To quote a famous movie, “What we have here is a failure to communicate.” That can be deadly for small businesses. It’s not just what you say but how you say it. Is it better to phone, email, send a letter or talk face-to-face to a customer? Savvy owners know when to use each to maximize their message.
Here are some important considerations for four common methods of outgoing communication:
When to Use Email
Email might best be suited for transactional communication like confirmation of an order. It’s quick and relatively inexpensive to send. Since customers are able to respond to the email, it gives customers the opportunity to ask for more information or clarify their preference. It might also be appropriate for promotional purposes, assuming they elected to receive these emails.
When to Send a Letter
A paper letter could be used for more formal communication, like a dentist announcing she is retiring and a partner will be taking over her patients. It maintains a high degree of confidentiality so it is appropriate for personal information. It does not easily allow for the receiver to respond easily. So it may not be appropriate for time-sensitive information.
When to Talk Face-to-Face
While this form of communication is the most labor and time intensive, it provides ample opportunity for feedback. The receiver can ask questions and you can clarify with follow-up questions. So it might be appropriate to use this method to ask for feedback from a customer. You also have the benefit of reading their gestures and tone of voice.
When to Use the Phone
A phone call can be one of the quickest forms of communication, especially with the portability of cell phones. So it might be used with time-sensitive information like verifying a shipping address on a rush order. With the advent of do-not-call lists, this method is more appropriate for use with current customers with whom you have an established relationship.
Give your customer messages the best opportunity to be heard by selecting the method of communication that best matches your intent.