I have been consulting now for over 27 years. When I first started, verbal communication was the accepted and expected way of exchanging ideas, concerns, and complaints. It was efficient and thus you completed your objectives in a timely manor.
Then came the 90’s and the Internet. Email entered our world and people started exchanging ideas via email. We still called each other to discuss issues and exchange information, but email slowly started making it’s way into how we communicate. People felt it was more efficient; they got more done because they could work on other tasks while waiting for a response.
Then the 21’st century came and everything really started to explode. Texting became a method of communicating with each other; you complained about companies via social media; you conducted meetings over the web; and people are spread out and working from home virtually.
But are email, texting, and social media a more effective method of communicating, or more efficient? Do you get more work done or does work just pile up while waiting?
I don’t think you can ever replace the effectiveness of verbal communication or the efficiency. Let’s consider the day of a typical consultant as an example.
I need an answer to my project that is due tomorrow, so I send an email to “Joe” with a question. I send the email because it is more efficient I can work on other things. However, Joe is out of the office at meetings until 2 and I don’t know that. I continue to work and I realize that Joe hasn’t responded. Time has passed and now it’s noon, so I make a phone call. I am now three hours behind, but if I knew Joe was out I could have changed up my methods and asked Beth the same question while possibly getting an immediate response.
I don’t know how many times I hear from people I work with about how they sent an email to the customer and although that customer didn’t respond, they assume everything is OK or jus that they customer is busy. Then come find out they missed the email, didn’t receive the email, or have been out sick. The customer is now furious thinking we dropped the ball. For some reason, we have become afraid to call people. Or is it that maybe we are lacking the social skills to have a conversation?
In my opinion, this should be the communication process for various situations. (I don’t know if it’s the perfect process, but it seems to work for me.)
- Project Update – Before sending an email, call the person to discuss the project and let them know the email is coming. Sending the update and assuming they get it is a mistake. You can at least leave a voice mail so if they were out they can look for the email when they return.
- Information Needed – Make a call first. You can be more efficient by asking the questions on the phone. If they can’t answer they can get back to you, but you at least got the ball rolling. If they aren’t there, leave a message and tell them you will email them your questions, but make sure you follow up at least the next day if you don’t hear back.
- General information – Obviously, general information is ok to email.
- Customer Initiated email – Stay away from the big email threads. You are going to get emails from the customer and you can’t stop that. But stay away from the big email threads. If something is still misunderstood after three exchanges, call them. Too many times I have seen these conversations that can last all day thru email threads when a conversation can resolve the issue in a few minutes.
- Support – Always follow up the support email with a phone call. Don’t assume they got the email and everything is fine.
- Emails from Vendors – If you aren’t going to buy from the vendor, at least respond to the email and say you aren’t interested or if it is put off. I know everyone thinks the salesperson is used to it and they are, but no one likes to waste time. You also don’t like to be pestered constantly. You can easily stop the emails and phone calls if you nicely say the project is on hold or dead. We are responding to emails anyway so a couple of extra emails won’t hurt, and I am not talking about SPAM.
- Blasting companies on the Internet – Stay away from this or use a different name. Remember what ever you put on the Internet stays there, if you are not comfortable with someone seeing what you wrote, don’t do it.
- Away from the office – Have your company make a template of your away messages. Whether you are out on training, visiting a client for the day, or out sick, you should always make sure your away message is up to date. You can do this via email and your voicemail if necessary, but email should suffice.
Communication is key to a successful business. It’s also key to running a successful implementation and resolving a problem. Overall, it allows business-to-business interactions to have some human interaction; especially in such a high technology era that we live in today.
Want to hear more about Communication or have questions on how to implement Tim’s communication tactics? Contact Tim at 301.360.0001 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
TIMOTHY (TIM) LALLY, CPA | President/CEO
Tim is the founder and president of KTL Solutions, Inc. He provides high level guidance to our clients in order to help them better use technology within their organizations. He has an ability to understand the issue and provide a solution that best fits the client’s needs. When implementing solutions, his focus is to utilize off the shelf solutions first and customizations second.
Tim is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and has over 17 years of Microsoft Business Solutions software implementation and development experience. He started implementing Dynamics in 1987 in the early years of Great Plains on the Apple Macintosh. His responsibilities include mentoring new developers, teaching accounting principles and processes to developers, and leading the development and design of custom solutions. Tim oversees KTL’s Microsoft Business Solutions vertical market business.