According to Pew Research, 95 percent of us Americans have a cell phone. Most of us couldn’t conduct business without them. I know mine is always in my pocket, on the desk, in the cup holder of my car. Ready for calls, emails, texts, or social media check-ins.
I can’t run my business without my phone.
So why is it that phone calls are becoming frowned upon in business? Not conference calls. They’re O.K. But ask any of your colleagues if unscheduled calls are acceptable, even if the unanticipated incoming call is from a colleague they know, and you’ll likely get an emphatic NO!
Why is that?
I know in my case I receive so many robo calls on a daily basis that I’ve come to view my smart phone with suspicion when it rings. It’s gotten to the point that I typically don’t answer unless I recognize the number. Instead, I mumble to myself about the unknown caller who thinks they can fool me with a familiar area code. On the odd occasion that I do answer a call from an unknown number, I refrain from saying anything to give the robo caller time to start regurgitating their digital pitch so I can then hang up and block them.
Sad, right? Especially because there are times when I do want to talk to people whose numbers I don’t recognize. It could be a potential client, a colleague who’s taken a new job and has a new number, or someone I know in an emergency situation who needs me. Then again, it might be Publisher’s Clearinghouse. Bottom line, there are times when we all should answer our phones unimpeded by preconceived notions.
Curious to know if others have hangups about business phone calls, I queried colleagues who represent a range of sexes, ages and careers. Here’s what they said:
Ping before you ring.
“My role requires me to be onsite with my clients so 60 percent of my communications are face-to-face, 30 percent on the phone and the balance on email. I never call business associates out of the blue. If I need a business associate and don’t have a scheduled call, I will ping them first on Skype to give them a heads up. There are days when I’m on the phone seven out of eight hours so texts and emails are a relief. Cold calls from someone I don’t know are never acceptable.” Lyn-Ellen, Global Software Consultant
I don’t know you? Be ready for rude.
“I do my job every day primarily with a phone and email. The vast majority of my calls are scheduled; it’s rare to have unscheduled calls. Cold calls are rarely accepted in a nice way. Unfortunately, I can be rude to cold callers; I never make these calls myself. The reason I tend to want an email over a call is simply for documentation. I do a very large number of music licensing deals, and I really want to have the written terms for each deal for my file. I could do these by phone, but then I would have to write it up and send it to the other party for confirmation. Email saves time.” Russell, Business Consultant
If it’s not pressing, don’t call.
“If I call out of the blue, it’s typically someone with a close business relationship and we’re likely talking about something we’ve discussed or emailed about prior. There gets to a point where email is not effective and it’s best to talk things through. The thing to remember is that your top priority may not be someone else’s top priority. Phone calls require a singular focus to be effective. Evaluate how urgent your issue is. If it’s not something you need an immediate answer on, or is going to require a fair amount of time, schedule the call in advance.” Gretchen, Digital Marketing Executive
Equal opportunity preparation.
“The aversion to phone calls is caused by how phone calls compare to other options like email and texts. Of all the options, an incoming phone call is the noisiest and provides no preview until you pause what you’re doing and answer. Depending on who is on the other end, it might take a few minutes for them to reveal why they are actually calling. Either way, they’re prepared for the call. I’m not. That can be awkward. I always try scheduling phone calls as a courtesy. It gives everyone on the call the opportunity to prepare ahead of time.” Kevin, University Administrator
Keep cold calls brief and on topic.
“People I work with primarily communicate by email or texting. It’s nice because you can include attachments or photos. However, don’t always proof their messages, auto correct sometimes gets it wrong and the message is misunderstood. I think that people need to email/text and then follow up by phone call, if necessary. I do make business calls out of the blue, but try to keep it brief and on topic. Sometimes cold calls are necessary to make sure both sides are under the same assumptions. I don’t like having to make an appointment for a phone call, unless it’s a conference call. You can’t develop a relationship, business or personal, with emails.” Karen, Community Activist
What this Tells Us….
Obviously, this was not a scientific survey and my sample size was small, but it’s pretty clear that when we’re on the clock we don’t want unscheduled phone calls regardless of who’s on the other line. In some ways this is a shame; I lenjoy hearing from people I haven’t talked to in awhile and I also love to touch base with people for no good reason other than I’m thinking about you. But out of respect for people’s time, attention and sanity, scheduled calls in business are best.