Does including your business info affect customer perceptions?
If you've sent and received emails in a professional setting then you're almost certainly familiar with the email signature. Those last few lines of contact info below the sender's name have become a norm in the business world.
To some people, an email signature is a way to encourage customers to contact them. But for many others, the email signature is merely an attempt to look professional or accomplished (Harmon‐Jones, et al., 2009).
But does it actually matter? Does an email signature actually make you or your company look more professional and competent? We ran experiment to put this longstanding tradition to the test.
We had 400 people from Amazon MTurk participate in a survey experiment, a vignette scenario involving a business email from a hypothetical company, ACC Accounting. Each participant was randomly assigned to view the email from the sender, a sales representative at the company, with either an email signature or no email signature.
Participants then rated a series of outcome measures on a 1-7 scale with the preceding question "To what extent do you think each of the following words describe this company? (1 = Not at all; 7 = Extremely)." The four outcomes (words) included: * Professional * Competent * Trustworthy * Friendly
The scenario and email participants read is as follows:
Imagine that you still work in the accounting department of the clothing store. Your team is looking for new accounting software, and you have been tasked with helping them identify and rate potential vendors. You receive the email below from one such vendor, ACC Inc.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org Sent: Tuesday, May 26, 2020, 11:02 AM To: email@example.com Subject: Accounting Software
If you're in the market for new accounting software we have a variety of packages from low-cost to state-of-the-art. Our software has been around for 5 years and is very user friendly.
If you'd like to schedule a demo please let me know.
Thank you, Andrew
Andrew Miller Sales Manager ACC Inc. www.acc_accounting.com firstname.lastname@example.org
Including an email signature at the bottom of the email did have a few very small effects on our outcomes. Those effects, however, were negative. On average, including an email signature made our company look 5% less friendly (difference = -0.26 on a 1-7 scale; p = 0.049), 4% less professional (diff = -0.25; p = 0.065), and 5% less trustworthy (diff = -0.27; p = 0.052). But again, these effects were quite small. There were no interactive effects with age or gender.
Email signatures have become something of a norm in certain professional circles. But using one may not actually help your business image. Of course, in contexts where having contact info for customers is helpful, it may be perfectly reasonable to include one. But if your goal is to pump up customer perceptions, your efforts may be better spent elsewhere.
Harmon‐Jones, C., Schmeichel, B.J. and Harmon‐Jones, E. (2009), Symbolic self‐completion in academia: evidence from department web pages and email signature files. European Journal of Social Psychology, 39: 311-316.
We used ordinary least squares (OLS) regression analyses to test for significant differences in perceived friendliness, professionalism, competence, and trust between the email signature and no signature conditions. For significant differences, the difference between the two groups' averages would be large and its corresponding “p-value” would be small. If the p-value is less than 0.05, we consider the difference statistically significant, meaning we'd likely find a similar effect if we ran the study again with this population. To test whether differences for specific groups differ significantly from their counterparts (e.g., men vs. women) we used OLS regression analyses with interaction terms.