Let’s face it – improvements in technology might not have made business life easier. You might still use snail mail for the occasional signed document, but chances are that most of your day-to-day communications are now done via e-mail. At times I’ve wondered how I ever managed without it. Yesterday I caught things getting stupid. I was typing a series of emails back and forth for half a day! A communication that may have only taken 10 minutes over the phone. I think I’ve unconsciously come to over rely on technology.
I’ve heard of some companies introducing “no e-mail” days. Some have even attempted “no computer” days. In what might seem like a nostalgic throwback to simpler times or a marketing gimmick, you could argue that certain conversations are easier without email.
I’d like to point out some of the main reasons why picking up the phone can beat banging away on your keyboard.
E-mails are easy to ignore and forget
I receive a silly amount of emails daily. While many of them might be adverts for dubious medications, many are legit. The problem with receiving so many is that it makes the important ones easy to miss. Even for e-mails that you do actually read, because there are so many of them – prioritising time to reply can be difficult.
I’ve found that if I don’t reply to an e-mail straight away, there’s a chance I never will – even though I intend to at one point. In other words, I might have twenty messages that need responding to, but putting them off to do another time will mean that next time I log-on, there’s an inbox full of new e-mails which push the older ones even further away from my list of priorities.
If I’m honest with myself subconsciously I’ve felt e-mails are also an easy way to apportion blame and rid myself of responsibilities. It’s too easy to simply say “Oh, I’ve already told you about that, I emailed you about it yesterday”. This can obviously cause problems in communication and mix-ups in any business. I actually started taking emailing seriously in an attempt to have responsibility and accountability traceable. Have I taken this too far? Have we all taken this too far.
Consider the alternatives. Actually picking up the phone and talking to someone. If you actually talk to your suppliers and customers rather than e-mailing them, then you both know that the message was received loud and clear, literally. It’ll also be more fresh in their mind compared to the tens of e-mails they haven’t replied to already today. Fresher in mind means it’s more actionable, and you’re more likely to see results. I find talking with people also allows the opportunity to develop a rapport or relationship with them.
Your e-mails might be misunderstood
Different people have different communication styles, and this doesn’t always come across well on paper (or screen). The thing with voice communication is that people are used to spotting differences in tone and how what people say isn’t always what they mean. Humans have been doing that for centuries, but e-mail communication is new and what works for me doesn’t always make sense for others.
Some people are used to typing informally, with lots of smiley faces and colloquialisms. This might seem perfectly normal for most of the people they communicate with, but for more formal old-schoolers – it can seem unprofessional. On the flip side, terse tones and rigid punctuation can seem stuffy and even rude to those who aren’t used to it. When you talk on the phone or in person you can read the real meanings in what people are saying, but written communication can cause problems with misinterpretation. Things like sarcasm are also especially hard to convey and can often cause offence or misunderstandings that simply aren’t necessary.
Technology doesn’t always simplify
These days, people sometimes try and do too much with technology when there was never anything wrong with the old way. Sending five emails back and forth in place of a two minute conversation makes no sense at all. Such behaviour also erodes the social aspect of the workplace.
I’m definitely not anti-technology but it does seem that sometimes technology doesn’t always make things simpler and easier. When people have proper conversations, they can build bonds and enhance relationships. This is as important in business as it is anywhere else.
Talk to people and get things done. Picking up the phone is far more likely to elicit a response, and it’s far more likely that you’ll be able to get what you want done quickly.