I’m (sadly) old enough to remember when electronic mail (or email, as the kids now call it) was considered a privilege at work rather than a necessity. Just like back in the day, employers were worried about putting a telephone on every employee’s desk (who knows what they’ll say to clients, right?) so employers were concerned that allowing employees to have their own email addresses would cause more trouble than it was worth.
Of course, email, just like the telephone, is now considered a necessity, and it’s inconceivable that any employer wouldn’t allow their staff to use email.
But do we now rely on email to communicate too much?
Email is not for conversations
Our reliance on email has reached the stage where email is often being used inappropriately.
Many of us now regularly get *so much* email that we often ask ourselves “When did my job become answering email?”.
When somebody external to our business emails us, our instinct is to email them right back.
The trouble is, email does not convey emotion. Email does not convey intent. A badly worded email can, at best, cause confusion, and at worse, cause offence.
When used well, email is a method of disseminating information in a convenient way across long-distances and different time zones.
Why then does your colleague, who is sat 10 feet away, send you an email asking what you’d like for lunch. Why don’t they then get out of their seat and you know, talk to you?
If you are emailing somebody with a question that is likely to generate follow-up questions, pretty soon you’ll be having a conversation. Email is not for conversations. Why spend so much time writing an email, waiting for a response, writing your own response, waiting for another response and so on, when you could just pick up the telephone and get all the answers you need quickly and efficiently instead?
Why you should use the Telephone, not email
For most IT Solution Providers or Managed Service Providers (MSPs), encouraging your clients to use email is a good thing. Rather than the telephone being bombarded with support requests, and clients being held in a queue, they can email their query across and you can prioritise and deal with it accordingly.
The challenge here is, most clients don’t do a good job of explaining what they want over the telephone, and do an even worse job by email. This isn’t their fault – we’re the IT experts, not them, and it’s often difficult to write down what is going wrong or what you’d actually like to achieve.
So when a support email comes in, members of your Service Desk sending a reply email is more often than not a recipe for frustration. This is a great example of why using email could be killing your business relationships. It’s far better to pick up the telephone, call the individual and ask them to clarify how you can help. Using the telephone takes less time, is more efficient, and gets to the heart of the matter faster than emails back and forth.
Likewise, for those of us in Sales, emailing a proposal to a prospect is a no-no. By emailing a prospect a proposal, we can’t judge their body language or reaction when they read the proposal, and we can’t answer any questions as they crop up. It’s much better to schedule some time with the prospect to deliver the proposal by hand, answer their questions in person and judge their response to your outline. If it’s not possible to meet in person, then schedule a time to be on the telephone with the prospect while you email the proposal to them. You can’t judge body language over a telephone, but you can answer questions and get some gauge of their reaction.
Email begets Email
It’s also worth remembering that every time you send an email, you should expect an email (or multiple emails) in reply. Pretty soon you’ll have a tidal wave of emails coming in faster than you can respond to them.
If you’re at all frustrated with the amount of email you have to process every day, then remember that email begets email. Send less email!
It’s true that while you can use the telephone more and email less, others will be harder to convince. You’ll still continue to get emails and that’s ok, but by using the telephone to respond to emails, you’ll get fewer emails and get more done!
Don’t believe it can work? You can check out my experiment in using the telephone instead of email and see the results for yourself!
An email is a powerful communication method – when used appropriately. I’m by no means advocating we all eschew email and go back to the days of meetings, meetings and more meetings. But we have lost the personal touch now.
Email can be impersonal and cold. With its lack of emotion and intent, badly worded email can damage relationships. A telephone call is often faster than email and with fewer chances of miscommunication.
Consider this when you next receive an email from a client or anyone else, by using the telephone or meeting in person you’ll probably strengthen a relationship, not risk damaging it through miscommunication.