Knowing When Not to Press ‘Send’
A friend asked for my advice. He had received an email from a frustrated customer disputing a six-figure invoice. The lesson I shared to help him resolve the issue can apply to any leader – including fleet managers – when trying to defuse a tense situation via email.
I finished reading his email draft and looked up.
“What would you change?” he asked.
“Nothing,” I said.
“So, it’s good to go?”
“No. I wouldn’t send it.”
“Really? I spent at least two hours writing this thing last night.”
“I hear you. But that’s precisely why I wouldn’t send it,” I said.
“What do you mean?”
“This situation is far too complex and emotionally charged,” I said. “No matter how well you craft this email, there are too many things here they could take the wrong way.”
“What do you recommend instead?”
“Get them on the phone or Zoom,” I advised. “Discuss their concerns and work through this issue together in a live conversation. Otherwise, you’ll both get sucked into a vortex of back-and-forth emails. That will waste a ton of time and escalate the tension, not resolve it.”
He called the customer, and they worked out the issue within 10 minutes. Crisis averted. And my friend got paid.
The lesson: If you’re spending too much time agonizing over a high-stakes email – whether it’s to your boss, an internal customer, a vendor or anyone else – let that tell you something. Don’t press “send.” Pick up the phone, get on a video call or set up a face-to-face meeting instead.
There are some things you shouldn’t handle in writing.
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