Technology makes the world smaller – or so they say. But I’m beginning to question that theory. Sure, with Facebook I can connect with people I haven’t spoken with in 10 plus years. I can find out where old classmates live and work, and get the scoop on their families. With e-mail I can contact someone at their convenience and allow them to respond if and when they choose. Time is of little concern. I can send a question to Japan and have an answer the next morning. Even texting has impacted the way we communicate. I text editors at tradeshows to confirm a meeting. My daughter texts me to ask me where I am, find out what is for dinner or to tell me she loves me. All positive advancements as a result of technology, right?
Not so fast. All these new forms of communication affect our personal relationships – and not necessarily for the better. Though all valid forms of communication, electronic technology in no way compares to more personal means of communication. A personal, handwritten thank you note means more than any e-mail or text message. Doubt me? Try it yourself sometime. Better yet, have the opportunity to be on the receiving end of that note. I worked with a client and good friend who was a master of this technique. After each success, event or meeting, I received a beautifully written note that wasn’t just the normal formalities, but well thought out and personal. Receiving those notes meant I spent the rest of the day walking on air. And, I’d post each and every note on my bulletin board. You don’t do that with e-mail or text messages.
But handwritten notes aren’t the only thing falling by the wayside. So too is the personal phone call. I am just as guilty of this as anyone. I can simply type my questions in an e-mail and send it off. It likely takes less time, is less intrusive and gives me a nice paper trail to track. Unfortunately, it eliminates the most important element – human interaction. (Sorry but you cannot count having a conversation via e-mail as human interaction! The only thing you and the other person interact with is a keyboard!) Haven’t you all picked up the phone to hear a familiar voice on the other end – be it a client, a friend, a media person or colleague – and felt the smile spread across your face? Phone calls allow you to sense tone and mood, which can be invaluable in dealing with problems or proactively building better relationships. In addition, a live conversation gives you the opportunity to discuss other topics and follow up on questions in a more thorough manner. Best of all, phone calls give you the time for the personal elements present in any relationship, finding out about your associates family, vacation or upcoming travel plans. Those are all things you miss out on with the more technologically advanced forms of communication.
My advice? You should be talking to customers and key industry associates on a regular basis. For each business, that time interval may be different. But if you’ve gone a month or better with nothing but e-mail contact, you are definitely due to pick up the phone and connect in person. Who knows what you may discover?
How has the technology we have today changed the way you communicate with customers and business associates? Do you have communication guidelines in place to ensure you are keeping in close personal contact with your customers? As agency customers, how do you prefer to be communicated with?