When was the last time you used a telephone to communicate? I mean, actually picked up your phone to make a call. Not a text, not a check of your email and send a quick reply, but an actual real life call, where you were required to communicate verbally with another person.
Telephone Calls are a communication art form
Many people seem to think this is a dying part of communication but I beg to differ. OK, for the recipient, it can sometimes be annoying if you are busy to be interrupted but you don’t have to take the call right that minute if you are. The argument against telephone calls are that they are an interruption in someone’s life, it is after all quite difficult to ignore a ringing phone, much easier to look at an email later. There is an immediacy about a telephone call; it says, speak to me, NOW.
A friend’s father was an anaesthetist and in their house, calls at 3am were not unheard of- and usually signalled a caesarean and his services being needed. The same friend knows that a call at around 9pm/9am over the weekend means her mother calling from New Zealand for a chat and a catch up on the family. Neither of these calls ever go unanswered.
Telephone calls and business
We all recognise the sales call that we don’t want to take, the 0800 numbers we screen and ignore but in business there is huge value in connecting by telephone rather than email.
I think, especially if you are asking a favour, it is much nicer to pick up the phone and speak to the person. They can then hear your intent in the tone of your voice and you can hear their reaction and make adjustments or change your tack when speaking. You can also thank them immediately rather than remembering to drop them a line though you may do this too if they have helped you out.
It’s also more personal that you were bothered enough to pick up the phone and then concentrate on the person at the other end. I also find you cover far more ground and reach resolutions quicker than by email though, again you may summarise what you spoke about in an email to avoid confusion or misconceptions later.
With so much business being done via email and online, the personal touch of a conversation can make the difference between a deal and no sale. The crucial advantage is resolution of misunderstandings. You are the expert on your business, your customers and colleagues are not. Clients become valuable clients when they understand what you are offering, really understand it. A telephone call allows you to answer their questions, tailor your service to their requirements and reassure them if they have any concerns. It also makes you a human being, not a faceless corporation. The fact that you took the time to actually talk to your client makes them feel special and the connection feels more real. Similarly, explanations by telephone with colleagues allows them to clarify your instructions and avoids mistakes later. It is also much faster than endless back and forth emails trying to get your point across.
Telephone calls reduce isolation
It is entirely possible (especially if you are self-employed) to not speak to another living human being for days on end, so a phone call can rectify that – we are all social animals. You may be working with colleagues remotely, your VA could live in another country for example, but once you actually talk to them on the phone they seem closer. Entrepreneurs often hit blocks over their business and need input from someone else to get going again. Email is a poor medium for this. Brainstorming your ideas by telephone can release these blocks and is often motivational as you talk your way through the sticking points.
Telephone call etiquette
Word of warning – again like emails think before you pick up the phone. Think what you are going to say, why and how and what you are trying to achieve. I don’t mean script your entire conversation but at least have the structure in place before you call.
In the same way as your emails differ according to the purpose and the recipient, so should your telephone calls. A quick check on progress and deadlines with a colleague might be short, informal and chatty. A sales call to a prospective client is likely to be far more formal and structured.
People are busy, you are interrupting their flow with a telephone call, so don’t waffle but observe the niceties of polite conversation and smile when talking. You can literally “hear” a smile and it will make a difference to the tone of the call.
All communication is important when you are in business, whether it be to client or colleague or supplier. We have so many methods at our disposal it makes sense to spend a little time choosing the method that seems most appropriate and effective.
Just because we can text information doesn’t mean we should. Just because email is easy doesn’t mean it is the best way to get your point across. Think before you communicate and always maintain good manners. Being polite, answering in good time, smiling, being pleasant, all cost nothing…and you will reap the rewards.