Technology has given us several affordable means — phone calls, emails, and text messages — for contacting customers immediately and directly. It’s important to note that these methods are not interchangeable: Each has its own pros and cons, and each works well in certain situations but not in others.
So, when should you pick up the phone vs. send an email or a text message? Let’s weigh the benefits and drawbacks of each one to determine just that.
Benefits: Except for face-to-face meetings, phone conversations are the most personal way to communicate with clients. You can get more things accomplished in a shorter period of time, and nuances (such as tone and context) are generally clearer than with electronic communications.
Drawbacks: It can be difficult to get people on the phone (especially if they’re ducking your calls), and one-on-one conversations are often time-consuming. Also, there’s no objective record of what takes place during a phone call unless you record what transpires (and you’ll need the other party’s permission to do so).
The Takeaway: Phone calls work well for business owners who have ongoing relationships with clients, but shouldn’t be used much for marketing or single-issue communiqués.
Benefits: This is the preferred means of communication when a large amount of data or information has to be discussed. Email is much more attachment-friendly than texting, and the messages tend to support graphics and videos better. What’s more, email messages can be printed easily, and they produce a “paper trail” for record-keeping.
Drawbacks: Emails don’t have the immediacy of phone conversations or texting. Messages typically take longer to compose, send, and receive — and they can even get lost in spam folders, outboxes, or cyberspace. And there’s always the possibility of malware hitching a ride on an email message.
The Takeaway: When sending contracts, spreadsheets, or other large attachments, use email with your customers. But if the message is time-sensitive, choose another medium.
Benefits: In a word, speed. Texting is now the quickest way to communicate with another person, save face-to-face contact. The messages are sent in real time. The receiver does not have to “answer” the call. And texts are more likely than email messages to be read immediately.
Drawbacks: Even people with the most agile thumbs can have difficulty typing lengthy missives on a mobile device. Text messages are difficult to work with when record-keeping, and recipients could be forced over their monthly limit of text messages by one of your texts. In addition, unsolicited text messages are often considered to be intrusive by customers.
The Takeaway: If you want or need to communicate with customers immediately and your message is short, texting is the way to go. Just be sure to get your customers’ permission first.