More on saying 'thank you' in emails

The trouble when you pose a question in your blog is that you’re really honour-bound to answer it as well. You may, occasionally, ponder something that has the world beating a path to your Comments box. But, by and large, people seem to kick back and say: ‘Good question… what’s the answer?’

In my last Post I started out by asking: when do you send a ‘thank you’ email? But it didn’t take much pondering around the subject of writing business emails to decide the real question was: do we say ‘thank you’ online as a convenient piece of default niceness?

When we really want to say: ‘The bank has just bounced your debit card payment!’ does it seem friendlier to start off by saying: ‘Thank you for placing an order with Acme Blogs’? Does the person whose card payment has just been bounced appreciate the subtle run-up to the real purpose of the email?

If you go to a real shop and make a purchase and your card payment is then rejected, the shop assistant is unlikely to start the resulting conversation by thanking you for your order. Being honest about what’s happened doesn’t have to involve announcing it to every customer in the place. You can just get to the point – politely and discreetly.

Email is a very personal communication – even when it’s a business email. We could be buying from the most popular shop online, with billions of customers transacting simultaneously, but the fact that we’ve just tried to place an order with a maxed out card is only evidenced to us and the company concerned. Your email inbox takes on the sanctiity of a confessional. When sending emails we need to take account of that.

Plus, business email is so quick. It’s always possible that we paid with the wrong card, or a cloned copy is currently being used by a bunch of fraudsters in Marra Worra Worra. (Can I apologise to everybody in Marra Worra Worra now. I have no idea if card fraud is an issue in Western Australia. It’s just the most exotic place I can spell.) Back to the point. If there’s a problem with my card, I want to know quickly.

Say a default ‘thank you’ at the beginning of my email and I might just assume payment has gone through without a hitch. What does the Subject line say? If that’s also taking an overly polite approach, I might not get to the real issue – particularly if I’m viewing the response in my email client’s preview pane. People read at speed online. Be less than clear and the primary usefulness of your email may be lost.

  1. So, don’t say ‘thank you’ in a business email, when you really should be saying something else that’s more important.
  2. Don’t use the opening paragraph of your email like a communications runway, assuming that’s what it takes to get really useful information – payment problems, delivery dates etc – off the ground.
  3. Before sending emails, make sure their Subject lines get to the point.
  4. You should be conversational even when you’re not saying ‘thank you’ in an email.
  5. Review all automated email sequences against points 1. through 4.

Now all I have to do is take my own advice.