In this steadily growing age of technology, it is more tempting than ever to resign all forms of communication to e-mail. If you’re working from home, it is much easier to shoot clients an e-mail to ask a question or to inform them of a problem, rather than picking up the phone and giving them a call.
The problem is that if you use one form of communication exclusively, you are abandoning the benefits of the other. Both phone and e-mail comunication have pros and cons, and you should never resign yourself to one or the other in all situations.
E-mail provides a fast, effective way to quickly correspond with clients and colleagues. If you work from home, then much of your business is probably conducted through the Internet, so e-mail is right at your fingertips during your work day. E-mail is faster because you don’t have to worry about the other end of the communication, and you can easily get on with other scheduled tasks for the day.
E-mail is also effective when outlining a series of questions or when explaining a particular process. You can systematically outline a step-by-step explanation, and you don’t have to worry about forgetting something. E-mails can easily be edited, which means that you won’t make many mistakes, and you have a smaller chance of miscommunication. An an added benefit, you have a copy of the e-mail as proof of the correspondence, so no one can say that they weren’t informed about an important issue.
E-mail is impersonal. Sending an electronic message can sometimes mistakenly convey the idea that you didn’t have time to contact the recipient directly, and that you didn’t care enough to pick up the phone. E-mail gives the sender a false sense of anonymity, which can lead to saying things that you wouldn’t have said on the phone. You should never send an e-mail when you are angry or hurt because you will still have to bear responsibility for whatever you type. It is better to handle problems over the phone so that the issue can be discussed.
E-mail can also be dangerous for the professional because any typos, misspellings, or incorrectly delivered comments can reflect poorly upon your business. Customers and clients expect that your correspondence be impeccably professional, and you don’t want to risk looking like a novice via e-mail.
The telephone allows both parties to have a voice at the same time, versus e-mail, which is one-sided. For heated or emotional topics, the telephone is much more effective because misunderstandings can be cleared up instantly. The phone is also preferrable when addressing a problem with a client because you show that you care by taking the time to call. Customers are impressed by a business that handles all correspondence personally.
I prefer that initial contact with a customer be over the phone so that I can be as up-front and as clear about my business as possible. Subsequent communication can be conducted through e-mail as long as the subjects are quickly and easily conveyed. I don’t want to send clients 2,000-word e-mails because it takes time out of their day, and I probably could have explained it over the phone in five minutes or less.
Many people simply prefer to be contacted via e-mail so that they can have the information in front of them when responding. Since so much of society is run through the Internet, we are at our computers most of the day and it is just easier to send an e-mail.
If you work with clients who live in other states and countries, e-mail saves money on long-distance charges. If you correspond daily with a customer who lives in Israel, then you’ll probably want to conduct most conversations through the Internet.
TIPS FOR E-MAIL ETTIQUETTE
1. Create a professional signature for the end of the e-mail that states your name, your professional title, the name of your business, the phone number and your e-mail address for easy reference.
2. Always start a business e-mail with a common salutation, such as Dear Mr. Doe, rather than launching into your e-mail with no introduction.
3. If you require a response, ask that the customer, client or colleague respond at their earliest convenience by whichever medium they prefer – phone or e-mail.
4. Always avoid punctuation and spelling errors – use spell check! – and avoid casual abbreviations such as TTYL (talk to you later) and U (you). It isn’t professional.
TIPS FOR PHONE ETTIQUETTE
1. Identify yourself immediately by your name, title, and business.
2. Ask the recipient if they have time to talk, and if not, when you should try back.
3. Leave short, concise messages on voice mail with your return phone number.
4. Speak clearly and loudly enough that the recipient can understand what you are saying.