A client emailed a request to employees who are registered for an upcoming Better Business Writing class I will teach. In her message, she asked them to email their answers to four prework questions to me.
Nearly all the employees have submitted their prework. However, 60 percent sent their responses to the client rather than to me.
Yes, 60 percent did not follow the client's instructions, even though her subject line said this:
Quick Prework for June 14 Better Business Writing Class—Due Thursday, June 7—Please respond to instructor, Lynn Gaertner-Johnston
Do you have times when your readers don't behave as you intend despite the careful way you lay out information? It may be that your words are not enough. You may need to change your processes to make it easier for readers to respond appropriately.
My client has decided to have me send out the prework requests in the future. That way, class attendees will reply to me–not to her–and she won't need to forward their emails to me. I like this idea and have used it successfully with other clients.
Here are other simple process changes:
- Including a stamped, self-addressed envelope to increase the odds that readers will respond by postal mail.
- Adding a meeting to a colleague's Outlook calendar rather than waiting for him to respond to an email request.
- Emailing a scanned copy of an invoice rather than mailing a paper original, when you know the client needs to scan the invoice before forwarding it to Accounting.
- Emailing a reminder with log-in information 30 to 50 minutes before an online class to help attendees find the information when they need it.
- Creating a job aid for employees to keep on their desktops rather than expecting them to look up common tasks in procedure manuals.
Your readers and users are human. If they are not responding the way you want to your written communication, consider whether words might not be enough. A change in your processes may bring about the behavior you want.
Do you remember a time when words were not enough and a change in process led to better responses? If so, please share your example!