What better time for a declutter than the start of a new decade? Here’s our hit list of clichés to cut in 2020, with some suggestions to bring your customer comms bang up to date.
1. Further to your email dated 20 January, I’m writing to…
This opening gambit is a sure-fire way to get off on the wrong foot. ‘Further to your email…’ is transactional – it comes across like you’re begrudgingly ticking a box.
Don’t be tempted to flip it round to ‘I’m writing in response to your email dated 20 January’, either. In both cases ‘I’m writing…’ is redundant. They know you’re writing – you’re not communicating through the medium of modern dance.
For 2020: Show you appreciate the time your customer’s spent letting you know things have gone wrong. Try opening with ‘Thank you for your email on 20 January about…’.
2. Please accept our sincere apologies for…
If you need to say sorry, don’t dress it up in formal language – it distances you from the mistake. And by asking the customer to accept your apology, it puts the onus back on them, rather than giving them the unconditional apology they deserve.
What’s more, if you’re sincere, you don’t need to announce it. It’s a bit like telling people you’re being honest – they’ll think you’re lying! Any variations on this tired old line (like ‘I would like to sincerely apologise’) are similarly fit for the scrap heap.
For 2020: The only way to say sorry sincerely is to use the word sorry. When you’ve made a mistake (or your organisation has), hold your hands up: ‘I’m very sorry you’ve experienced X’, or ‘I’m very sorry we didn’t do Y when we should have.’
3. Please note / Please be advised / Please be assured
There’s no need to plead with your customer to read your message. If it’s written for them, they’ll want to read it.
Don’t ask people to ‘note’ key information – not only does it sound pompous, it’s pointless. (By writing it, you’ve ‘noted’ it for them.) And avoid slipping into the passive voice: ‘be advised’, ‘be assured’, ‘be informed’ all create distance. Always write from ‘I’ to ‘you’.
For 2020: If you need your customer to ‘note’ something important, simply set it out clearly for them. And if you really want to highlight something, use a heading or bold.
Instead of telling people to ‘be advised’, empower them with options like ‘You can…’ so it ends on a high note.
4. I trust the above is helpful
Avoid this parting shot at all costs – it’s patronising and presumptuous. All too often it closes a response that’s anything but helpful.
If your letter or email has been genuinely helpful, there’s no need to say this. What your customer reads is ‘I hope I don’t hear from you again.’
For 2020: Just cut this out altogether. When you get to the end of your email or letter, close with how your customer can contact you again if they need to. Speaking of which…
5. Should you require any further assistance……please do not hesitate to contact me
Steer well clear of this tired old cliché – it’s the classic sign-off from a faceless corporation. In fact, scrap any sentence starting with ‘should you’. This archaic opener has no place in 2020 (or 1980, for that matter).
Also, bear in mind that when customers see this cliché, they read ‘please do not contact me’.
For 2020: Show you’re willing to help by writing what you’d say out loud: ‘If you need any more help’ and ‘If you’ve got any more questions’ are good ways to keep the conversation going. Keep it light: ‘give me a call’, ‘drop me a line’ or ‘get in touch’ will reassure your customer they’ll be able to reach a real person.
Need a hand clearing out the clichés from your customer comms? We’d love to help.