There are a lot of ways to communicate these days. Phone calls, text messages, instant messages, email, direct mail-- the list goes on. While it’s important to note how your clients prefer to be communicated with, it’s also important to remember that communicating with clients is different than communicating with your co-workers or friends. Here are a few tips for writing clear and concise emails to clients to ensure that your message is clear and well-received.
1. First, find out if email is the best way to communicate with your client.
Email, while convenient, is not always the best method of communication for everyone. Make sure to ask before assuming that a client is okay with receiving information via email and be sure to document their preferences in their chart. Also being sure that you have the correct email address in your database will stop many communication hiccups before they begin.
2. Respond in a timely manner.
Responding to your clients questions and concerns via email quickly will show the client that you are on top of things. Establishing a goal of responding within 24-48 hours is a good start. Making sure that any automatic response emails (you may even delegate another coworker to help your clients while you are away) are up to date when you are out of town is also much appreciated. Even sending a quick note to let a client know that while you may not have exactly what they need yet but that you are working on it, will go far in showing that although you are very busy you also care.
3. Keep your emails short and sweet.
Your clients will appreciate you even more if your emails get to the point quickly. Make sure that you are efficiently answering their questions in an uncomplicated manner that they will understand. Doing this will also keep communication on track while hopefully avoiding several back and forth emails. Closing your emails with a friendly personal note such as “we hope you and Sparky are doing well at home, take care!” can add a more personal touch to a mostly clinical correspondence.
5. Use a template or outline and make it protocol that your coworkers use the same ones.
Using software with specific templates that auto populate client names, dates and clinical information is an easy solution to many possible human errors. If that is not an option for your organization, then creating a template that is used for different scenarios such as discharge instructions, final invoice, just checking in, etc. can be very helpful while saving you time.
Here is a good example of the template that we use for emailing discharge instructions to our clients.
6. Keep in mind your client’s privacy in addition to your hospital’s privacy policies.
These days we need to be extra vigilant in making sure that we are not sharing any of a client’s information without their permission. This includes other members of your team and any other department in your company. Make sure to fully understand your hospital policy for sending patient records as well. For example, our hospital has clearly defined areas within our patient charts that contain internal and external clinic notes. Our internal notes are not shared with our clients and we have strict guidelines that we stick to for sharing even our external medical records.
7. Proofread your emails.
This is pretty obvious, but also, making sure that emails are (for the most part) always sent from a trusted device- not a smartphone! Smartphones and tablets with apps and other distractions may limit your ablility to take the extra time to focus on accuracy. Reread the original email and make sure that you have answered the client’s questions in a manner that they are most likely to understand. Make sure that all staff know they are supported in taking the extra time to look over emails.