Verbal communication is important to your business. We’ve taken a look at why you can’t hide behind a keyboard and email. Stop writing, find your voice, and start talking.But on the other hand, phone calls can be a problem. They’re time wasters, distractions and money-suckers when the opportunity is abused. So here’s a great refresher on courtesy calling for those people who like to communicate via phone and some tips to help providers get the most out of calls.
Know Your Time Zones
Before you pick up the phone and dial, know what time it is where you’re calling. Virtual world workers deal with crazy time zone differences. Check the clock before you pick up the phone to make a call. It may be afternoon where you are, but it might be the dead of night somewhere else. Waking up people isn’t cool.
Know what time of day is convenient to call, too. You may be an early riser, but stumbling through phone calls before the first cup of coffee – and before the sun rises – isn’t fun for many people.
Likewise, try not to interrupt anyone’s evening when supper’s on the table, the kids are yapping in the background or when your provider is trying to enjoy some family time.
Schedule, Confirm, and Time the Call
Calling out of the blue can be an interruption in a critical moment for many people. Set up a phone meeting with your provider is to schedule a call a few days ahead.
The day before, confirm the date and time. Unexpected events happen and people forget, so confirming a call makes sure the call will happen according to plan.
Schedule the call length. Allot a half hour or 15 minutes for the conversation, and stick to that block of time. When it’s up, don’t drag the call on. Your time is valuable, yes. So is the other person’s, and that person has to earn a living. Schedule another call to cover the points that you couldn’t cover this session.
Be Efficient and Productive
Before you call, email the person with a list of items you want to discuss. That way, both parties can prepare and stick to the agenda. Listing points to talk over helps keep everyone on track and makes the most out of the conversation. A phone call that skips from subject to subject or one that doesn’t stay on business can derail a provider’s work schedule.
Being friends is nice, but too friendly isn’t good. This is a business relationship with a friendly undertone – it is not a business hookup into more intimate affairs. Don’t talk about your favorite television show, your kids, or your hobbies for very long.
Stick to business as much as possible. Spend less than 20% of time on chit-chat. That’s 2 minutes on idle conversation for every 10 minutes discussing business.
Respect the Person You Want to Call
If you really, really, really have to call your provider unexpectedly, immediately ask the person if it is a good time to talk. If the provider sounds hesitant, ask when a better time would be and reschedule your call so it’s convenient for both parties, not just you.
If your provider doesn’t want to talk on the telephone, accept that. Some people stumble or stutter and it makes them shy. Some people like to think before they speak, and having to answer questions quickly on the phone catches them off guard. Some people just have too many distractions going on. They may feel they can’t focus on the call. Accept it, allow it, and communicate some other way.
- Don’t force your provider to get some fancy, fandangled system to take your calls. If you love Skype, great. If your provider doesn’t have it, doesn’t want it, or isn’t interested in using it, don’t push it.
- Don’t get cheap. Yes, long distance might cost a couple of dollars, but if you keep your conversations short and efficient, the expense isn’t a big deal.
- Don’t get upset when you get an answering machine. It isn’t personal. People have lives, and they’re not always home. Leave a message, and the person will call you back.
Lastly, confirm all points in the discussion via email. Many people like a paper trail, so while you talk, jot down some notes. After you both hang up, write a summary email that you can both fall back on to avoid miscommunications.