Effective Online Communication

One of the most common (but flawed) anti-VLO arguments I have heard is that “attorneys cannot communicate effectively with their clients if they are not meeting face-to-face.”

Business communication in any medium, however, can be effective as long as you develop the right skills and follow a few rules that will help you get your message across to clients.

If you learn how to communicate online in the right way, you might find that written messages have a few benefits you won’t get with a phone call or in-person meeting. By sending written messages online, you can

  • Save a lot of time by keeping your communication focused and cutting down travel time,
  • Create a time-stamped record of the messages you send,
  • Respond to questions at any time of the day without having to coordinate schedules, and
  • Give your clients something that they can refer back to when they need to review information you provide.

Here are a few tips on how to communicate effectively, make sure your messages are read and encourage clients to act upon the messages you send.

  • Create subject lines that specifically summarize the body of your message. This will help you and your client organize messages and recognize important ones, and it will encourage timely responses. Better yet, if you can fit an entire, short message in the subject line, do it; but be sure to reiterate the message in the body of the email.
  • Make one point per email. If you cover too many topics in one email, you increase the chances that your client will miss something and fail to act on your instructions. By covering just one topic per email, you will avoid overwhelming your clients with information, and you will make it easier for clients to act on your advice or instructions in an organized format.
  • Specify the response you want, and don’t bury requests in your message. If your client does not see a request for a response, you are not likely to get one. Instead, put instructions in bold or single them out from larger paragraphs, and give specific dates for deadlines. Also, provide your client with instructions on how to respond, and give them your preferred contact information in the signature of every message.
  • Make a habit of responding to messages in the same way you want your clients to respond. Don’t leave clients hanging by failing to respond to messages, and make sure clients have a clear understanding and reasonable expectations for your normal response time. Also, if you do not have time to respond quickly, write your clients a brief message to let them know when you will be able to respond.
  • Keep your emotions in check when responding to client inquiries. If you were mad when you read the last email your client sent, take some time to cool off before you respond. Instead of replying in anger or frustration, use your response as an opportunity to educate the client and clarify any misunderstandings.

For more tips on how to communicate effectively online, check out this article at MindTools that shows examples of both effective and not-so-effective emails.