Email Communication Can Suck

Yesterday, wearing my web hosting service provider hat I sent out an email to the main contact for each hosting client. My attempt was to update each client regarding a change in policy regarding invoicing and  payments. The policy change really would only affect 2% of all clients. But I thought it fair to inform everyone. I also felt I needed to put the policy in to context by explaining why I felt the step necessary (it had to do with actually implementing an already state policy of suspending delinquent account after a rather long grace period). Unfortunately, I think because I personalized the message by letting the email software insert each client’s first name in the salutation, I had many clients believe I was addressing them personally, setting off a bit of a panic. I had to respond to a fistful of worried email messages and phone calls. Eventually, I felt I had to send out a follow up message apologizing for the confusion.

The thing is, I spent days crafting and thinking about that dang emai (except for the first sentence which I injected at the last minute and so contained TWO TYPOS!! I thought it was clear and thorough, so I was really taken aback by the response. Usually, email goes to one or maybe two people (unless you’re in the habit of forwarding jokes and rumours to your address book). So, when you make an error in your message and it goes out a whole host (pun intended) of people, the reaction can be rather, uh, disconcerting.

I think I have learned some lessons: 1) You can’t be too careful when crafting an email to a big list of people, especially clients; 2) No matter how careful you think you are being, don’t have a stroke when a bunch of people make it clear that what you thought you were saying was really something else; 3) Keep smiling!