The written word can be a powerful tool, but it also creates plenty of opportunities for misunderstandings. For better or worse, email has become critical to business operations. While it can be a highly efficient method of keeping in touch with clients, employees and strategic partners, email has sometimes been used to circumvent meaningful interactions. Since the channel does not carry the same nuances of tone that face-to-face or phone conversations provide, poorly-worded messages can inadvertently generate conflict or confusion.

Email is an art form

With that in mind, it is essential for any business professional to learn when email is appropriate to use in client relationship management and how to create messages in a delicate and tactful manner. Resist using email as a crutch or as a way to avoid interacting with your more demanding clients. At the start of every new client relationship, it is wise to ask the person what mode of communication he or she prefers. Does he or she want to be contacted via different channels at certain times of the day, or regarding a specific issue? Taking the time to ask at the outset will not only simplify your communication efforts later on, it also shows your client that you pay attention to small details.

Laying out a personal strategy for when you will interact with a client via email, phone or in person may also be beneficial. While a quick (though professional) email may be sufficient to answer a minor question from a client, more serious issues are best addressed with a phone call or face-to-face meeting. If the situation only requires an email response, make sure you start with a greeting, use proper spelling and grammar and include a signature at the end of the message. Always invite the client to contact you if something is unclear or if he or she needs further assistance. These may seem to be obvious points, but when you are feeling harried or enjoy a casual dynamic with a client, it is easy to forget the importance of a carefully crafted email.

Do not think that just because an email lacks the warmth of speaking on the phone or in person, the interaction with your client is any less valuable. Every single time you speak with a client, regardless of channel, you have an opportunity to prove your worth and deepen the connection.