Lots of people are reluctant to pick up the phone and get business done. We get it. Calling can seem like an interruption and most business can get done through email. That’s fine. Sometimes, a phone is the last thing you need. But other times, you should pickup the phone before you think of emailing.
When It’s an Emergency
You need the information and you need it now. Do you write an email and cross your fingers? No. Call. A call is an interruption and that may seem rude, but in an emergency or urgent matter, it’s okay to interrupt someone’s day.
Protip: Are you sick of people emailing you when it’s an emergency? Do they then get mad that you don’t respond right away? Consider putting this line in your email signature: “For all urgent matters, please call instead of emailing”.
When an Email Chain Has Become too Convoluted
We’ve all seen those email chains that have become long, haphazard messes. Four or five people are using reply all, but maybe one person isn’t so you’re not sure you’re seeing all the replies, and different people are replying to different things, and the email subject is something about finance but now you’re talking about a new widget design . . .
When an email chain like that gets too messy, it’s time for a conference call. When two people in a big email chain start talking about side business, they should give each other a call.
Protip: Wrap up your convoluted email by proposing a call and give a short list of everything you need to discuss. The list should convince everyone else a call is best.
When You Need to Apologize
Everyone needs to apologize about something at some point. It’s just part of being a person with integrity. Email apologies can seem insincere, so call.
Protip: Some apologies need an audience. For example, if you were gratuitously rude to someone in front of others. If you can’t make your apology at a meeting or over a conference call easily, apologize to the person you’ve wronged over the phone and then once more in an email cc’ing your audience.
When Something Complicated Need an Explanation
Technical things, financial matters, messy HR problems. Some things are complicated and need to be explained. Sometimes you’re doing the explaining, sometimes you need the issue explained to you. Since these things will require a lot of clarifying questions, call.
Protip: If you need a paper trail, consider emailing before or after your call. Emailing before will also help you see what questions might arise and emailing after will ensure that the complicated thing has been understood.
When It’s Personal
Some things need a personal touch. You need to get to know someone a little better, you haven’t seen them in awhile, you need to express warm thanks—the list goes on. Next to the warm tones and better expression of a human voice, an email can seem distant and lacking.
Protip: If you’d like to relay thanks without making a call every time, consider a thank-you note, shared meal, or box of doughnuts for the office.