Recently I returned a customer’s phone call and I received a very enthusiastic reply saying, “Thanks so much for calling me back and not emailing!” At first I wondered if I’ve been emailing too much, but upon talking with him further, he said that he had called another agent multiple times and the agent would never return his calls, but would send a short email response instead.
That got me wondering about the correct business etiquette for modern times. I tend to respond to inquiries in the same way I receive them. If someone calls me, I call them back. If they text me, I text them back and if they email me, well you get the picture. However, it can get extremely confusing keeping track of all the places one needs to check to make sure all inquiries are being responded to. In addition to calls, texts and emails, I get messages through facebook, linked-in and specific websites that you can only respond through the website. My preference is to get those people to email me as it is time consuming to log onto a specific site each time I need to reply to a short question. And finally, upon occasion, I may actually see someone face to face and get to have a real conversation.
Communication methods have changed dramatically in the last decade. Keeping up with the responses and not letting any fall through the cracks can be a challenge. I like being able to flag messages in my email so I remember to follow up on them later. I still have a hand written list of people I want to follow-up with, but I’m probably behind the times not using an electronic list like Evernote or OneNote. I find texts can be the most challenging because you can’t flag them or save them like a voice mail, so they really demand immediate responses. That is usually what the person sending the text expects, however I often feel it’s inappropriate to send a business text after hours, unless it is urgent or applies to a meeting early the next day.
I recently read about a social experiment done by Julie Dobrow, a professor at Tufts University, where she asked her students to call people for one day instead of texting to see how they would respond. While the results are mostly anecdotal, the consensus seemed to be that students thought it was uncomfortable to make a call, but also felt a deeper connection talking with friends, even though it was still mostly about trivial things. When the parents got phone calls they first wanted to know what was wrong, and then were thrilled to actually have a chat. (Click here for more info http://www.huffingtonpost.com/julie-dobrow/is-something-wrong-textin_b_8260736.html )
The fact that more millennials and generation Z’s are all texting instead of making phone calls also makes it apparent that we must try and communicate with our customers in the way they prefer to be communicated with. I personally like email since it has a written record of what was discussed and is easy to reference later if one forgets. I have my assistant email monthly updates to our clients with a list of activity on their properties for this very reason.
The old fashioned phone call or face-to-face meeting seems to be fading away, but there is definitely a cohort of people that appreciate the deeper connection and ability to get their questions answered and will always prefer a simple call. I thought about concluding that when in doubt one should pick up the phone or use the same method the customer uses to contact you, however asking may be the best option as I once returned a client’s phone call (yes they called me) and at the end of the conversation they said, “I really don’t do phone calls very well, I’m much better with email, so please contact me that way in the future.”