Does it sound too low-tech for a social media professional to talk about phone conversations in a virtual work environment? Not when you’re working to meet clients, coworkers, and team members where they are. You may find that connecting via phone is a welcome suggestion for some people in your work environment.
As popular as email, texting, and video chat is, there are still a lot of reasons to use the telephone as a communication tool.
- Unlike text and email, a phone call gives you the ability to use your voice to convey the tone of a message.
- Unlike an asynchronous email exchange, if you connect with someone on the telephone, you might be able to resolve an issue within minutes because you don’t have to wait long for their replies.
- For many people, a phone call is just faster and easier!
Professional communication via the phone isn’t as simple as it may seem, though. If you’re communicating across time zones, your window for connecting may be small (or one of the communicators may be forced to participate outside of regular business hours). There is also less flexibility since the communication is synchronous – time restriction may interrupt creative endeavors or conflict with other job requirements.
The good news is that if you do choose to communicate via telephone, there are a few basic tips that can help you be more successful. And if you’re a leader, you can provide this specific feedback to team members to help improve your one-on-one and group phone calls.
- Invest in the right tools to support telephone communication. You may decide to buy a headset so they can have both hands free or they may realize they need to upgrade their current phone system to ensure they have a reliable connection. The right tools will vary depending on job requirements, but it pays to take a moment to assess your current resources.
- Follow basic phone etiquette for every call. It can be tempting to multitask when you’re on a telephone call, but the distractions in your environment are almost guaranteed to detract from the quality of your call. Ask yourself which task is more important. And if you know yourself well enough to guarantee you’ll be distracted, make good choices about your environment! For example, you may choose to shut your computer down – or at least turnoff email notifications!
- If you’re the recipient of information over the phone, ask for clarification as needed. If you’re providing information over the phone, check to make sure your message is understood. On the telephone, we don’t have visual cues (like a puzzled expression or the absence of notetaking) to tell each other when miscommunication begins. Because of that, it’s especially important to ask and ask for questions.
It’s also a good idea to think about what challenges you experience as a result of how others behave on the phone. I recently had an experience where I had planned a detailed and important call with a client and when we connected, I learned they were driving. Distracted driving aside, I was disappointed that they weren’t going to be referencing materials and taking notes like I was. I inferred from their participation level that they weren’t that invested in our conversation. And I realized that I had surely done the same thing to others. I was reminded that – like any communication – the best success tool can be setting expectations about the communication. I thought it was obvious that I needed my client’s full attention and, of course, they meant no harm. Why wouldn’t they multi-task?
As social media professionals, we’re often in a position where we are providing advice, demonstrating successes, and gathering information. While we may be comfortable chatting, texting, emailing, and using video to connect, others may feel most confident and comfortable on the phone. Thinking about a few small changes can help you continue to project the high level of professionalism needed to be successful.
Author: Amy Jauman
Dr. Amy Jauman, SMS, is the Chief Learning Officer at the National Institute for Social Media and author of the Comprehensive Field Guide for Social Media Strategists. Amy is also one of 58 members representing 12 countries in the inaugural class of the Prezi Educator Society. Previously she was the Social Media Director for Women Entrepreneurs of Minnesota (WeMN) and she currently serves as the marketing director for the Minnesota Chapter of the National Speakers Association. She is also an adjunct professor in the St. Catherine University Business Department and the St. Mary’s University of Minnesota MBA program.