IT checklist for communicating to users by email

Effective communications to users on IT service updates are essential to maximising user satisfaction. Communicate poorly and a service can receive a bad perception no matter how solid the technology. Communicate well and you can have happy customers even if the technology has issues. The following checklist provides some tips on effective communications regardless if you are communicating about new features, an upcoming outage, a project rollout, or a service issue.

  1. Ensure the communication is necessary – Do not communicate if it is not necessary. Unnecessary communications reduces email effectiveness as users start to ignore or delay requests for action. The parable about the “boy who cried wolf” applies here. Consider consolidating all those small service updates into a monthly update.
  2. Target the relevant audience – Finance system has an outage coming up? Don’t communicate to the everyone in the company.
  3. Why is it relevant – Make it clear in the first sentence why you are communicating and why you are communicating directly to them; “As a user of the finance system I am letting you know about an upcoming maintenance downtime”.
  4. Make it clear if action required – If the user needs to take action make it very clear with a statement or heading along the lines of “Action you need to take”
  5. No jargon, no acronyms – Assume your users have no idea what you are talking about.
  6. Send to a small groups first – If you are sending to a large group of users, send to a small group first. This lets you adjust the email if you get feedback that identifies room for improvement.
  7. Have a colleague read the communications – A fast and low effort method to capture simple mistakes.
  8. Shorter is better – Longer emails do not get read. Longer emails have more chance of being misunderstood.
  9. Use links for further information – This enables you to keep emails short, while also providing more information to users who are interested.
  10. Send the email from a real person – Even if your email is sent from a group mailbox, sign-off the email from a real person. Users respond better to emails from real people rather than anonymous teams.
  11. Be clear on timezones/ time periods – Include a table with applicable timezones if you are communicating a specific time where users are spread over multiple timezones. I’m constantly amazed how companies with global users communicate new releases as “coming this fall” when half the planet is literally in the southern hemisphere (where it won’t be fall), and the term “this fall” is unique to the United States.
  12. Multi language – If you have users with various primary languages consider matching communications accordingly.
  13. Consistent style – For bonus points, keep your communications consistent in terms of tone and formatting.
  14. The subject is key – The subject of your email will have disproportionate impact if your email gets read at all. Keep the subject short. Keep the subject to the point.
  15. Target reminders – If you need to send a reminder for action to be taken, then only send the email to those that need to take action. See item 1 on this list.

If you liked this checklist, please give me a clap. If you have suggested additions please let us know via the comments.

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