I consider myself lucky to be a graduate of the University of Maryland with a Marketing degree, but even more so because I have remained in my field since I graduated. My first job was in the temporary help placement industry where I was an outside rep knocking on doors and establishing relationships with a wide variety of people. Those days it was expected of you to meet an individual in person! After that job, I worked in the publishing industry within Business to Business Marketing where I also had to work with a team face to face, and contact customers daily. When I entered the Promotional Products industry in 1993, it was again required that we had as much contact with our clients and prospects as possible. What was great was that the clients and prospects expected it.
As time moved on, technology changed and I became accustomed to using e-mail to communicate while following up with direct dialogue. It’s evident though that we are becoming more dependent on technology to communicate and moving further away from face to face communication. I’m finding myself trying to manage my clients more, trying to encourage them to talk more – and the conclusion of the conversation has proven to be extremely productive when you stop emailing and start communicating the way we used to in the business world. There truly are times when you just have to pick up the phone and talk, or better yet – meet in person!
This subject made me ponder, “When is email appropriate and when should a phone call be made instead?”
Many business leaders still feel like a conversation on the phone can clear up questions quickly and effectively, while other associates argue that emails have become the better method of communication in the workplace. The Wall Street Journal’s article, “Bosses Say ‘Pick Up the Phone’” supports the argument that those who prefer email in the office believe that phone calls are done at the convenience of the caller and may inconvenience the receiving party. What’s more, those who rely on their emails more heavily believe that the office phone is becoming a thing of the past and phone calls should be used sparingly. They justify frequent use of email in the office, asserting that emails can be written and responded to at the convenience of both parties.
Although emails offer almost instant communication, misunderstandings are frequent and getting the answer needed from the receiving party may take a string of emails. More experienced business associates tend to rely on the office telephone as their main method of communication with distributors and clients. They feel as though the office telephone brings the answers needed quicker than they would have come through an email. As more experienced business associates welcome newer associates into the workplace, many work to convince the newer associates to stop typing as many emails, and to start picking up the phone more often. Harvard Business Review has proven that face-to-face conversations and phone calls make conflict resolution and decision-making more effective and quicker.
According to the “Four Generations of Clients” chart from “When Generations Collide” by Lynne C. Lancaster and David Stillman (see bottom of post), one of the strongest influences on the life of a millennial is the rapid expansion of technology. Many millennials have grown up using advanced computer systems and email, so mastery of data transfer technology has come easily to them. Email brings a sense of comfort and familiarity to millennials, which explains their reliance on online communication.
CEO and Managing Partner of Kwittken + Company, Aaron Kwittken, gave a standard rule for emailing and calling in Fast Company’s 30-Second MBA interview. In summation, he asserted that, “[Anything] you have to think twice about, anything you think might be sensitive, anything that you think requires your relationship skills, you need to call in your relationship, [and] absolutely you should pick up the phone.”
Moving forward, one thing is certain—business communication norms will continue to change. Whether email takes over as the primary business communication method or telephones hold their ground in the office, we know office communication will be unpredictable, shaped by business leaders and technological advances.
What are your thoughts on this topic? Leave a comment or send me an e-mail to discuss at Debbie.Yedlin@summitmg.com