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Answer the question when replying

One simple way to improve your business communications is to ensure that every email you send in reply to anyone (staff, suppliers, customers and even friends and family) actually serves you both well.

So if someone has taken the time to ask you a question, make sure you answer it, and answer it clearly, when you reply. Sounds obvious but as it often doesn’t happen, it is worth checking before you hit send…

  1. read their email again – did you miss a second question? Are you sure you understood the real question being asked?
  2. does your answer stand alone? That is, did you give a full answer that anyone could understand – there is nothing worse than an email “Dear Fred, the answer is yes. Regards, Barney”. “Dear Fred, Yes we do deliver to Devonport. Regards, Barney” is much more effective as Fred doesn’t have to remember or think about what his question was.
  3. is your answer as simple and clear as possible? “Yes we do deliver to Devonport” is much better than “Yes, we deliver to all major cities in Australia” (is Devonport considered a major city?) or “Our delivery areas are all listed on our website and we cover most parts of Tasmania and Queensland” (how is Queensland relevant? Why couldn’t you give a direct answer?)
  4. if you can’t answer the question, say so rather than be obscure or ignore the question. I know I would prefer to hear “I’m not sure but will find out for you” or “we haven’t done that before so I’ll have to ask my manager to call you back” rather than having to ask again or risk making a guess.
Not only are clear replies to questions a good communication strategy, they can save you (and those you email) time and frustration.

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