Impeccable E-mail Etiquette

Impeccable Customer Service Tip #173

Always include the recipient’s name somewhere in an e-mail. Have you ever noticed how this helps to personalize; bring connectedness to an e-mail conversation?


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  1. No Fred, I never noticed. 🙂

  2. Noel? Is that you, Noel?

  3. Phil Smith III says

    Didn’t we already cover this? I don’t find it adds “connectedness”; unless it’s a note to a group (“Bob, please take out the wolverine; Mary, please set fire to the shed”), I find it patronizing and artificial. It’s *email*: it has a To: line. It was sent to me. Guess what, I know it’s TO me.

    Short of a love letter, I’d find it equally artificial and irritating in a handwritten note: you started it with “Dear John,”. With the possible exception of your aged and senile grandmother, why would you need to remind them of their name?

  4. Masoud A. Edalatkhah says

    I was just thinking about this the other day. Most often I’m rushing through e-mail and/or typing it on my phone and forget to include anything personal. Great reminder, Steve.

  5. Steve,

    This is great advice. I remember hiring a CEO for an organization and the candidate that stood out for us always started each email with “Dear [name].” It showed that he took the time to demonstrate his respect for us. It is more of a professional courtesy than anything else.

    Gen Y’ers tend to overlook this common courtesy. I appreciate that @Phil may have a different perspective. But, I always notice when someone sends a note that illustrates that the person sending it took the time to be professional and courteous. Of course, if the reader struggles with reading, then they may not want to struggle through the extra inclusion of their name. Perhaps that was @Phil’s point.

  6. Phil Smith III says

    @Ian: I’m flattered to be thought a Gen Y-er, at 51! But I have been using email for over 30 years, so that may affect my perspective.

    I guess I’m not connecting “Dear Fred” with “professional and courteous”. In fact, I find that a note starting “Dear Phil” makes me THINK it’s a form letter and/or something not courteous, as in, “Dear Phil, I know you think this is how email etiquette should work, but you’re a flaming idiot” (or equivalent).

    Actually, if your Gen-Y thesis is correct (not disagreein’, just don’t have any data to support or refute), then my position will become the norm, and y’all with your old-fashioned approach will look obsolete… 🙂

  7. I guess this approach is not for everyone. I can cite examples where this courtesy led to positive impressions and outcomes. But, it is just a tip. You don’t need to do it if you don’t want to.

  8. John Crain says

    Great tip, Steve. Today’s Impeccability email popped a bit more — like overhearing my name spoken in a passing conversation. Perhaps this will have greatest impact when used outside of the salutation (as in your email), especially for readers who may have trained their eyes to expect (and brains to dismiss as rote) such “Dear Fred” personalization in the salutation. Keep the tips coming!

  9. @Masoud: Great reminder from you, for all of us to slow down enough to fully acknowledge the people we’re “communicating” with. Thanks for always adding value to the conversation.

    @Phil: While I’m not a fan of beginning e-mails with “Dear John” … I am a fan of sprinkling the recipient’s name somewhere in the message. It’s just a tip to bring some intentionality to the customer experience. I’ve found it works well for me and my clients but your results may vary.

    @Ian: Agreed. “Courteous” and “professional” are always winners in my book. You always add value to the conversation. I thank you.

    @John: Right on! Your point about the salutation being overlooked and therefore placing their name elsewhere is an excellent one. I thank you for adding value to the conversation — you took this simple tip to another level.


  1. […] When responding to customers and clients via social media, instead of replying as the entity (business), humanize the communications and experience by including your name (and theirs). […]

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