In our high-tech world of instant connections, email has maintained is status as the go-to business communication method, thanks to its immediacy, remoteness and professionalism. Plus, it leaves a paper trail—never a bad thing in business. When you send an email, there’s no risk of turning a short question into a 20-minute conversation, allowing the sender to quickly move from one task to the next. But is that always a good thing?
The resulting paper trail is the proverbial double-edged sword—nothing sent via email can really go away. This can protect you, but there are also more than a few emails I wish I could take back, or at least edit.
Its immediacy also comes with an asterisk. It immediately gets checked off the sender’s to-do list, but it doesn’t always provide an immediate answer—the recipient may not be sitting with their email open waiting with a ready reply. They may be working on a project and not check their email for hours—or they may check their email and not remember to (or be in the mood to) respond right away.
And sometimes a 20-minute phone conversation with an associate or client is a good thing; even a great thing. You may find out something important for your business, create a new opportunity or not only get the answer you need (right away), but understand the reason why and, in the process, get to know the person a bit better. You may even find out about an important life event that helps deepen your relationship beyond that of pure business. And in the service industry, that can make all the difference.
When you pick up the phone, there is less chance of a remark going sour; and if it does, it can be fixed before anything becomes really broken. Sarcasm doesn’t always translate well in writing, and some emails come across just cold—not the professional tone you were striving for.
I’m on the ancient side of our staff. The other side of 50. I grew up in a business world that was primarily conducted on the phone. I even wore a headset since 90 percent of my day was spent making and answering phone calls. I still believe it’s often the best way to get an answer I need quickly. And if I spend some extra time I didn’t plan, so be it. I have actually “met” some life-long friends on the phone, who now understand my personality and my occasional sarcastic tendencies—even through email.