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The future of business etiquette and communications

By Dawn Wagenaar, Ingenuity Marketing Group, LLC

June 10, 2020

It’s Monday morning. You look at your calendar and it includes three video calls, one in-house meeting and approvals for prospect communications (among other client work). You put on your breathable computing gloves (designed with the firm’s logo) and start reviewing emails.
A notification pops up on your screen. You click and see a quick video message from a colleague. You click the appropriate acknowledgement icon below the video chat feature and set it to pause for 30 minutes.
Later on in the breakroom, you grab a single-serve beverage from the hot catered selections delivered that morning. You walk into the firm entrance of the conference room — the side reserved for team members. The client enters from the public side, and you wave to each other through a clear, hypoallergenic window. The meeting begins.
This may or may not be an unlikely scenario for future business etiquette, but it does provide food for thought on how CPA firms will adjust practices to provide healthy and productive workplaces.
What should continue is a healthy concern for personalizing communications to employees, clients and prospects. Whether for health reasons or due to multiple physical offices and markets, leaders must use new messaging to breach the physical divide and keep their relationships close.

Here are a few thoughts on business etiquette and communications to maintain trust and connection.

Modernize in-person etiquette

Some people may no longer be comfortable shaking hands as a business greeting. To avoid awkwardness, simply ask what someone prefers when meeting for the first time. The same goes with business cards. Have the cards handy, but ask if they prefer a card or a LinkedIn connection.
To make video calls feel more like in-person meetings, stay focused on others by turning off your email and other distractions. If working remotely, set up your home office to have a pleasing video background. Preview your face in the camera so it’s not too dark or angled too far up or down. It’s also still important, as a long-term work policy, to dress professionally and avoid outside noise and disruption as much as possible during video calls. 

Use faces and personalized links 

One thing that is increasingly important with email etiquette is to communicate one-to-one. Your chosen service or tool should feature the recipient’s first name in the email.
Have the email come from a real person. Add this feature into your eblast template with a personal electronic signature and possibly an image of the person sending it. 
When you add a link to the email, don’t just say, “Contact me for more information.” Insteadn, considering saying, “You may also find this helpful.” Then add a related link to show that your firm is regularly sharing information on the topic.
If you send out newsletter-style emails, make it easy for each recipient to click on bullet points or blurbs directly to the preferred content on your site. That way, they choose their own information adventure, and you still get eyeballs on your content.

Analyze client and employee feedback

This seems like common sense, but often we get mired in our own world of change, and we forget to include internal and external messaging to support smoother transitions. Whether it’s a relocation, reallocation of staff, a merger or launch of a new client tool, it’s better to over-communicate — and in various formats.
Some people read your eblasts every time. Others are more likely to read a postcard. Some people want a phone call and a quick chat, so script your key points to keep everyone consistently communicating changes and updates.
While many firms set up annual surveys to get to the heart of client or employee sentiment and needs, you may need to conduct more frequent surveys or even third-party interviews to tap into deep-seated anxiety or concerns. It’s also helpful to have the questions created and data analyzed by a third party to maintain emotional objectivity and conclusions. Objective data is more reliable for making business decisions because firm leaders can then be equal in their influence over the data.
No one likes to feel uninformed or out of the loop, especially in times of stress or change. Stay in touch with clients, prospects and employees in these personal ways, and you will sustain trust. You will also keep your firm top of mind for recruitment and new business.

Dawn Wagenaar is a principal of Ingenuity. She can be reached at