Have you ever felt like you were spending time writing up an email, and when you received an answer from your counterpart a few days (if not weeks) later, you realized that what you asked for or expected was not understood ?
Well hopefully this article will help you understand online etiquette and how to communicate more effectively online. Please also feel free to share and comment if you have other tips to share with the community or if you have examples !
You can communicate online with different tools such as email, voice over IP, web conferencing and online platforms. In today´s world everything or almost everything is done via the web, we shop, we chat, we meet people, we train and we connect. There are however certain things that we need to keep in mind when we communicate online that are just as important as when we would communicate face-to-face.
- The netiquette states that when receiving an email, the response time should be no longer than 24 hours (especially if it is business related).
- Be polite, clear, precise, straight to the point in your communication
- Avoid using upper case writing as this would come across to the receiver of your email as SCREAMING !
Now this is the netiquette, we all know that some of these rules are followed and others are not, we cannot control when our counterpart will answer and if he answers late he surely has his/her reasons (lots of work, working on different projects, very busy). My advice would be that if you see that within a week you have not been answered your query send a gentle reminder email.
- When we send emails we tend especially in the UK and the US to address them by using the first name of our counterpart. We have to be very careful as in certain cultures this could be perceived as very informal (for example France, Germany, Spain). Write your first email by using the last name of the person you are contacting. If you see that when the person writes you back using your first name, you can continue communicating on that basis.
- Also good to know is that in certain cultures as for example Germany, titles are very important and are a sign of status so if the person you are writing to is a Professor or a Doctor, write Dear Pr. XXX or Dear Dr. XXX this will be highly valued.
- Make sure that when you write your first email to a client you stay very formal, write short, precise and clear sentences, be clear in your message and what you offer, doing this will enable your client to better understand what it is you are selling or what it is you offer him/her.
- Be patient with regards to answers, the netiquette says 24 hours however you may receive an answer days or weeks later, do not take it personally, just like you your client may be busy and have his reasons for not answering straight away.
- When you receive an email, make sure you read it entirely and that you get the point of it, the person on the other side may get frustrated if you ask questions about what is already mentioned in his/her email, so dedicate all your attention to what is written in the mail.
- If you then have further questions or need clarifications then write them clearly.
- When you work in a big organisation, hierarchy may be very important, especially if you are on a big project so make sure to put your manager on CC (copy) so that if there is any problem he/she can step in.
- If you are dealing with colleagues or clients from another culture make sure you use current vocabulary, so that they can understand what you are writing, avoid difficult words or phrases, keep it smart and simple, that is the best way to communicate effectively !
Many cultures function with relationships, for example Latin America, the Middle East and Asia, so remember that it is not easy to build relationships via the web. Face-to-face connection in these cultures is important because your business partner will want to know you, what you do, and how you look like. A good tip would be to phone them or video conference with them to start building up a relationship. This is of course if your company has restricted travel budgets and you cannot meet your partner. Make sure that you keep in touch with them on a regular basis so that you can nurture the relationship.
Voice over IP and video conferencing:
Remember that English is spoken widely across the globe, however it is not necessarily the mother tongue or first language of your partner, so make sure you speak clearly, use simple words, make short sentences and get your point across as efficiently as possible. Also if you have any accents take them into account, speak slowly, articulate and avoid mumbling.
These are a few tips that could make a difference in the way you communicate, remember to be clear and precise, be patient, if you feel angry at something that has been written or said, bite your tongue or your fingers before answering as the rule number 1 is to stay polite and respectful to the person you are communicating with.