In a recent New York Times article, “Pass the Word: The Phone Call Is Back,” reporter Jenna Wortham wrote that her friends had started “…picking up their cellphones for an unusual purpose: They wanted to talk. And I started answering when they called.”
Her article highlights that the need for vocal contact is still alive and well. And for some of us, of course, the phone call never went away.
My favorite illustration of the importance of phone calls comes from the television show The Big Bang Theory. In one episode, the star character, Sheldon, is having trouble getting in contact with his girlfriend, and says to his roommate, “I’ve tried email, video chat, tweeting her, posting on her Facebook wall, texting her…nothing.”
His roommate asks, “Did you try calling her on the telephone?
Sheldon replies, “Ah, the telephone.”
As he starts to dial her number, he says to his roommate, “In your own simple way, you may be the wisest of us all.”
Talking to someone on the phone is still an important way to communicate in business – you can get immediate feedback/acknowledgement, you can eliminate the back-and-forth aspects of texts or emails, and you can have the sound of your voice enhance your message.
You can also have more in-depth discussions. My former social media intern always calls me when she needs to discuss her next career move, although she usually emails or texts me with her regular communication updates.
Here are six suggestions for using smartphones smartly in business:
1. Use a greeting, and give your name when answering the phone. Remember, it is a business call – you want to sound professional. Say “Hello” or “Good morning,” and then your full name, rather than just your first name. You also need to include a verb – as in “Brittany Jones speaking,” or “This is Jake Jones.” (Of course, if you know it is your colleague, you can simply say “Hi.”)
2. Don’t place your phone on the table when meeting with someone. Since the smartphone has become so much a part of people’s lives, the phone is always “at the ready.” People put it on the table and don’t even think about it. This is rude. How does it look to the other person? It tells the person with whom you are meeting that you are so ready to drop him or her to talk with someone else, or to respond to an email or text! Research has shown that the presence of the phone inhibits conversation. (Additional guidelines for smartphones can be found in my new book, The Essentials of Business Etiquette.)
3. Do not use a Bluetooth headset in the office. It looks like a cockroach in your ear. (Yes, I do have strong opinions about this.) I am not talking about the hands-free headset that receptionists use. I am talking about headsets often used when people are walking and talking, making you think they are talking to themselves. Or even worse, you think they are talking to you, and may start to respond. This thoughtless behavior by the headset-wearer is just rude.
4. Use voicemail professionally. Many people don’t leave messages when making personal calls. They know that people will see that they called, and call them back. In business, people do leave messages. If you are the one leaving the message, make your points in as few words as necessary. If you ramble, people are likely to stop listening. Also, the outgoing message on your system – the one asking people to leave a message – needs to be appropriate. Saying, “Hey, you’ve reached me. You know the drill,” is not okay. Let people know the name of the person they have reached, and that you will call them back.
5. Don’t speak too loudly. People still need to be reminded to speak in a quiet, conversational voice when they are on the phone. If the people around you are giving you evil stares, chances are you need to lower your volume.
6. Do not make blanket excuses. When sending emails from their smartphones, some people add a generic message at the end, such as: Please excuse typos and the brevity of this message. Sent from my mobile device. Mentioning possible mistakes only seems to highlight any that you have made. Take the time to proof and correct your messages before you send them.
Pachter & Associates provides training and coaching on business communication. For additional information, contact Joyce Hoff at firstname.lastname@example.org or 856.751.6141.