Is this message worth sending? How to ensure effective communications / by Joseph Palumbo

I can always make more money, but I'll never make more time. That's why my time is irrefutably the most precious resource I have. I don't waste it, neither should you.

And yet I see so many people waste their time and the time of their customers every time they send an email or pick up the phone.

Here are the two things to ensure you're communicating effectively and efficiently. And not wasting anybody's time. 

First, let's talk about the when and what  - two things Customer Success Managers constantly stress over. When should I send that email? And what should be in it?  

What's in it for the customer? 

That. Can you answer that question? Is it a good answer. If yes, then press "send". If not, then you're wasting your time, and more importantly, you're wasting your customer's time. 

Let me provide some better context by seeing if I can squeeze a long story into a short version. 

A woman walks into the first day of her journalism class. The teacher says, "next Thursday all school staff, including members of the school board, teachers and principles, are going to meet with the Governor to talk about education reform. What's your headline in the school newspaper?" 

People offered up ideas like "Education Reform In The Works" and "School Board To Meet With Governor." The teacher shook his head at each idea. Ideas exhausted, he finally tells them, "No School Next Thursday, that's what's in it for your readers." 

Use this same piercing logic when it comes to deciding when and what to send to your customers. 

Do you have something of value to share with your customer? That's when you should reach out. 

What to tell them? Make sure to start with what's in it for them. Focus on that and don't bury the headline.  

Now that you know when and what, let's talk about the how.

Brevity

[Fake conversation in my head]

Me: Keep it simple.

Verbose Account Rep: But?

Me: No, keep it simple.  

Verbose Account Rep: But I need to make sure that the customer knows that I care and that they're valued and who I am and why they should care about using my product and what I can do to ensure they're getting the most out of it and...

That's it. I've stopped listening. I've moved onto the next thing in my list of 100 things I want to get done this week. 

Stop worrying about being professionally cordial (nobody has time for that and it carries less weight than you think) and focus on getting a clear, actionable message across. 

My favorite part of Alexis Ohanian's book, Without Their Permission, is when his sales rep for hipmunk.com fired off an email to a CEO with something like, "I can save you money on XYZ. Give me a call." As Alexis recounts in his book, they got an answer within 15 minutes. 

I hate getting long emails filled with customer service platitudes and hollow praise. (Yes, I know I'm a valued customer. So are the other thousands of folks with credit cards and a pulse.) What I appreciate is when I get an email that has no more than 3 sentences and is direct and to the point. That kind of succinctness let's me consume, understand and execute (think of a cue stick in billiards).  

Rather than send a wall of text with overlapping explanations, punch out an email as brief and as friendly as you would to a friend. 

I'm going to be in town next Wednesday. Would love to get lunch and tell you about our upcoming product launch. 
There's a problem with your account. Need your help clearing it up. Give me a call. 
Jane, I'm your new account rep. I know you're busy, but I can optimize your workflow by as much as 20%. Definitely worth a quick chat. 

No Hemmingway-esque language needed here. Let people understand your ask and/or value proposition in as few words as possible.  Don't make scroll on my phone to get to the point of the email. If it's not in the first sentence, at least the first paragraph, I'm moving on. 

Does it work? A few years ago I would've chastised anybody who would think of sending such casual emails to a customer. But today, in 2017, with shrinking attention spans and an expanding list of inputs battling for people's attention, these emails are effective.