Over the last few months, how many times have you physically walked over to a co-worker’s desk to discuss a quick question you had on a task you are working on? In that same time span, how much more likely was it that you simply chatted with them on your company’s communication tool (Lync, Communicator, or Google Chat) rather than walking the 25 feet to their desk? As embarrassing as it is to admit, I have had several Lync chats with my co-workers who sit no more than 10 feet from my desk.
Is it laziness, or is it just an increased reliance on the technology and tools we have been trained to work with?
With the rapid increases in technology over the last 20 years there has been a monumental shift in the ways in which business can be conducted. Telecommuting has made rapid gains, with employees working from home having full access to their files and programs by connecting to their organization via a VPN. An entire business unit can meet over a Lync or Go-To-Meeting call without anyone actually having to be in the physical meeting location.
With this shift in technology, communications in businesses have become increasingly less personal. Emails will oftentimes take the place of phone calls, and a quick chat on Communicator or Google Chat will take the place of human interaction that once dominated the workplace. With all of these tools at our disposal, it is important to keep things in perspective and to maintain a personal feel within the business.
Here are a few tips for maintaining the personal touch in your business:
1) Your convenience is not always most important
While it may be easier to fire off an email, or dial in to a conference call just because it is convenient, it is not always going to make the best impression on your clients or co-workers. Face-time (not the app) is important in an organization, and maintaining a presence in front of your clients and co-workers will help to establish a better working relationship. Try and balance the convenience of the tools at your disposal and the quality of time you are spending with your clients and co-workers.
2) Make the walk
If you need a co-worker’s input on a decision, it can oftentimes be figured out much quicker by talking to them in person. It may make sense to see if they have time by checking with them on through your chat program, but once you have the go-ahead, make the walk to their desk and discuss the decision face-to-face. This will allow for little to be misconstrued in the message they are sending.
3) If it takes longer than 30 minutes to draft the email, deliver the message verbally
There are a few caveats to this one, such as legal requirements that the message is in writing or if the team is in different geographical regions, but typically if something takes this long to write, it should be delivered in a formal meeting or a discussion amongst the team. There are a few issues to take into consideration, a long email will oftentimes be skimmed by the audience, and there are bound to be questions. If the message is delivered in person, you can control the message and allow for a controlled follow up discussion.
4) Use the right type of message
Communications tools are great, and they are deployed in your business for a reason. While it is good to build quality interactions with your clients and co-workers, it is a given that you will use the tools at your disposal. When using these tools, ensure you are using them correctly. Chat tools should only be used for quick discussions or questions. In-depth questions can be handled via an email, a phone call, or a meeting. Emails can be used when you have a more in-depth question, when you need to reach a broader audience, or both. Conference calls and meetings are great tools to hash out ideas in a more open environment.
5) Add email recipients after the message has been completed
This one is a little less about maintaining a personal touch than preventing oversharing or unintended recipients from receiving a message (or entire groups from having visibility to a list serve address like happened as recently as Wednesday). Sending an email to people that were not intended to receive the message can have devastating consequences. Adding the recipients after the message has been completed can help to eliminate some of the issues that can pop-up from accidentally hitting the send button. Additionally, sending a message before it has been finished can reflect poorly on you and make it look like you did not pay attention to the necessary details.
Whatever your business is, it is great to leverage communications tools, but it is important to remember that customers desire personal connections as well.
If you have any feedback on this blog, please click the comment button at the top of this post, and be sure to follow me on twitter.