Choosing the phone versus email

Posted: 19th January, 2021 in Business writing & email etiquette, Case Studies, Communications, Customer Service, Personal effectiveness, Sales , Time Management, Tips & Tricks, Training and mentoring

In training I frequently ask people if they prefer to use the phone or email, I generally get a mixed reaction. Some favour the phone and others choose email.

I have noticed that individual preferences depend on the personality type or job role. Sometimes people who work in customer facing or people orientated roles prefer the phone. Whereas quieter people or those who work in technical jobs regularly like email and text.

Obviously, it’s not an exact science. And it is down to preference.

From my perspective I prefer the phone. Yet, I appreciate both have a place in how we communicate and should be treated with equal respect.

Email was essentially created for convenience. It’s hugely cost-effective with the ability to share information and send documents to multiple people in different time zones.  It’s ideally placed to confirm details agreed after a call or meeting.  Having a written record gives great peace of mind.  It can also be crucial for ironing out key points as it gives both parties a chance to review the information in their own time. It allows them to respond formally with necessary changes. 

Yet, when it comes to communication with our colleagues and customers, it’s often better to choose the phone over email – especially when we need to make a connection and build a rapport.

As email and text are one-way communication you will never know how your message has been interpreted or even if has been fully understood. When you write a message, you come at it from your own perspective and level of understanding. Your mood influences the context; in the same way their attitude will dictate how they read the message. And even if you have good intentions, you are not physically there when they receive it. So, you won’t know how they read the message.

When you pick up the phone, it’s two-way communication. You can add real tone in your voice and identify their mood. You can clarify any questions and get real feedback, helping you to influence the customer in a positive way.

When it comes to email threads that go back and forth, email can be slow and cumbersome. Having a quick phone call can iron any queries and save time. It can also help uncover any misunderstandings and reduce future questions or doubts. The same applies when you want an instant response. Ethically, it is acceptable to respond to emails within 24 hours. So, if you want an immediate response, just pick up the phone.

There may be times you deal with people who prefer email. Yet you know it would be better to have a telephone conversation. So, my advice is to send the other person an email requesting a call to be set up (just like a meeting). This way you show respect for their communications preference. Still, by requesting the call you still get the chance to put forward your point and, in most cases, you get the meeting too.

In short, there are a few factors to consider when choosing between the phone and email. Ask yourself the following questions and if the answer is yes to any of these, pick up the phone.

  • Do you need to build connection with the other person and get them onside?
  • Do you need to discuss a subject that may be sensitive to either party?
  • Is it a personal matter and therefore quite sensitive?
  • Do you need to explain or discuss something complicated? 
  • Could the conversation go back and forth?
  • Is the matter urgent?
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