5 Reasons to Stop Emailing and Pick Up The Phone

July 3, 2014

Take it from us, we love Social Media and have been lulled into believing that email is the most efficient way of communicating with our network. But we’ve been taking a second look at whether it’s really the best way of building and sustaining those relationships which are at the very core of what makes businesses tick.

As niche Recruiters in the Supply Chain Recruiting space here at Argentus, we’re all over LinkedIn, Twitter and email, both as a means of staying in touch with our network as well as sourcing candidates and prospective clients to expand and deepen our network. Additionally, it is a fantastic way of spreading our very specific content and thought leadership about what’s going on with the talent growth in Supply Chain as our very specialised recruiting vertical. (Most recently with LinkedIn’s new Publisher Platform, we have been able to open up some of our thoughts and market intelligence to a very wide audience and get some great discussion going).

These new communication methods obviously help us connect with people around the globe, and allow us to receive real-time feedback and intelligence from a network dealing with the current challenges in Supply Chain across all industries. Make no mistake, social media and email is absolutely key to today’s recruiting landscape and we wouldn’t have it any other way. This use of tech has brought new business opportunities to our door, and has allowed us here at Argentus to recruit for Supply Chain Professionals internationally and work with organisations that a few years ago which might not have been possible (we now have active contractors working in Europe and East Asia).  

But while intended to make us more efficient in doing our jobs, there is an aspect of today’s online approach to doing business that’s has its downfalls and frustrations, so much so that it’s worth blogging about today.

Email as a communication tool can certainly be attributed as something we at times have all hidden behind to avoid direct engagement simply because it’s easier. Email has replaced voice mail which was used in much the same way when it first came on the scene in business. It certainly has replaced the immediacy of having to pick up the office phone of just a few years ago. And frankly, we’re not sure that’s such a good thing.

And here are a few reasons we think email still doesn’t really make the grade compared to the phone:

1.       Email eats up more time

There’s an often-repeated phrase in business that “time kills deals.” It’s especially true in the recruitment industry and can certainly be carried through to every business. Email, intended to make us move faster, in actuality often time makes the process move far slower than one would think, whereas simple phone call would be more efficient.  Think about it: I send an email – I wait for a response – you respond – you wait for my response and so on. One phone call and a quick conversation a few years ago used to get the matter dealt with pronto! But that doesn’t happen these days. In our particular recruiting vertical this is often the case, where candidates are gold and where timing is everything. The time wasted with lagging emails causes lost opportunities where highly skilled candidates who have gone on multiple interviews are quickly lost to another offer because of lack of immediacy often caused by lagging emails.

The fact is, it’s so easy to put off writing a response to an email because of other priorities. At least a live message left can convey urgency and human appeal, and hearing another person’s voice compels a returned call. Once that human social impulse is mediated through text, it’s easier to put off responding. A business relationship is often reduced to the same level of consideration as a marketing email or social media notification, and that’s a shame. And it leads to “email tag,” which is the biggest time-drag of all.

 2.       With email, it can take longer to get to the point:

Email often takes more effort than a phone call where one can have a direct, to-the-point conversation. In our experience, many millennials and younger workers are timid about picking up the phone because they don’t have the experience using it. And that makes sense: it’s easier to get into a situation over the phone where you feel like you don’t know what you’re talking about, where you’ll be asked a question you’re not sure you’re able to answer.  But isn’t that messy space an arena where actual learning and collaboration happens? Over the phone, it can be much quicker to get to the meat of a discussion and achieve actual resolution than ongoing disagreement over email. And usually the relationship between parties becomes stronger.

3.       Email Takes More Effort:

Email writing is an important skill. It’s both tricky and necessary for an email to be succinct, polite, and use language that’s appropriate to the level of formality that the business relationship demands. But all the effort spent deciding on proper greetings and email salutations (“regards,” “kind regards,” “sincerely,” “warmest regards,”), making sure the tone is right, all the effort spent on proofreading, and other related polishing, isn’t something you have to deal with over the phone.  Yes, it takes effort to engage in a verbal conversation. But it’s more rewarding – because that effort is spent on coming to a mutual understanding instead of making sure your side of the communication appears “polished.”

4.       It’s easy for things to get lost in the shuffle:

                How many times have you sent a comprehensive email addressing several points only to receive a one-line response that only addresses a part of what the original email said? It’s happened to everyone. When it comes to replying to an email, it’s easy to disregard aspects that you want to ignore. And it’s harder for the original sender to continue to ask for clarification on the original points when they’re trying to seem thankful that the recipient responded at all. Beyond that, it’s also just easier for emails in general to get lost in the shuffle. Inboxes are inundated, and it’s easy to tell yourself after scanning your inbox that you’ll go back and respond later, but it often ends up not happening. This is another way that email represents a time sink.

5.       Email is often too formal:

The phone (like in-person meetings) encourages a free flowing, informal business discussion where things get done. This is tremendously valuable in recruitment both when speaking to clients looking to hire and candidates looking for a career change. On the candidate side, it gives the recruiter a sense of the individual’s personality, and it shows us a ton about their communications skills and how they’ll perform in an interview. On the client side, phone conversations are information-rich sessions where we learn what really makes a role tick beyond a written job description. They teach us about the company culture. They teach us about what makes a role exciting.

 Both jobs and candidates often look very different on paper than they are in reality, and a phone conversation makes it easier to get at that reality than an email exchange.

But to speak more generally, when’s the last time an email exchange ended up going somewhere unexpected and fruitful? When’s the last time you were genuinely surprised? I’m willing to guess it doesn’t happen very often.

Like any piece of technology, email isn’t inherently good or bad. It’s all in how it’s used. And as we said, it can be an excellent tool. But we all have bad email habits in our professional lives, and so often the phone is a better alternative.

So maybe it’s time to take a suggestion – Want to communicate with a colleague in your office, a client, a candidate? – Pick up the phone.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments. 

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