. We were lucky — our home did not suffer much damage. But we had no power for 36 hours, and it was sporadic for days after that: no power, no internet, no email.

A potential client enquired about their project through my consulting website during this time. The inquiry didn’t include the information I asked for. With intent, several Required* fields were filled with “no comment” so the form would process.

I ask for this information to know if I can be of service. It is info I need to be prepared for our discussion about the project. Based on my experience, not completing these fields tends to be a red flag.

So, on Good Friday, I pointed him to my scheduling page. The next time I would be able to get online would be late Tuesday afternoon.

There’s an email from Good Friday:


Your scheduling app has nothing available until next Thursday. I am ready to move sooner. Send me your bank information so I can submit my deposit.

John Doe

This was followed by an email Monday morning:


I didn’t receive a response to my last email. I hope this is not an indication of your response time.

John Doe

In the news…

When I finally got online, I had a slew of emails from colleagues all over the country asking if we were okay. They had heard about the tornadoes in my area and were concerned.

But not John. Maybe he didn’t know. But to assume it indicated my response time from late Friday to Monday morning?

I responded to his emails with an explanatory apology for my delayed response, noting that I had no power due to tornadoes and that connectivity was still sporadic, so I didn’t feel confident scheduling anything that week and thanked him for his patience. Here is his response:


Now you are booked all this week? I scheduled for next Tuesday but would prefer sooner. What is your ACH information to submit my deposit?

John Doe

I get that lots of folks don’t pay attention to the news. But once someone advises you of their situation, that’s an opportunity to pivot as a human being.

No “I hope you are okay.” No “I’m sorry to hear that” or “I understand.” I was beginning to feel a little bit bullied. My gut told me to cancel, but it was just a Zoom session.

Who knows, during our discovery session, he can turn out to be a great guy with a sense of humor. Someone I can see working with. It could happen.

Next Tuesday rolls around. He is scheduled for 2 pm to discuss his project. I do these “discovery sessions” on Zoom to discuss the project with the client (and ensure we are a good fit) and, screen-share as we go through the website they want help with.

Tuesday, 11:00 AM….


I don’t do Zoom. Call me at 2p instead.

John Doe

My Experience Kicks In

My schedule page states that I use Zoom and why, and my Modus Operandi provided upon our initial contact also mentions Zoom. However, no attention was paid to my processes or the information provided. Not a good look.

After receiving that last email, I politely and respectfully declined the project. I just cannot work with anyone who doesn’t respect my time or my methods. I hate tugs of war.

Yes, business is business, and formality matters. But at some point, it is also wise, prudent, and essential to acknowledge that human beings are on the other side — especially when they share with you circumstances that anyone would struggle with.

Good People Rise to the Occasion

I lost count of the emails I received asking, “How are you doing?” and “Are you safe?” even from frequent readers of this site.

John stood out like a sore thumb.

He could have been a great guy. However, he didn’t give me any indication of that. He may have been someone I would have enjoyed working with and helping to succeed. My gut told me otherwise.

While no one enjoys passing on income, I’m sort of a stickler when it comes to how I am treated. Just think about how showing a little concern or humanity could have turned this around.

If there is a silver lining to challenging times or difficult circumstances, it is how the good rises to the occasion and you find out who truly cares. Business is about people — not just dollars — and I prefer to do business with folks I like.

It is wise to be professional — and kind — in how we choose to use email as a business communication tool. You can show concern and care and be part of the human race or plod on as if nothing is happening.

The choice is yours.

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