The first email ever sent was crafted over half a century ago. In 1965, MIT created a computer program, Mailbox, that allowed users to leave a message for the next person who logged onto the computer. (This early iteration of email, though groundbreaking at the time, was more like leaving a note for someone.)
In 1969, we saw another major advancement when the Department of Defense created the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET), which linked computers across the organization, allowing emails to be sent from one computer to another. Finally, in 1971, we saw a rough version of the modern email when Ray Tomlinson built a networked system for ARPANET, allowing people to send emails to others even if they weren’t online at the same time.
Over the years, email has become one of the most popular forms of communication due to its ease of use, speed, and exceedingly low cost. In fact, in 2015, people received an average of 122 business-related emails every day (that’s not even counting the onslaught of personal emails they receive as well), and by 2025, it’s predicted that 376.4 billion emails will be sent every day (over 48 emails for every person on the planet).
Due to its ubiquitous nature, email is one of the best ways to conduct client correspondence, but as you likely know, communicating with clients over email can be extraordinarily frustrating. Responses take ages, messages go unanswered, and getting what you need from clients can be a nightmare. However, following a few best practices can make a world of difference.
Benefits Of Email Communication
Instant, Asynchronous Communication
One of the main benefits of communicating over email is that you can send messages almost instantly, allowing you to quickly share important updates and information. While other communication methods such as phone and video calls can do the same, they tend to be more intrusive. With phone and video calls, the receiver often has to interrupt what they are doing to answer the call. With email, on the other hand, clients can respond when it fits best with their schedule. Once they see the email, they can take a moment to gather information, craft a well-written response, and send it at a time that works for them.
Another benefit of using email for client correspondence is that it facilitates flexible collaboration. You can interact with clients from anywhere in the world on virtually any internet-connected device, whether it be at home, in the office, or out running errands. You can also specify exactly who you’re messaging since you can send emails to groups or individuals.
Simplified File Sharing
In addition, email is a convenient way to share files with clients. You can attach design mockups, PDFs, images, word documents, spreadsheets, and even digital contracts. In most cases, you don’t have to worry about file size either because many platforms (including Google and Yahoo) allow you to send up to 25 MB in a single email. The best part is that emails can easily be archived and searched, so you can easily find and retrieve relevant documents later on.
When Not To Use Email
If The Matter Is Pressing
While email can be an excellent way to communicate, there are plenty of instances where it isn’t the best way to handle client correspondence. One such instance is if the matter at hand is pressing or highly time-sensitive. When time is of the essence, waiting hours or days for a response may not be the right move. In those situations, you’re likely better off with a more synchronous form of communication such as an in-person meeting, a video conference, or a phone call.
When The Message Could Be Misinterpreted
Some conversations are best dealt with face to face, and in those scenarios, email probably isn’t the best choice. This could be the case if what you have to say is complicated and could require additional questions or further discussion, if you aren’t sure how to get your point across clearly in writing, if the message contains strong emotion, or if the tone of the message could be easily mistaken.
If The Information Is Highly Confidential
Once something enters the internet, you no longer have full control over where it goes; the internet is forever. So, while there’s a lot you can do to ensure your emails are safe, they’re never 100% private. People could forward your emails to other parties without you knowing about it, and servers store backup copies of every email being sent, which wouldn’t be all that difficult to gain access to. So, if your client correspondence is highly confidential, email may not be the safest communication channel to choose. Instead, you’re likely better off opting to speak face to face.
Best Practices For Client Correspondence
One of the first steps in any project is to clarify expectations around client correspondence, as this will help you know whether or not you are communicating in a way that meets their needs. Work with the client to determine what channels you will use to communicate, how frequent communications should be, what times and days you’ll both be available, and how to handle recurring check-ins. This will not only help ensure everyone is on the same page regarding how correspondence will be handled, but allow you to set some boundaries around it. If you don’t want clients calling you at 2 o’clock in the morning, you might have to tell them that.
Clarify Who’s In Charge Of Communication
Communicating with everyone involved in a project can be a recipe for disaster. Details get lost in the chaos, no one remembers who said what, different project stakeholders give conflicting input, and there are too many opinions to get any real work done. Of course, this isn’t to say that everyone’s opinions don’t matter, but when there are too many people involved, things tend to get confusing, and miscommunications can run rampant. So, it’s best to identify one main point of contact early on in the project. In doing so, you prevent any headaches caused by having “too many cooks in the kitchen,” so to speak.
Establish Your Expertise
Design projects are often a big investment for clients, which can be anxiety-provoking; when their brand, money, and reputation are on the line, they want to know that they’re in good hands. For that reason, it’s important to establish your expertise early on in the project. By clearly explaining how you’ll solve their problem and why you’re qualified to do so, it will be easier for them to trust not only your judgment, but that you’re the right person for the job.
Use Common Language
As a designer, you likely know all of the jargon around design and art direction, but depending on their experience, your clients may not. When clients don’t understand the language being used, it can be extremely difficult to actually communicate, and while using the technical terminology may seem like a good way to establish expertise, it tends to have the opposite effect. In contrast, when you speak in a way that your clients can easily understand, they’ll be better able to grasp what you are trying to say, and client correspondence runs a lot smoother when people don’t have to Google every term you use.
Likewise, it’s also important to make sure you are fully understanding the client (they may have their own industry jargon unfamiliar to you). To make sure that you do, it can help to repeat back what they say to you in your own words. That way, if you misinterpreted anything they said, they’ll catch it before you alter the design.
Collaborate Better With Ashore
Communicating with clients can be a painful process, especially during review and approval. Often, the feedback designers receive is vague, confusing, and in many cases, downright unusable. Ashore solves this problem.
With Ashore, reviewers are placed in a position to point to something directly and talk about it, putting feedback into context. Ashore offers threaded comments to keep communication organized, automatic notifications and reminders to make sure the project stays on schedule, and fully customizable workflows so once you find a process that works, you can replicate it.
You can even brand Ashore for your company by displaying your logo on all review screens and emails sent from our software, integrating your email so that all messages sent to clients will come from your address, creating a custom domain with your own website, and white-labeling any review links you create.
Thinking of updating your proofing process? Create a free account with Ashore today!