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Being human with digital communications

By June 10, 2020April 13th, 2022No Comments

The Covid-19 pandemic has really brought massive changes to how we socialise and communicate.

This whirlwind of a pandemic has left no stones unturned.

Even the way we craft our emails or business related messages are a little different now.

I mean, I am sure many of you have stopped to ponder for a bit, when beginning an email or ending it off?

It seems like ‘hope you had a great weekend’ or ‘cheers!’ make light of this situation we are in at best and impersonal or insensitive at worst.

We really don’t know how the other party is coping with the pandemic and how his/her personal life has been affected.

Practical or business reasons aside, now more than ever, is a time where every little bit of care and concern for a fellow human being might go a long way. 

You never know how the way you craft the opening or closing of your email or messages might bring some level of positivity to someone going through the roughest of times.

While we are all for automation, if there was one thing we learnt in our user research and product building journey, here at Surer, it was to never belittle the importance of nuances brought about by human communication and why they exist.

We learnt that for Surer to be useful, we should not aim to CHANGE how business is being conducted by intermediaries but to FACILITATE and make it MORE EFFICIENT. 

We cannot fall into the trap of this myth that tech solutions are here to make wholesale changes.

If you were to check out https://surer.sg/who-did-charlie-puth-date/ we have created for our users, you will come to realise that the deal making process was purposely crafted to mimic as far possible how an intermediary would work BUT supercharged with structure and automation at points that call for such.

So, for General Insurance intermediaries, we hope, as you communicate with your clients, peers or underwriters, the following tips can help remind you a little to not forget the importance of humanising interactions while communicating digitally!

The first sentence (unsurprisingly) sets the tone… now more than ever

I mean, stating the obvious right?

Well, arguably, pre-pandemic days, we can all turn a blind eye to this; no reasonable person would expect you to know of his/her situation and expect that you be concerned.

However, given that the Covid-19 pandemic is a global challenge every one of us is facing, starting your email or message without first considering the situation can most definitely come across as cold.

It is wise to first acknowledge the situation and your understanding of what this might mean.

For example, starting with a ‘I hope things are okay’ or ‘I hope you are well’ and following that up with ‘if this email comes at an inconvenient time, my apologies’ would actually be a nice touch to show that you care.

And of course (and this is something we will repeat throughout the article) however you wish to craft your opening sentence, rule number one is to always be genuine. 

Show that you have thought about the recipient in your closing

It should not have taken a pandemic to teach us this lesson.

This writer here is as guilty as anybody for signing off for the sake of it. Usually with a ‘regards’ or ‘thanks’.

Truth be told, the words we use to close a message or email might not actually matter that much more than just a formality – where it is frowned upon if you do not and does not add much value if you do.

Then came this crisis and suddenly, ‘Cheers!’ might be overly out of touch and ‘All the best’, cold.

The difference is that we are expected to know that we are all in some state of emergency.

Depending on the relationship with the recipient and your understanding of his/her relationship, a thoughtful closing could be something more practical.

For example, if you know that your message does not require urgent response, would it not be nice to state so? 

A ‘look forward to your reply but at your leisure’ can perhaps demonstrate your understanding that the recipient could be distracted by many different things like caring for a kid as everyone stays home?

As mentioned earlier, there can be many ways to close your message. Be mindful that you are genuine about it.

I mean, don’t tell the recipient to reply at their leisure and then hound them for one the next minute.

Humour is a double-edged sword 

While we are all for the prescription of laughter, in sensitive times, humour becomes more of a double-edged sword than you know.

Personally, I did get some laughs out of sign-offs like ‘yours from afar’ and ‘sent from my living room’ but… 

I can imagine this to not be quite as funny if myself or a close one is suffering from the effects of the pandemic.

Unless you are close to the situation of the other party, for the most part, and especially in formal messages or email, your sign-off or general language of the message should not make light of this global crisis.

So, if it is a client of whom you are confident you have built quite a good personal relationship with, sometimes, it is nice to bring a small chuckle to their day.

Being genuine beats being polished

The most important aspect of this entire article.

No one will argue this point. 

The question is, how do you balance between being formal or polished versus being warm?

Expressing warmth in business correspondence is challenging to begin with. 

We may previously find ourselves relying too much on phrases that sound overly formal, bordering on insincere and get away with it.

However, the pandemic has called for all of us to show more compassion than we normally do or would expect. 

As such, it is better to come across genuine than try to be polished yet fake.

To avoid doing so, ask yourself if you are overkilling on stock expressions. 

Stock expressions like ‘it has come to my attention’ or ‘as per subject’ or ‘this is with regards to’

The intention of this article is not to lecture on the rules and etiquette of emailing.

Rather, we hope to bring some attention to the fact that how we communicate digitally calls for tweaking given the current situation (and forevermore).

While none of us will ever be Professor X and control how people perceive us, it is not that huge of an effort to be a little more deliberate about our choice of words.

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