Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Text vs. Email vs. Call: Etiquette for Today's Technology Obsessed Culture


Perhaps more than any time in history, the variety of communication tools at our disposal is greater than ever. As valuable as they have proven to be, when it comes to the electronic communication tools, all platforms are not created equal – nor were they meant to be treated as such. Here are a few considerations to keep in mind to keep the electronic channels of communication running smoothly.

First and foremost, when establishing a relationship with a potential client, find out which communication method they prefer. If you’re not in the habit already, ask them when you share business cards. With existing clients, it’s best to reply in whichever method they use, unless for security reasons, it does not meet your company policy.

Similarly, at hire, be sure to let your employees know how you prefer to receive messages. In management positions, it is easy to spend critical hours of your day reading and replying to emails. As with paper correspondence, if you do not have enough time in the day to monitor and reply to your electronic inbox, have an assistant field and filter your incoming messages for you.

Texting: A short message might mean a short business relationship
While useful at times, most of us know that texting is not a good way to conduct any serious conversations. Sure, it can be a great way to alert your team with a status update when you are offsite but for anything important, ask yourself if an email wouldn’t be better. If a client requests that you message them, it’s best to start the text by asking if they are available to IM at that moment. And mind the spellcheck – sometimes your smartphone can do some not-so-smart things with your intended words.

Email: If it’s good enough for the Queen
Queen Elizabeth was the first head of state to send an email way back in 1976. Since then, email has replaced the majority of business communication that goes on in almost every office. It’s reputation as a good way to conduct business has changed from a novelty to a necessity. When is the last time someone told you they didn’t have an email address? As a CEO, you should draft your emails to clients in the same way you would a typed letter, letterhead, signature and all. Or, if you wish to send an even more formal message, attach a PDF of your electronic letter. Email continues to be a great way to establish a time-stamped electronic papertrail, as well as a great data storage service. 

Telephone: Still a valid way to ring up a few more sales
In some offices, the ring of a phone is nearly extinct, in favor of email. Yet there are scenarios where nothing can express your personality like a phone call or video-conference. Your tone can easily get lost in email, and often times, that is the only way your authenticity can truly come through. Not only is your tone more clear, the tone and reaction of your client is more apparent. If you are gifted in the art of conversation, you can learn a lot about your client’s comfort level just by listening. Of course, if the situation is delicate, nothing beats a face-to-face conversation.


Depending on the tech savvy-ness of your business, you probably have a sense of which messages are best suited for which technology. Company guidelines have probably morphed over the years, and often times a CEO will be the one who sets the standard.

Take note of how the business communications of your team are being delivered. Are your employees sending abrupt text message to an important lead? Is an eco-conscious client being sent paper invoices? Maybe it’s time to review your own practices and set some new ground rules. Year-end might be a good time to revisit your communication methods with your clients and coworkers.

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