5 Email Sins to Avoid in Franchising

I recently read an article in Wall Street Journal that hailed the death of email as a form of communication. There is no question that the way we communicate is changing through the introduction of Social Media, but I believe we’ll continue to use email for most of our business communications for a many years to come. An important question remains: is your email etiquette helping you to build good relationships with your franchisees or is it hurting?

Most franchise companies are built by entrepreneurs who had very little, if any, experience in big corporations where emailing is part of the culture and where one “hopefully” learns proper email etiquette. Being entrepreneurs, many franchisors wear way too many hats and are very busy. With too many emails to read and answer and too little time to do so, emails can become a nuisance and an overwhelmed person will answer accordingly or, in the worst case, ignore the message.

The 5 most common email sins are:

 

Email Sin #1: Emails not responded to or acknowledged.

This is one of the worst sins anyone can commit when communicating via email. Every email deserves a response even if it’s a simple: “Got it, thank you” or “Got it. I’ll get back with you ASAP.”

Unanswered and unacknowledged emails mean that the person receiving the messages doesn’t consider them  important enough to warrant a response. People who use email answer them when they considered them important; if we are honest with ourselves we know this is true. So, when franchisors ignore a message from a franchisee, their silence sends a message that deters communications and franchisee relations.

Email Sin #2: Answering every email that comes from a prospect, but the moment that the prospect becomes a franchisee, the franchisor simply ignores future emails or simply forwards to another person without the proper transition.

This is perhaps the worst sin yet. In my book, this is simply unacceptable, but unfortunately it happens. If prospective franchisees have been talking with the CEO and/or founder while evaluating the franchise opportunity, they will have the tendency to want to continue the direct communication. While the CEO and/or founder has a demanding position and the support of franchisees is handled by other staff members, a explicit transition needs to take place in a way that the new franchisee fully understands who will be answering his or her questions once he or she joins the system. A short message from the CEO is called for to thank the now new franchisee and to alert him or her that the message will be handled by someone else. A prompt response from the person assigned to handle the inquiry is a must.

Email Sin #3: Using inappropriate tone or language and hitting “Send” before re-reading the entire email.

Tone doesn’t convey well via email. If we’re rushed, and most franchisors and their staff are, we can come across as rude. I learned this lesson the hard way.

Working to support franchisees I had to learn to avoid being rushed because invariably I sent the wrong message when I didn’t take the time to calm down and answer properly. I learned to pay attention to my breath as a means to slowing my mind down. Stopping for a moment, taking a deep breath and closing my eyes before answering an email helps me be in the present and not thinking about the other 100 emails that are not getting answered or the things that are not getting done. When I remember to do this, my emails better convey my caring for the recipient and his or her query.

Moreover, most entrepreneurs have a “fire, ready, aim” type of approach. They tend to seek progress not perfection. Although I seek both, I am definitely a fire, ready, aim kind of gal and guilty of this bad habit. Even when I may take the time to read and respond to a message, too many times I still don’t take that an extra half a minute to re-read my response and invariably hit “send” with either a typo or an unfinished thought that can be misinterpreted. This isn’t the end of the world in most cases, but it does give a careless and unprofessional image to your company that can be avoided with one extra breath.

Email Sin #4: Not having an email policy for employees to follow when answering emails.

You need email guidelines for your employees. All new employees need to be trained on these policies; and, from time to time, all of your employees should be refreshed on these guidelines. Your policy should include:

  • Acknowledging all emails whether or not an answer is available.
  • Guidelines for the text and time frames to acknowledge emails.
  • The acceptable time period for responding to emails (such as 24 hours, 36 hours etc.)
  • Typical responses to commonly asked questions.
  • Determining who handles what kind of issues in the company, and informing sender the person who is responsible for responding.
  • Making sure spell-check is set on automatic.
  • Reading emails before hitting ‘send’.
  • Keeping copies in the proper franchisee files if not done through an automatic process.

Email Sin #5:  Not keeping copies of emails to and from franchisees.

Not keeping copies of the emails that go to and from franchisees is a real mistake. Franchisees should also keep copies of all communications with the franchisor. In case of a dispute, you need access to these records, but it does not have to escalate to that point for you to need these records. For example when an employee leaves you need to know what transpired between them and your franchisees so this is a crucial step to follow. Likewise franchisees need to be able to show the bases for their understanding of the franchisor’s position as expressed by the departing employee. Today’s technology allows us to save emails to file folders automatically. Make sure to get your computer experts to set up all staff’s email this way. Franchisees can also set up their email programs so that emails from different departments of the franchisor go automatically to different file folders.

Franchisees are, for the most part, not guilty of these sins. They usually come from a corporate background and understand the rules of emailing. This makes the sins of the franchisor even worse thus becoming imperative to avoid them to ensure that email communications help build and not hinder good franchise relationships.

Please add other ideas for email policies or email sins to avoid. Thank you!