In 1935, United States citizens were about to be overwhelmed
with a nine-digit number — their Social Security number. For some, it probably
seemed very impersonal to be thought of as a "number." Today,
technology requires us to use many numbers for telephones, fax machines,
cellular phones, and email. Often, these mediums can be very impersonal.
However, by applying some "electronic etiquette", we can make our
digital communication "warmer".
When I’ve given presentations on customer service, many businesspeople who
live by electronic communication have shared their strategies with me. Here are
some of the best:
Keep the message concise and detailed. Speak slowly when giving your name and
telephone number. How many times have you replayed a message and became
frustrated because you couldn’t understand it? As far as the details are
concerned, instead of leaving a message such as, "Call me so we can
prepare for the presentation," say, "For the presentation this
Monday, let’s decide on an exact location and time."
Here’s a tip that can dramatically improve getting voice mail messages
returned. When you leave a message, the last word to leave, after you say
goodbye, should be the person’s name. This personalizes the message. It’s
warmer and friendlier when someone picks up a message and hears,
"…thanks, I’ll speak to you soon. Bye, Tom" (of course, that’s if
the person you’re calling is named Tom).
While leaving a thorough message helps, your tone of voice could be even more
important. People can hear a "smile" on the phone, and they certainly
can hear your attitude. When you leave upbeat messages, it invites the
recipient to call you back. One way to test this out is to leave yourself a
voice mail. Play the messages back and critique yourself.
Also, take into account the length of your messages. When you have to leave a
long message, say that up-front. The recipient will appreciate hearing the
reason for your extended message. For example say, "I’m going out of the
country for 10 days tomorrow, so please excuse this long message about our
It’s been said that, "timing is everything." Returning messages
promptly can make or break a deal. Work towards returning every message you get
within 24 hours. When people ask you to "call them back," it could be
that they’re considering another vendor, and want to give you a chance to
counter the offer. People don’t always say why they’re leaving a message. It’s
your job to respond to them promptly and find out.
A Gallup/Pitney Bowes poll revealed that 64 percent of Fortune 500 employees
who now have email would still rather get a fax than an email message. The
message for us is that we should make sure that we communicate using people’s
"electronic preferences." And since faxing is still a key part of
doing business, here are a few things to remember:
For salespeople, a fax can be a great tool to use for following up a phone
call. Often, a voice mail or email can be easily erased, a fax is a perfect
paper back up to make sure that messages have been received.
Faxes can also be a deal "sealer." After you have completed a
negotiation, you might want to get something in the customer’s hands that
confirms your agreement. It doesn’t have to be the final contract. Rather, it
could be a note that is hand written which says, "Thanks for the order. We
look forward to delivering 15 units for $50 each, plus shipping. In the
meantime, call me when you need something else."
Whatever the case, ask your customers if they approve of you sending a fax.
Since most fax machines are in common office areas, your clients may not want
others to see their messages.
While email provides almost instant electronic communication, it’s important
that we take the time to use it effectively.
Many times we use email to replace what would have been a note, memo, or
letter. In using email, make sure it looks professional. For example, what you
send might be printed out and be distributed to other people. Therefore, when
it’s a memo, make sure it looks like a memo. Also, carefully check the grammar
and spelling. Many word processing programs help us "clean up" our
copy. That’s not always the case with email. The correct punctuation and
salutation should be remembered.
One thing that’s sure to be remembered, is having the "wrong" people
see what you sent. We’ve heard the horror stories, in which confidential
messages inadvertently found their way into everyone’s email in-box. Therefore,
you might need to avoid including sensitive information in an email.
Finally, make sure you add at the end of every message your full name, title, email,
phone and fax numbers. Sometimes the only way people know where it’s from is by
looking at your email address. If it’s "09095QWE@aol.com, chances are they
may not know it’s from you.
Since email usage is only going to increase, now is the time to get in the
habit of using email etiquette.
It seems that there was a time when the only people who needed cell phones were
doctors and undertakers. Now, cell phones are a requirement for many
salespeople, especially those who are often "on the road." Regardless
of how you might use yours, there are some basic rules to keep in mind.
Since cell phones can go everywhere, be sensitive to your environment when you
call people. For example, be careful not to stand near a noisy place such as a
construction site. Also, be considerate of those around you. Recently I was in
a library and someone was loudly chatting away on his phone, while people were
trying to concentrate.
Another "call to courtesy" is when you meet with a client in a place
away from the office. A restaurant, for example, allows you to get away from
the distractions of an office. Therefore, unless you’re expecting an emergency
call, shut the cell phone off. Your clients will appreciate it if you’re not
taking calls with food in your mouth.
Your clients will also appreciate it if you refrain from talking to them on
your phone while you’re driving. This is because you’re unable to give them
your full attention. People can sense when we’re not completely listening.
Remember, it’s better to stop the car and then call clients. The conversation
will be focused, and you’ll be able to communicate more successfully.
All of our electronic "tools" can never take the place of direct
interpersonal communication. Take a look at your client list and think about
all the numbers you have to reach them. Remember, there are people behind those
digits who want to connect with you. Whatever "tool" you use, make
sure it will get the job done with grace and style.