Wondering whether or not to opt for the phone or send an email? Here are the pros and cons for either opting to use the telephone or email whilst at work.
I’m relatively new within the account management business, however in my 6+ months within the field of web Development at Webigence I have begun to notice a certain pattern in the way business is done, as opposed to how I’ve been told business was conducted way back when the world apparently moved slower, we weren’t conscious of climate change and people were still talking about “Woodstock”.
It is widely debated as to which is the better form of communication between client and service provider - Email or Telephone. There appears to be an abundances of advantages and disadvantages for both forms of communique, which could be worth taking note of the next time you opt to click send or press the little green phone.
On behalf of the spoken language
Within my first week at Webigence, the phone was my biggest fear. I’m by no means an unsociable creature, but my inner introvert reared its unwelcomed head, coupled with my limited knowledge of the agency and web development in general. How would I answer the phone?! “Hello, how can I help?”, “Webigence, what I can do for you?” or “Webigence, Elliott Speaking.” It seems ludicrous now that this was a worry for a task that is now over before I even know I’m doing it. Before long, you realise people are people no matter whether it is for business or not, so it works well just to communicate the same way you would to anyone, but let’s not turn this into a motivational speech.
One of the outstanding features of the phone call is that it can get the job done in one call, there are no back and forths attempting to understand what was meant in a certain sub-paragraph of section 3, because the person is on the other end of the line explaining everything to you. If it does so happen that there are any queries on your end they can be answered on the spot. Web development is confusing for clients who just want their website working well without any problems. Going back and forth via email can end up taking days and sometimes weeks, with the emails slowly getting more and more lengthy - ultimately using up valuable time.
When sending text whether this be through SMS or email, unless you know them well, it is very difficult to gauge an individual’s tone. At times you can find yourself inputting emoticons or at some points opting to go for an exclamation mark instead of a full stop, just in an attempt to prevent the text sounding too blunt. This is, for the most part, avoided in a phone call - it is much harder to get worked up about a particular sentence that when analysed could be taken out of context leading to the souring thought process, “Well what did they mean by that.”, when in actual fact it was just a passing comment that the scripter thought very little about.
The phone encourages the personal approach for which clients will be appreciative. Clients are of course the most important entity to a business, without them a business would not operate. Therefore, it makes sense to nurture these relationships so that to them it not only makes good business sense to stay with you, they like working with you - it’s the place they want to be.
A persons bark is quite often bigger than their bite. It’s very easy to be a tough, cold-hearted, matter of fact person when cloaked behind an @ address because you’re just talking to an unidentified cog in a corporate machine right? This anonymity can sometimes cause us to forget all we’re taught about when it comes to pleasantries - but a quick phone call soon jogs the memory. You are much less likely to have an unpleasant interaction with somebody over the phone (or more notably face-to-face) because even though your email address is there for all to see, we still hold on to a certain amount of relinquished responsibility due to the fact that we don’t have to deal with the repercussions immediately. In stark contrast, the phone causes the majority of us to opt for a less aggressive, and sometimes antagonistic approach because just as in a face-to-face altercation your approach is most likely to be mirrored by the recipient (and we’d like to think that nobody truly wants to be antagonistic… even if this is just to avoid an aggressive response). The phone allows both clients and the web development agency/service provider the chance to humanise the other and in many cases settle an increasingly heated feud with just a short conversation between two people; a feat that email is yet to master.
On behalf of the written word
The telephone also has its disadvantages, especially when emotion becomes involved. Single businesses owners who have poured their heart and soul into their endeavour can panic or over emotionalise an error they have found on their site and it becomes an illusion that the phone call will complete the task quicker. Although the phone is the most efficient in alerting the team to a problem it can spiral into a lengthy phone call filled with emotion - which can have a negative effect on the efficiency of the web development task.
From my experience within a technical environment (for which I do not have a particularly specialised background in), partnered with me being pretty green to the account management world, email has been a blessing. On a daily basis clients seemed to revel in throwing in a piece of code here and a C# comment there, and at first it seemed quite daunting, in that fact that I am not a web developer. However, when these requests came in via email it meant I had time to sift through the details, figure out what was relevant to me (i.e. times and budgets) and then relay over the technical information to those who had actually studied for a career in web development and programming. Since the technical information was there for me to digest slowly, it further helped me to build my own knowledge so that when a subsequent request came in it meant I could deal with it myself (after which I was gleaming with pride… or a nervous sweat. One of the two).
Coming from a customer service background where complaints seem to manifest themselves at will, the introduction of a form of communique that removes the emotion (and what can feel like a personal attack on my capabilities and responsibility) was nothing short of a blessing. Email allows both a place for the one person to vent and also for the “ventee” to acknowledge and address the issue in a timely much more well orchestrated fashion in comparison to being put on the spot where questions will not receive beneficial answers.
Emails are an organised person’s dream - they allow all issues to be prioritised and dealt with systematically. It is far harder to become distracted in comparison to a phone call that takes you away from the task that you are dealing with at the time. This in turn can result in a stop/start method of working, which quite clearly is not the most efficient way of working. This also works the other way around. When making a phone call it is possible for the other person to be busy and therefore have to cut the call short. However with an email you’re able to unload whatever ideas/thoughts you have and leave it with the recipient to return a full answer at their discretion which helps your own work flow a lot smoother.
A fundamental pro to emails nowadays is the paper-trail. Sadly, as soon as something goes wrong people look to find the source and attribute blame. The paper-trail is as good as a “get out of jail free” card, because there’s no denying a specific date and time when something has been said, or sometimes just as importantly, the absence of something being said. This is one of the most important points in the case for email in comparison to the phone because even after a phone call it is best practice to put all the discussed points into an email to ensure you have proof of what was said and agreed.
Unfortunately every person in a company does not have all the answers. As a result when technical answers are demanded it can quite often be the case that you can be found wanting and will have to consult either a developer or perhaps the colleague that dealt with the original request. Email is a much better format to cope with technical requests such as this because it allows the recipient to communicate with their development team and prevent a segmented, broken phone call full of statements like, “hold on a minute and I’ll find out for you.” and “I’ll just have to check.” which, to be honest, is of no help to anyone.
Perhaps, as with many things in life, the answer is a combination of the two. An email to get the technical information across, a brief break in order to allow digestion, before a follow up phone call to humanise yourself, clarify the programming issue (if needs be and try to demystify web development a little in the process), check on the progress and if you’re lucky enough, exchange in a spot of well orchestrated “banter”.
Blog written by Elliott Gibbs