Improving Your Transactional Email Skills with Allissa Haines

I love email. Specifically, I love transactional emails, the one-on-one communications with your clients and colleagues.

Clearly, since I’ve talked about it a bunch lately, in Massage & Bodywork and on the blog.

It’s a fast and easy way to communicate, especially for those of us who can’t be answering the phone ourselves and don’t have office staff to help with that.

It can also be a little too easy to communicate. Sometimes clients can be demanding and email just gets to be too much.

Like every other aspect of your business, there should be a clear set of policies and ... wait for it ... boundaries about your email use with clients. A good email policy is pretty simple and involves deciding on 2 factors:

  • When will you answer emails?
  • What will you discuss via email?

When

You get to decide when to check and reply to emails. You can reply to emails any day and time or only during your scheduled hours of business.

Some of us don’t mind checking email on our off days.

For example, I can look at my emails on a Sunday morning and

  • Ignore anything non-pressing.
  • Reply to any non-urgent client stuff with a “Just want to let you know that I saw this and I’ll get back to you when I’m in the office Monday afternoon.”
  • Handle quick, time-sensitive stuff efficiently.

Then I can close my computer and not think about it until Monday afternoon.

But not everyone is like me. Once they see an email, some business owners feel the weight of handling it and it’ll disrupt the whole rest of their day. If that’s you, then DON’T check work emails off business hours.

You can set an away message to say,

Thanks for your email. I will reply during normal business hours. You may also visit the website here: <web address> for more information or to schedule an appointment.

The key here is to really not respond to emails outside of business hours. If you do, clients will come to expect it and then you’re in that high-pressure situation again. Just don’t.

What

You also get to decide what you will communicate about in email. Handling basic appointment information is standard. I’ve been aggravated in the past when a client asked via email if I had an appointment available, then I’ve responded with a few options and got nothing. I never hear back. Or maybe I hear back 4 days later and someone else has already booked that option online.

Now it’s my policy to not handle any booking via email. I simply offer the link to online scheduling. “I do have some options! You can choose your time and book the appointment online right here <booking link>.”

You can decide how to handle emails regarding specific health or treatment information, too. It’s great when a regular client emails ahead to let me know about a new injury or health issue that’s come up since their last appointment. That gives me time to look up any contraindications or refresh my memory on a treatment plan for that injury.

But if the information becomes complicated or the client is seeking advice, that’s better handled in person at their appointment or with a phone call. When an email conversation gets tricky, I usually default to, “This might be better handled with a real conversation. We can talk about it at your next appointment, or I’d be happy to call you tomorrow morning, would that work for you?”

Be consistent

Once you’ve decided how to handle email, stick with it. It can be a little awkward to create a new boundary. If a client questions your away message or request for a phone call, it’s okay to say, “I’ve created some new email policies to be sure I’m getting proper restorative time,” or “I’ve created some new email policies to be sure my clients are receiving the best possible care.” Do what works best for you. There’s no need to explain further or apologize.

When used well, email is a great tool for your business. Happy emailing!

Michael Reynolds and Allissa Haines activated their Wonder Twin powers in 2015 to create business and marketing resources for massage therapists like you at www.massagebusinessblueprint.com.
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Comments

Thank you for the advice! I do have clients, especially the older ones, that think they can text or email or Facebook Message me or inbox me on my business Facebook page (I rarely check those!)  24/7. Then pester me if I don't respond within 15 minutes. Thanks for the heads up on how to word new policies. I like that. A few years ago with lots of bad winter weather coming through, I made a policy that said, "if the local schools are closed due to bad weather, so is my office." Is there a way on the ABMP website that we can set up automatic replies to emails? Facebook started doing this for my business page and it's helped SO much. I use MailChimp for emails at the moment. They do have automated email replies, but I'm not sure how to set that up yet.

 

Thanks for the article! I will copy them down to use for the habitual texters I get.

 

- Kim R.

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