Voice messages, electronic e-mails, video conferences, speakerphones and cellular/portable phones--all part of the modern business world. Unfortunately, easier and faster does not always mean better or acceptable--even if "everybody else does it." Common sense and courtesy are still important communication ingredients.
Answering Machines and Voice Mail:
Record the outgoing message in your own voice. Keep it short and businesslike. The caller assumes you're sorry you missed his or her call without being told. Do not include comments of a religious nature--these can possibly offend a caller/client. Stay away from clichés such as, "Have a nice day." Make the day nice for your callers with a brief message in a pleasant tone.
When you leave a message, don't assume the caller will recognize your voice. State your name and, if appropriate, your company name. Some systems automatically record date/time information, but you may want to state that also if you feel it is important. Keep your message brief. Speak clearly and slowly when you give your phone number. Someone who has to listen to your message six times in order to understand the number, may not care whether he or she returns your call.
Love to use your speakerphone? Courtesy dictates that you ask the caller for permission before you activate the speaker function. Also, remember that everyone within hearing distance may hear the conversation whether or not they should.
If you use a speakerphone to conduct a meeting, since the person on the other end of the line cannot see who is in the room always introduce everyone present. This is not only good manners, but can help avoid embarrassing situations. The caller may wish to monitor his or her comments according those present in the meeting.
Listen carefully--a half-second delay in transmission can be confusing. Behave as though everyone is in the same room--you are not invisible and the person(s) at the other location(s) are not deaf. Keep your movements to a minimum. If you have the opportunity to choose your clothing ahead of time, stick with solid colors. Choose light blue for shirts and blouses.
For business use, keep these tips in mind. When you accept an incoming call while with someone else, realize that the other person may not appreciate the interruption of his or her time with you. A client especially may feel a position of "second place" in this situation. Also, when you conduct business within hearing distance of other people someone may overhear information not meant for their ears. Last but not least, be careful of what you say--someone with more curiosity than manners/ethics may tap in and listen.
One of the problems with e-mail is that it can cause an important message to seem informal and unimportant. E-mail is still business correspondence--keep it businesslike! Basic points: include a subject line; do not use uppercase for all letters (it's harder to read and comes across as yelling at the reader); check your grammar and spelling (this reflects on you, even in e-mail); sign off with your name, company name (if applicable) and a phone number.
If your e-mail is a reply, even though the subject line will provide a general reference, include enough information to ensure the recipient can quickly identify the reply. It is not always necessary to include the entire original message in your answer.
Do not be upset if you do not receive an answer immediately. People have other responsibilities besides reading e-mail. If you require an immediate response, it may be best to simply pick up the telephone and call the person.
Avoid Anger in Your Communication- A very big temptation when speaking to a machine or dashing out a message on your computer keyboard because you are not face to face with the other person. A knee-jerk message could cause a great offense. You may wish you had not left the angry words on someone's voice mail or so quickly sent that sarcastic e-mail message. The answering machine or computer will not respond to your angry message--but the recipient probably will!
Greg Smith's cutting-edge keynotes, consulting and training programs have helped businesses accelerate organizational performance, reduce turnover, increase sales, hire better people and deliver better customer service. As President and Lead Navigator of Chart Your Course International he has implemented professional development programs for thousands of organizations globally. He has authored nine informative books including his latest book Fired Up! Leading Your Organization to Achieve Exceptional Results. He lives in Conyers, Georgia. Sign up for his free Navigator Newsletter by visiting http://www.ChartCourse.com or call (770) 860-9464.