Whether you prefer the personal touch of a phone call or the instantaneous communiqué of an email, there are certain situations that call for one method over the other. It is surely advantageous to have and use both options; however, when people choose the wrong communications, issues can arise.
Many of these issues are a result of the misuse of email. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not old-fashioned, and although I “came of age” before digital communication. I see the very positive benefits of email communication. I also see when it is definitely the wrong channel to use.
Here are some guidelines to help you decide whether to use email or telephone:
You should send an email when…
Email is the most efficient way to distribute information to many individuals at once. Since everyone receives the same information at the same time, the risk of miscommunication is minimized. A group email will also eliminate the workload associated with separate messages.
Attachments such as spreadsheets, PDFs, photographs can be substituted for lengthy, wordy email messages. Brochures and flyers can be conveniently forwarded to multiple recipients.
Email helps to summarize the key points of a phone or in-person conversation, keeping to all participants “on the same page” and “in the loop.”
Email provides a lasting record and may be used in the future to confirm what was agreed upon and/or discussed. Most important: remember that once you hit send your email is delivered immediately. Many business or personal relationships have been destroyed by digital miscommunication.
You should pick up the phone and call when…
Email is not secure! You can never be certain who is able to access data in your account, or to whom an email might be forwarded. Email is forever, even if it is deleted. If you must communicate confidential information, it is best to meet face-to-face or to communicate by phone.
Complex discussions require that email and telephone be used in tandem. A phone call—it can even be a group conference call or video call—provides the facts and allows for real-time questions and answers for clarification. A follow-up email can summarize what was previously discussed.
Note: Attempting to handle complicated issues in an email without the benefit of a call always involves very lengthy emails threads and it is difficult to feel secure that everyone “gets it.”
While some people prefer to hide behind email when they have to give bad news, the better option is to use the telephone. It’s almost impossible to write an email that conveys negative news both tactfully and with the appropriate tone. Sensitive matters require empathy and understanding, both of which are better communicated by phone.
Email is very efficient and a great time saver; however, when the email “conversation” carries on for too long with multiple “reply all’s,” it is time to pick up the phone. One great example is trying to schedule an appointment. The volume of emails needed to decide a suitable date and location can be staggering. A two-minute phone call can ease the scheduling process. If you find yourself in such a volley, it’s best to pick up the phone.
My best advice is to slow down and take a moment to consider what option to use. Remember when we read an email, if written when you are angry, it always sparks a fire!! The few moments you spend before emailing or picking up the phone might save you endless time and stress caused by not thinking at all.
Some more information about email:
For further discussion or comments, please contact Gail L. Trugman Nikol, President Unique Business Solutions, firstname.lastname@example.org or call (516) 935-5641.