Pick Up the Phone

It seems like my fingers are forever on a keyboard. Whether it’s typing out an email, sending an IM via Skype, or tapping out a text message, 80 percent of my daily communication is done via those 86 keys. While I concede life would be nearly impossible without digital communication, there are many conversations that warrant the use of Alexander Gram Bell’s most influential invention: the good ol’ telephone.

As an account manager at Noble Studios, my main and most important job is to maintain great working relationships with our clients. I have always been a people person (my first word was “hi” for heaven’s sake!) so this job description is a good fit for me. In any good relationship, you need communication for it to be healthy and grow.

In business, sometimes you have to be the messenger of “sensitive” news (as Kelly would say, You Can’t Text Message Break Up!).  If you only call your clients when there is an issue, they are going to cringe every time your name and number pops up on caller ID.

Below are five instances when you should pick up the receiver and let the keyboard collect dust:

  1. When it comes to money, always pick up the phone. Anytime budget needs to be addressed: adding to it, going over, or coming in under budget (celebration call, yeah!). It’s okay to send a follow-up or recap email, but the initial conversation should be verbal.
  2. When the project timeline changes or there is a concern: an early, missed or extended deadline, late delivery, or need additional hours are needed to complete scope of work.  Verbally, you can better explain the situation and hear the client’s tone of voice. This will help you determine next steps.
  3. When an email reads abrupt: this can be a warning sign that something is starting to go off the rails. In this situation, make sure your next interaction is not a ‘reply’ to their email.
  4. When you’ve reach a project milestone: It’s a fun way to celebrate success and build upon the camaraderie that comes with a conversation.
  5. When you need clarification: Sometimes email can be a vacuum and meanings can get misconstrued. If you are unclear about your client’s expectations, one conversation could limit back and forth email and frustration.

There are etiquette rules that should be followed every time you are on the phone with a client. Unlike email, you can’t flag a phone call and address it later. When your client answers, the first questions you should ask is “Is this a good time for you.” If the answer is no, have a two sentence statement about why you were calling and make arrangements for them to call you back.

Conversation is an art that can never be replaced by technology.  Mark Twain said, “Let us make a special effort to stop communicating with each other, so we can have some conversation.” Sometimes less digital communicating and more conversation is all it takes to strengthen a relationship and get a clear understanding of action items.