Over in our Support School, we all frequently raise concerns about how to handle difficult client situations. Today, one of our community members turned to the group for moral and emotional support, and to get a little helping hand from Krista, our wonderful resident “client-script” guru!
“I have a question for Krista Smith and everyone else who wants to chime in with how you think I should tell a client to stop sending me emails with the headline “URGENT.” They’re not actually urgent. The website is not down, nor broken in any way. So, I’m reaching out here for inspiration (and some lighthearted humor!) about how I should handle this because it stresses me out every time I see these types of emails from clients.”
Of course we are all more than capable of assessing whether an email is truly urgent, and kindly diffusing the client’s concerns. We can work on taming the stress these emails can cause (both of us) and learn not to take it personally. Hey, as the ol’ Pinterest saying goes:
“Lack of planning on your part, does not constitute an emergency on my part!”
But the truth is, there are times when it is genuinely hard to not feel your blood pressure spike when you see emails with all caps URGENT and ASAP s.o.s text.
So here’s what Krista suggested:
Thank you for your recent email. I have noted that you <insert what they are requesting>. I will be able to respond to your request by <insert date>.
I’d like to take this opportunity to explain how the emails that are labelled URGENT are recognized by my system.
Typically, they are filtered directly to spam. The reason is because 99% of emails that would have URGENT in the subject line are from spammers looking to get me to send them money (or hack my bank accounts!). I actually encourage ALL my clients to set up this filter as it prevents needless times reading email from people all over the world from trying to do this and also lessens the chances of some unknown person accessing your personal information.
Let’s be honest, we’re talking about your website.
There is nothing urgent about anything on your website. I’ve got the following security measures in place to protect you: <insert how you’re protecting them as a list>. I’ve got your back.
If you want to make sure I see any emails from you in the future, please do not use the word urgent, or important, or any variation of as they are immediately marked as spam. And I value your email too much to not receive it! In that same vein, I will never label anything to you marked as urgent or important. Cool?
It’s a complete fluke I was able to access your email of <insert date> as it’s my semi monthly day to scan my spam folder to ensure nothing important is in there! Lucky you! I worry that it might not work that way in the future which is why I’m letting you know!
I’ll be in touch <insert date> with regards to <insert their original query>.
Your Badass Designer
I, unfortunately am prone to using A.S.A.P. in my emails, (although rarely do I spell it out in caps!), whether promising to get something done quickly, or asking for something to be done urgently. Oh my!
Noticing the stress that these emails cause me has inspired me to, in turn, monitor my own language and refrain from terms like urgent and asap.
Stress inducing words are not the only issue. Women are renowned for using self-demeaning words like just and sorry, or phrases like “I’m no expert” or qualifying words like “actually.”
There’s an App for that!
Just Not Sorry is a Google Chrome plug-in that underlines words that undermine your message. It takes 3 seconds to download and then every email you write is reviewed for trigger words. It looks like you’ve misspelled them (slight color difference between standard Gmail spellcheck).
“‘Just’ demeans what you have to say. ‘Just’ shrinks your power.”
The app creators also used Lydia Dishman who explains how these phrases are useless; Syliva Ann Hewlett who emphasizes that women need to stop apologizing; and Yao Xiao who shows us how “thank you” is more effective than sorry.
The Just Not Sorry app evolved to become a New Year’s resolution for women in 2016, and the website, www.justnotsorry.com was created to help people publicize their desire to change. Their goal was to have 10,000 women sign the pledge and have more effective email communication be their New Year’s resolution for 2016. It’s not too late to join the movement and make a commitment to write more effectively and confidently.
Email etiquette can go a long way in communicating clearly with your clients. Avoid certain phrases all-together, and monitor your use of qualifiers that undermine your message. And when emails from clients trigger your stress response, try a canned response just like the one Krista created for us above.