Do you email instead of picking up your mobile? Are you guilty of not replying to your missed calls? Do you ever pause to consider what you are actually saying by saying nothing?
I started my working career back in 2000. For those of you of a similar vintage, mobile phones were just becoming mainstream and there was only one internet enabled PC for the office…and that was dial up! There were 2 ‘rules’ I still remember:
- Any office phone should be answered within 3 rings as clients should never be kept waiting; and
- Picking up the phone should be the primary method of communication, followed by email.
The reasons for these rules was that being contactable was one of few business differentiators that would influence clients’ perceptions of a business’s value. Staff preference to text or email to avoid calls was due to less experienced staff fretting at being ‘exposed’ during a conversation where they are not prepared or had the experience to engage.
These rules might seem a bit out of place in today’s digital connected marketplace but after thinking about this a bit more, I wonder if they do still hold some value. A call, if answered, provides an instant outcome. It supports developing professional relations and can ultimately be significantly more time effective as a broader range of conversation points can be discussed. There is etiquette, structure and a skill to making a business call. Being able to articulate the information that needs conveyed is important, as is being able to listen and then react with follow up questions / statements, which benefits all parties. The first sign of any project issue would always have been via a call. A call therefore has the potential to move dialog forward in a way that email just can’t match.
Now I’m not saying that emails are not important, as they do have their role to play, but in my experience, there is no match to the benefits of the dialogue that you only get from meeting face to face or talking. As we continue to examine our hybrid working patterns, sharing offices and working remotely, the importance of effective communication needs to be given increased priority. COVID19 has highlighted the need for effective communication more than ever, but it seems to me that more calls are actually going unanswered?
As someone who is regularly on the phone, it appears to me that over time the importance of talking has been diminished as we prefer to use a range of other methods of communication. We seem to have now switched to an email write and forget mindset. Answerphone or redirects have replaced access to staff for many public organisations. Direct dial numbers have been substituted for a switchboard contact. The etiquette now seems to be to email first and avoid the need to talk. Gone also seem to be the days where project progress would be more proactively ‘chased’ by clients and the excuse (should you be silly enough to say it) “but I’ve already emailed” could be the difference of being involved in the next project or not.
With current technology we have the ability to text our status when it’s not possible to take a call and benefit from missed call logs. So we can never really now ‘miss’ the call, but do we actually take the time to return those missed calls. Are you avoiding the chance to build those personal / business relations? Does it even matter? After all, whoever is trying to call us will no doubt call us again, or even better, perhaps they will just email….or will they?
Perhaps it is a generational thing or just good manners but for me the first options is always to pick up the phone and always make that call back.
So next time your phone rings it maybe worth remembering BT’s strapline from the 1990’s. ‘It is good to talk’.