E-mail has become ubiquitous in business, and for good reason. It’s quick, efficient and easy. However, e-mail is not the best communication channel for every interaction. So when should you pick up the phone and avoid e-mail?
You need to land a sale. If you want to contact a new client, reach out over the phone. A study by the Direct Marketing Association found that a phone call to a prospective customer had a response rate of 8.21 percent while the response to e-mail was .03 percent. When current customers are contacted, phone response rates rise to nearly 13 percent, but e-mail remains low at .12 percent. A phone call could help you form a relationship and ultimately close the deal.
You need an answer right away. I’m sure you’ve had it happen — a colleague sends you an e-mail at 9:38 a.m. and calls at 9:42 a.m. to ask if you received his message. A busy schedule and a full inbox can prevent even the most organized person to respond immediately. Sometimes when I just need a “yes” or “no” response, I pick up the phone and call.
You’re on your fifth e-mail exchange. Anytime you need more information or clarification, call. Avoid the incessant back and forth game. E-mail can take up your precious time when a phone call can solve the problem in less than five minutes.
Your message needs a human touch. Empathy is impossible to express through e-mail, even with emoticons. If you need to convey sad, bad or important information, it’s best to choose the phone. This applies to disagreements as well. Don’t let a potential argument fester. If you need to cool down, take a few minutes and then call. You’re more likely to say something out of spite through an e-mail than you are over the phone.
You need to have a confidential conversation. Be aware that any message you send through company e-mail is never private. Your e-mail could be read, duplicated or forwarded to anyone. Sensitive information is best communicated in person, but if that’s not an option, pick up the phone and call.
What communication method do you prefer in business? The phone or e-mail?