Back in the day, I used to have a client who’d leave me voice mails that were so long, she had to phone two or three times to spill out the whole missive. Because I really liked this client, I’d dutifully sit at my desk and transcribe her loquacious messages while muttering under my breath: “Why didn’t you just send an email?” But then I realized that leaving a voicemail was easier for her. She could ramble without fully organizing her thoughts. Sometimes she was thinking out loud. And she didn’t mind that it was more work for me.
Nowadays, we’re lucky if someone even has voicemail attached to their phone number. Some organizations are doing away with voicemail altogether.
Yet, a few people still prefer the telephone. Last year I was asked to quote on a project after meeting in person with the prospect, who had approached me by phone. I submitted my proposal to him, using the email address on his business card. When I didn’t hear anything after two weeks, I phoned him. Good thing I did. “I don’t check email,” he said, so he had no idea that I’d sent my proposal on time. I was gobsmacked. He worked for a large organization. How could he survive without email?
If you do leave a voicemail for someone under the age of 80, keep it short – as brief as possible. Use email or text instead, or a Twitter DM or Facebook message, if they use those platforms.
Sometimes telephoning someone will surprise and delight them, since many of us receive few calls (not including those from the dreaded telemarketers). But this positive impression, in my opinion, happens only if they pick up the phone. I know I feel deflated when I come out of a meeting, check my phone, and see three voicemails waiting. In this case I would have preferred texts or emails because I can process them more quickly, and I don’t need to find a quiet spot if I’m on the street or in transit.
In the end, we always have to take the communication style of the recipient into account. Just because I prefer email or text over telephone for routine correspondence, I shouldn’t assume everyone does. The best advice: When dealing with a new client or colleague, ask what their preference is. Yes, I should have done that with the prospect I mentioned. I haven’t made that mistake again.
Question: What’s the best way for people to contact you?