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Mind Your [Web] Manners! OR You Still Need to Make a Good First (Second,Third...) Virtual Impression.

Posted By Guy Timberlake, The American Small Business Coalition, LLC, Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Updated: Sunday, June 29, 2008

I have to express my disbelief at the absolute lack of professionalism that I see nowadys when it comes to  communications. In particular, those sent over electronic mediums. Narrowing it down even further, I'm referring to email. While I'm on the subject, I will also throw in social networking as well.

But first email.

I will preface this by saying I am only in my early forties (old by Young AFCEANs standards, but I still feel young) so I really don't think I'm like the crotchety old man on the corner most kids think of, but I'm sure before this is through...oh well.

Here's the first point I want to discuss

Have you ever received a business email from someone you did not know containing (or not) one or more of the following:

  • No subject
  • No salutation
  • No signature
  • No point

Okay, so I threw the last one in for fun (sort of) but it is relevant. It may be short-sighted of me, but I know for a fact that there are companies of which I had every intention of doing business with for various products and services (personal and professional use) which lost the opportunity to get my business because of an email received from a salesperson or customer service representative in response to an inquiry I made.

Simply put, there needs to be some basic courtesy maintained in business communications.

For example:

This is the response I received from a sales rep at a good company in the DC/MD/VA region whom I was planning on purchasing secure email services from. You can see my original email below as well.

The response read: 


Call me direct 703.344.XXXX         ( I had to remove the number. It's a professional thing.)

From: Guy J. Timberlake
Sent: Sun 12/2/2007 6:11 PM
To: Sales
Subject: MAIL and SECURE Products

Good morning,

Please contact me regarding hosted email services and secure email services. We are seeking to migrate to an MS Exchange based platform (currently using an Open Source solution) and will also have Active Sync devices and need web based features for remote access. We plan to make a decision within ten days. Thank you.

Best regards,
Guy J. Timberlake,
CEO and Chief Visionary Officer
The American Small Business Coalition
- Information, Relationships and Access for the Government Sector
410.381.7378 - Direct 410.381.2381 - Fax
Visit us on the web at

Board of Governors, Tower Club at Tysons Corner


Not a "hello" or "thanks for considering us" or the rep's name in the email or anything. If I had sales professionals working for me, actually, if I had anyone working for me that responded to a customer, potential customer or even a partner organization in that fashion, I would consult my HR Professional to find out how I could FIRE them for sheer stupidity. How much effort does it take to be cordial? Whatever happened to professionalism?

I have no idea how old this person is, but I know this behavior is not only relegated to the generations younger than mine. I see older folks doing it also.

Why would someone think that a response like this would leave a favorable impression? Would they care? This person obviously believes that he has all the business he needs as he never followed up. That's a sales thing.

How about social networking? 

Have you used LinkedIn to learn more about a prospect? Maybe to extend an introduction through someone familiar to both of you?

To all of you folks on LinkedIn and other services that send these poor excuses for introductions to folks you are trying to impress, what is wrong with you!?!?!

There is no difference (to me) in approaching someone online as it is in-person. You should be no less formal in a forwarded introduction, than you would face-to-face with the person at a networking mixer or business meeting. Once again, everyone is doing it.

I'm sorry to say, but it appears that we have become etiquette lazy and that is not good. 

So if you want to connect with me and initiate it by sending a crappy, informal email to me directly or through LinkedIn, and you are not one of my buddies like Buzz or Russo or someone else I've known for twenty years, chugged beers with, watched your kids, hung out at your house or done something to move our relationship beyond "Hi, my name is...", please use a little common sense and common courtesy.

Otherwise, you'll be off my radar like a ship lost in the Bermuda Triangle. -GT


Here's a little something I found on the web: 

Electronic Etiquette - Manners for Modern Day Communication

"Voice mail is the death of customer service." Is this phrase as true as it was five years ago? Apparently not. Electronic E-mails, video conferences, speakerphones and cellular/portable phones and yes, voice messages - all these have become common - if not preferred - means of communication in the modern business world. However, easier and faster does not always mean better or acceptable, no matter how many people do it. No matter how hi-tech the medium, because we are ultimately communicating with other people, common sense and courtesy are still expected.


One down side of E-mail is that it can make an important message seem informal and unimportant. When E-mailing about work, remember to still maintain the tone of a business correspondence - keep it businesslike! Other key points are: always include a subject line, don't use all-uppercase letters (making it seem you are yelling at the reader), check your grammar and spelling (this reflects on you, even in e-mail), sign off with your name, company name (if applicable) and a phone number.

If your E-mail is a reply, even though the subject line will provide a general reference, include enough information to ensure the recipient can quickly identify the reply. It is not always necessary to include the entire original message in your answer.

Do not be upset if you do not receive an answer immediately. People have other responsibilities besides reading E-mail. If you require an immediate response, it may be best to simply pick up the telephone and call the person.

And last but not the least, avoid communicating in anger whenever possible. It's understandably very tempting when speaking to a machine or dashing out a message on your computer keyboard because you are not face to face with the other person. A knee-jerk message could cause a great offense. You may wish you had not left the angry words on someone's voice mail or so quickly sent that sarcastic e-mail message. The answering machine or computer will not respond to your angry message - but the recipient probably will. One way to ensure the appropriateness of your correspondence is to wait a few minutes after typing it out, and then reading it carefully one more time before sending it.

No matter how sophisticated communication technology becomes, the two end-users will always be human - the sender and the recipient, the caller and the person being called, you and the other person or people. Remembering one's manners is not only polite - in business, it can mean the difference between a satisfied or dissatisfied customer/client - even failure and success.

Thanks to the folks at AppleOne for having this great information posted on their site.

- The Chief Visionary

Tags:  electronic  email  etiquette  manners 

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Comments on this post...

Jeff Porter says...
Posted Thursday, July 10, 2008
I have to weigh in on this one, and being 50+ maybe I do qualify for the 'crotchety old man..." I'll leave that for you to determine.

This crumbling courtesy and complacent customer service extends beyond electronic communication. Increasingly I note that many people fundamentally don't do their jobs...or they do just enough to get by; Just enough information to answer a question, responding only when people make a fuss, just providing a phone number in response to a sales inquiry...the list goes on.

A work ethic that has served me well is "do more than is expected". This extended customer service always brings me back as a customer - instilling this attitude in yourself and all your staff is an excellent investment.

To quote Harvard scholar Dean Briggs; "Do your work; not just your work and no more, but a little more for the lavishing's sake - that little more which is worth all the rest. And if you suffer, as you will, do your work. And out of your work and suffering will come the great joys of life."

My introduction to the business world in the late 70's and 80's took place in Australia. Small to medium businesses looked to the great economies of the USA and Japan as a model of customer service, quality assurance and management methods, lead mainly by the post war work of Edwards Deming. -

I now proudly call myself an American but I'm disapointed to see the noticeable decline in friendliness, courtesy, quality and work ethic. For your personal and business sake; do your work....and a little more for the lavishing's sake.

Jeff Porter -
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Guy Timberlake, The American Small Business Coalition, LLC says...
Posted Monday, February 01, 2010
Just had another "notable" occurrence today. A gent from a local GovernmentTV company wanted to interview me on a topic not necessarily in my area of expertise.

Two emails: no salutation, no closing, no signature. No dice!

- The CVO
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