In the world right now there are an unprecedented number of us working from home, all trying to get things done by working virtually with others.   Some of us have been working this way for a long time, but for many this is a new experience.  This week I’d like to suggest some top tips for getting things done by creating better written communication, especially when emailing one other, or using platforms such as MS Teams.

Virtual Communication

How we communicate an issue or a problem to another will determine the quality of response we get back.  Virtual communication doesn’t allow for all the visual, sensing and audio cues we would normally get in a person to person experience.  It is isn’t the best medium to communicate difficult or time sensitive information.   However, it is great for sharing non-sensitive information and getting simple tasks done.

1. Keep your approach informal, polite and neutral
2. Keep your message brief and make requests explicit.
3. Focus on the facts rather than the emotion
4. Use simple language with no jargon (unless you are 100% sure the receiver knows the jargon
5. Avoid jokes and sarcasm and be aware of the persons culture. Think through the cultural sensitivities associated with your message.
6. Keep complex, in-depth information separate from the key communication message
1. Avoid being too friendly, unless you really know the person well, or overly formal
2. Avoid long rambling sentences and words that are implicit so that you make the reader work out what your request is
3. Don’t choose “loaded” emotional words that convey your frustration – wait until you have calmed down before writing your message
4. Avoid sophisticated language with lots of jargon
5. Sarcasm or jokes rarely go down well via this medium – maybe keep them for people who know you well.
6. Don’t put the bulk of your information up front in the email or mix it with the key messages that you want to communicate

Here is a format you might want to try out to help you prepare your message:

  1. Who: The client
  2. What: What is the problem or issue?
  3. Why: Why there is a problem or issue
  4. How: How you want this resolved in terms of action points
  5. When: Time frame of resolution and time frame you need to be contacted by

For example

The Client: Oakbridge Financial (You are their Account Manager)

Problem: Client has received multiple invoices from the accounts department showing different amounts for the same product.

Why this is a problem: The client wants to renew their maintenance contract, but they don’t know how much they owe and are confused by receiving multiple invoices and credit notes.

Action we need to take – email to Fred in the accounts department:

  1. We want a a copy of the invoices and credit notes
  2. Find out what caused the duplication

Time frame: lunch time Thursday 2nd April

An email to Fred might look like this:-

Subject Heading: Oakbridge Financial, Invoice Mix Up  

Hi Fred

Oakbridge Financial has received two sets of invoices showing different amounts for the purchase of product X on the 30th March.  

This is a problem because they want to renew their maintenance contract but they don’t know how much they owe.  Can you:

  1. Look into this for me and email me a copy of the latest client invoice
  2. Find out why multiple sets were sent?

The client is keen to get this sorted, could you get this done today or by April 2nd lunchtime at the latest?

I’m around today from 15.00 if you need to talk.

Many thanks 

Sam Smith

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