We can all agree that emails are an effective and essential form of communication that make doing business a lot easier. But like any form of communication, they come with a downside.
Firstly, 269 billion emails were sent and received globally each day in 2017 with that number set to soar to 320 billion daily emails by 2021. Every message we send is competing with a multitude of emails pinging into inboxes making them easy to miss or deliberately ignore.
We recently experienced the downside to email communication when a blunt reply had us second guessing the status and success of a project.
We’d been working on a quarterly newsletter and when sharing the first draft with our client we had a few standard questions: What are your thoughts at this point? Is there anything else you need included? Are there any changes you want made?
‘It is good enough.’
While we’ve since come to use the phrase with fondness, it caused confusion and a sense of unsettlement at the time.
So how did we handle it? We got onto the phone to have a chat with the client.
It took less than a minute to dispel any confusion when our client shared how happy they were with the newsletter. ‘It is good enough’ simply meant they didn’t need any changes.
We now have a stronger relationship with that client and have a better sense of their communication styles thanks to that single phone call.
For us it was proof that in our digital world, phone calls are still a valuable communication tool for any business. The answer to any debate over which method is superior in this day and age may be as simple as combining both to effectively communicate with your clients.
So, when is a phone call the best form of communication?
When you’re beginning a relationship with a client – It pays to listen to the way your client talks to build a sense of their identity and communication styles. You’ll get an understanding of their tone, emotions, inflection and even their sense of humour. All of these things go a long way to explaining the meaning behind what people say. Because it’s not just about what people say but how and why they say it.
When you want your client to feel like a priority– Chances are your client is as busy as you and will appreciate the time it takes to make a phone call as opposed to email. It feels more personal and lets your client know you care enough to spend valuable time on them.
When you need to simplify a complex situation– Asking questions in real time gives you answers in real time. You also take away chances of misinterpretation because while you may think your emails are clear and detailed, one thing can mean something different to someone else.
When time isn’t on your side– It’s far harder to ignore a phone call than it is to ignore an email. If something requires a quick turnaround time, a phone call is always going to be the most effective way to get instant advice, answers or guidance.
When you want to get more personalised details– It’s a lot easier to open up when you’re having a chat with someone than it is to type it out. Things you say remind you of other things, it’s easier to get into a natural flow of storytelling and you get more specific about the details. We find it particularly useful to chat to our clients about their businesses either in-person or via the phone before starting their project to get a better sense of who they are and what they want. We usually record the conversation and use the transcription as real content.
And when is emailing a client most effective?
When you’re following up on a phone call– putting a summary of your chat into an email keeps everyone on the same page and helps to spark your memory down the track.
When you’re sharing very specific or technical details– there’s nothing quite like having facts and figures clearly written down to reference for complete accuracy.
When you need to refer to attached documents– when seeing is believing, visual communication will always be a useful tool to stay on the same page as your clients. In these cases, perhaps a phone after first emailing is the most effective way to get through to your clients or customers.
In the digital age we’re living in it becomes second nature to go for modern, quick and convenient communication solutions but the value of a phone call is hard to deny. Next time you’re looking to take your client relationship to the next level, pick up the phone and realise the difference for yourself.