By Nancy Friedman, the Telephone Doctor
Oddly enough, there are 7 touch points of communications that can have you fouling up enhancing a business (or personal) relationship. Do you know what they are?
Let’s go over each one; because throughout the day, both in business and our personal life, we all have the ability to “touch” people in 7 varied methods of communication. And as with most things, there are pros and cons. Here we go.
Touch Point #1 – The telephone. And not just your business or home phone. Your cell phone too. Telephone Doctor surveys show that more than 80% of all business transactions involve a phone call at some point. The telephone is what’s known as a ‘synchronous’ method of communication. And what that means is – you’re in “sync” with the person you’re talking with. At the same time. You can have a simultaneous two-way exchange of information. Immediately. No waiting.
The best part of the telephone touch point is the ability to hear the tone of voice. That brings in the listener’s imagination. Almost like the radio. We have no sight. Just sound. And how we perceive those sounds makes a whole lot of difference. So tone of voice is critical with the first touch point. Two people can say the same thing to one person; and yet the listener can hear it differently from each. All that being said, the telephone is a very effective and popular method of communication (providing you’ve reached your called party). It gets answers quickly. Responds rapidly. As you might imagine, this ‘touch point’ is one of the Telephone Doctor’s personal favorites.
Touch Point #2 – Email. Ah yes, the beloved email. Email is ‘asynchronous.’ Meaning you communicate one at a time and you may not get immediate communication back. You will normally WAIT for an answer. And with email you have relinquished interpretation of the tone of voice to the other person. What you write can be ‘heard’ whatever way the reader wants to hear it. This can be dangerous. Email etiquette, while fairly new, will be around for a long time. However, suffice to say when we email something, it needs to be short, sweet and to the point. Plus it needs to be obviously friendly. It’s a delivery method that has the ability to ‘sit’ for hours, sometimes days, without an answer. A client of ours told us once, “When there are more than 2 emails on the same subject back and forth, it’s time for a face-to-face meeting.” That’s easy to say for those of us who work in the same area; however, if your emails are international or even regional, a face-to-face meeting becomes another ‘touch point.’
Be careful in your emails. Many hurt feelings have come about due to insensitive writing. That’s a good place to practice all your ‘please and thank you’s.’ Short, terse, one-word answers are perceived as ‘rude.’ (In any touch point.) And as they say: “Don’t put anything in an email you wouldn’t want in the daily newspaper.”
Touch Point #3 – Voice mail. Again, ‘asynchronous’. You can leave a voice mail for someone and when you get an answer, if ever, it is up to him or her; not you. And it’s not instantaneous, as is speaking with someone on the telephone. So here again, your voice mail needs to be special. As we’ve said many times, there are 3 types of voice mails. Poor – average – and great. When you leave a voice mail, make it a great one. Remember, you get to use your tone of voice. That’s a real plus. The caller can hear the laughter, the smile and the tone. Use it to your advantage. Remember, too, voice mail was not made to hold conversations. Ask a question; get an answer. Smooth. In and out.
Touch Point #4 – Good old U.S. mail. That’s probably one of the very first methods of communication. And we’ve used it and continue using it as a great method of communication. It goes with emails though, because the written word can be miscommunicated very easily. So email, voice mail and the US Postal Service, are very similar when communicating. All are ‘asynchronous.’ You will wait for an answer.
Touch Point #5 – The fax machine.Remember when that method of communicating came on the scene? Seems we didn’t know how we operated without it. And today, it trails sadly behind the other touch points. Yet, it’s still there and being used. Just not as much or as often. And a reminder, again, it is ‘asynchronous.’ One-way information; waiting for an answer. And again, a reminder to watch what you put on paper! It could come back to haunt you.
Touch Point #6 – Face-to-face communications. This obviously needs very little explanation. When we communicate face-to-face we have it all. Sight, sound, tone of voice, facial expressions, body language – the entire package. It is the ultimate ‘synchronous’ touch point. And yet, still, with all those helpful items, we still continue to ‘miscommunicate.’
Touch Point #7 – Instant Messaging (IM). While this method of communication isn’t quite yet in the mainstream, it is being used. However, 90% of all IM’s end up in a phone call. Instant messages may not be read right away. The person may be away from their computer. Again, we can’t remind you enough. Be careful what you put into emails. They can turn into an embarrassment for some.
So in this wonderful world of communications, you can see how it’s so easy to miscommunicate. In our workplace, we probably use all 7 touch points many times a day.
A few simple guidelines can help us focus on which touch point to use when.
• Telephone – If you reach your called party; GREAT. That’s immediate. It’s also good for leaving messages – that don’t need an immediate answer. If you need immediate action, try to reach another person. The telephone is only ‘synchronous’ when you have reached the called party.
• Voice Mail – That would be ‘asynchronous.’ Leaving messages that will be returned when the called party decides to return it (if ever).
• Email – Again, one-way communication. Keep it short, sweet and to the point. Use your manners. Remember, one word answers are perceived as rude.
• US Mail – Still a great way to communicate. But be careful with the written word. Keep in mind how possible miscommunication might occur. Sometimes letters have come back to haunt us.
• Fax – For those that still use this method of communication, one pagers are appreciated. And again, the written word needs to be checked and double-checked to be sure it won’t be miscommunicated.
• Face-to-Face – The ultimate method of communication. Immediate reaction, tone, sight, sound; body language. Total ‘SYNCHRONOUS’ communication. And that hug or handshake makes it all worthwhile!
• Instant Messaging (IM) – A fairly new form of communication and while not quite in the mainstream yet, it bears watching.