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How to offend your customers – the easy way

Poorly written emails. We receive them every day, don’t we? It seems that too many of us just can’t shake those annoying email habits.

But poorly written emails can be more than just annoying. They can also be damaging. Damaging to your personal brand – and damaging to the business you represent as an employee.

As an example, below is an email from the local dance school my daughter’s friend attends.

As you read it, put yourself in the shoes of its recipients and ask yourself how you might feel. I’m fairly sure the author (let’s call her ‘Melissa’) didn’t take a moment to do that before hitting the send button. And that’s a great shame.

Good Afternoon Parents,

This is just a brief email touching on a few items that have been brought to our attention in the last week or so.

** Exchanging Uniforms – Teachers are not your “go to” person for uniform enquiries. Please do not attempt to exchange uniforms with teachers or address any uniform issues with the teachers. All uniform questions and enquiries MUST be addressed to Laura, our uniform specialist. Laura can be contacted at [email protected]

** Please remember that NO PARENTS are allowed to view classes, except on the designated open days. If one parent views a class, everyone will want to, and we cannot have our students distracted by onlookers. Please remember, you are sending your children to us so they can learn to dance – please let them learn.

** Following on from the above, parents, please do not interrupt a class that is in session to ask the teacher about fees, uniforms, enrolments, etc… The teachers are trying to keep the classes on schedule and need to keep the kids focussed. The teachers are there to teach your kids – so please let them teach.

** ANY AND ALL ADMINISTRATION ENQURIES ARE TO BE DIRECTED TO MELISSA IN THE OFFICE! Please do not ask Veronica about any enrolment issues, payment information, fees, uniforms, etc… Veronica does not handle administration matters any longer – please address the questions to Melissa – that’s me!!. I am in the office on Monday, Wednesday & Friday from 10am – 4pm. So unless you wish to discuss your child’s progress (and Miss Veronica is your child’s teacher), please do not ask her any questions –  she just wants to get back to what she’s good at – TEACHING!!

** And lastly, next week Term 2 invoices will be generated and dispatched. Please let me know, in writing (email) by April 1 2015 (as per the terms and conditions) if your child is not returning for term 2. Unless we are told otherwise, all enrolments will be rolled over into term 2 as per our fees policy

Thank you for your time – if you have any questions regarding this email, please contact me on 9000 0000 or at [email protected]

Kind Regards

Melissa Happy
Administration Assistant
Super Friendly Dance School

To be fair, Melissa had some tricky information to communicate. That’s not her fault. But it is a good reason for her to take extra care with her writing.

Because we send so many emails every day, we don’t often stop to think about how our readers might interpret them. With no opportunity for feedback and clarification, emails can lead to all sorts of assumptions. It’s very easy for people to assume we are a lot angrier or more negative than we intend.

So when you next have a difficult or sensitive email to write, here are some things that you can learn from Melissa’s mistakes.

1. Always open with a positive 

This is a no brainer. No one wants to be told off from the get-go. You still need to get to your point quickly – but a ‘buffer sentence’ could make a big difference.

2. Avoid ALL CAPS and excessive punctuation

I AM NOT SCREAMING AT YOU, I JUST WANT YOU TO *PAY ATTENTION*!!!!!

You don’t need to rely on these tools to get an important point across. When you do, anger and emotion jump off the page. And it ain’t pretty.

3. Inject a friendly and conversational tone

Whether you’re a manager, a CEO or an admin assistant, write more like how you speak to a friend – and less like you’re a military dictator.

4. Don’t quote legal rules, policies, terms and conditions

You can make requests and set expectations without quoting rules and policies. It comes across as patronising and authoritative.

5. Re-read your email before sending it

Preferably, wait a day or two before you re-read your email. And when you do, ask yourself if the email reflects the brand personality you’re trying to uphold.

Wherever possible, ask someone else to read it too.

With those tips in mind, here’s my rewrite of Melissa’s email.

Dear Parents

Thank you to you and your children for a wonderful start to the year. We hope you have enjoyed the term as much as we have.

Before Term 2 begins, we’d like to advise of some new procedures and remind you about some existing ones.

1. Uniform enquiries

For any questions about uniforms, please contact our uniform specialist, Laura. Laura is here to answer all your questions and can be contacted via [email protected]

Please remember that our dance teachers are not able to help with uniform enquiries.

2. Watching classes

We know you love to see your child perform, but please do not stay to watch their weekly classes. We find that with parents watching, students become distracted easily.

Any class interruptions can also be very distracting. So if you need to talk to your child’s teacher, please do so out of class time.

3. Admin enquiries

As your administration assistant, I am here to help with all your enrolment, payment and fee enquires. My hours are:

  • Monday 10am-4pm
  • Wednesday 10am–4pm
  • Friday 10am-4pm

Although many of you are used to speaking with Veronica about these day-to-day issues, Veronica is trying hard to focus on what she loves most – teaching. She is still here to talk to you about any major concerns you might have. And of course, if she is your child’s teacher, she’d love to discuss your child’s progress with you at any time.

4. Term 2 invoices

Next week, we will be issuing Term 2 invoices.

If your child is not returning in second term, please let us know via email by 1 April 2015. If we don’t hear from you, your child’s enrolment will be rolled over automatically.

Thank you for your time and please let me know if you have any questions.

Kind regards

Melissa Happy
Administration Assistant

Super Friendly Dance School