Or, how to write an email with manners so it matters.
You can give feedback shouting and be angry or you can propose something with a calm and understanding tone, and yet deliver the same message but in a nicer package.
For example, as part of my job in the customer service and editorial team, I received two emails about the same topic. Both wanted to make me aware that the interest rates of a particular bank are only valid for new customers, not the existing ones.
Two different emails saying the same thing
The first email I received:
Subject: Information for BANK insufficient
the conditions for the 1 % interest rate only applies to new customers until 28.06.2017. Current customers receive 0.5 %.
The second email I received:
Dear Sir or Madam,
your interest rate could be supplemented by the following important information from website:
The effective interest rate of 1 % p.a applies from now on until 28.06.2017. This is granted to new customers, who open a bank account during this period, as well as to all customers who have not yet made a deposit. For current customers as well as after the period of action, the applicable standard interest rate of currently 0.50 % p.a. applies. The credit on your bank account must be at least EUR 5,000. The General Terms and Conditions apply.
Neither of them is perfect. However, from a kindness point of view, I found email #2 more polite and less attacking.
Both are telling me that the conditions on our website (a platform about critical investing) are not mentioned as accurate as they should.
Analysis of email #1
The first sender is very upfront and my gut reaction was not positive because:
- His email’s subject is telling me clearly what is wrong (which is good) but his choice of words felt offending to me.
- In his salutation, he used no name to address the recipient or another polite form to salute politely.
However, I liked that the email’s body text was factual and reduced to the core of his concern. He used the standard abbreviation of saying goodbye in German, „Mfg“, that translates to the „Best regards“ and then mentioned the first letter of his first name followed by his last name.
He could have improved the email by writing a more diplomatic subject line like „Higher interest rate of BANK only for new customers“. Also, he could have written „Dear Ladies and Gentlemen“ as a more polite form of starting the email and therefore kicking off a good conversation.
Analysis of email #2
The second sender is more discreet and I felt more inclined to reply to this email because:
- His subject line was neutral giving me a general idea about his concern, avoiding to go like a bull at a gate.
- His salutation is polite.
- In the body text, he is suggesting to make an amendment to the conditions mentioned on our website. He is not saying that our platform is wrong and he knows the right answer. He is simply saying that he found something important which he is suggesting to add to our website. He wrote it unobtrusive and used the original text from the bank’s website to back up his words.
- He made the effort to quote the original text from the bank’s website to make sure he is sending the right and complete information. Nevertheless, I do see the point that copy-pasting the quote from the bank’s website could be seen as lazy according to the motto „Voilà, now eat and die (with this information)“. The effort of manually parsing the full quote is higher compared to the crisp lines of email #1.
As in email #1, the sender of email #2 used the German standard abbreviation of saying goodbye. But he did not write a name at the end which makes it hard for me to address the person in my reply or makes the email a bit impersonal at the end, although in total it was kind and polite.
A good email delivers the actual subject (even a negative critique) in a diplomatic and polite manner. Manners matter, especially when you consider an initial email to be the beginning of a conversation.
Taking the best of both emails this would be my choice:
Subject: Higher interest rate of BANK only for new customers
Dear Sir or Madam,
the interest rate of BANK as mentioned on your website could be supplemented by the information that the 1 % interest rate only applies to new customers until 28.06.2017. Current customers receive 0.5 %.
I found this important information on the bank’s website where it says:
The effective interest rate of 1 % p.a applies from now until 28.06.2017. This is granted to new customers, who open a bank account during this period, as well as to all customers who have not yet made a deposit. For current customers as well as after the period of action, the applicable standard interest rate of currently 0.50 % p.a. applies. The credit on your bank account must be at least EUR 5,000. The General Terms and Conditions apply.
The tone makes the music. „Mind your manners.“
Have a great weekend, and do not forget only playing drums is liking writing email #1, loud and clear but also too much when it is the only kind of instrument. Mix it!
This was episode 39 of the #weekendpunchline 👊. Every Saturday and Sunday.
Also published on Medium.