Everyone knows that technology allows us to communicate with each other at lightning speed. We can zip out an email or text from anywhere; at any time of the day or night as long as we have access to Wi-Fi. Although there are lots of ways to communicate quickly and easily, it’s important to use the right tool at the right time in order to build and maintain great relationships with our co-workers, business associates and clients.
Let’s Do Lunch
Why is building connections with others so important? Think of it this way. When you’ve taken the time to get to know someone professionally, don’t you tend to give them the benefit of the doubt if a project doesn’t go exactly as planned? Aren’t you more likely to cut them some slack and work together toward a solution that’s good for everyone involved? Have you noticed that there’s less stress and more good humor among the people that you’ve taken time to get to know? And that just makes things better all the way around, doesn’t it?
But let’s be honest, most of us don’t have a lot of extra time. (This may be the understatement of the century!). The good news is that you don’t have to spend two hours at lunch to get to know someone. Be strategic at professional events and mingle with people you do business with – or those you’d like to be doing business with! Ask good questions and be a good listener. Just by listening, you’ll get clues as to how they communicate which will come in handy when you work together. Most importantly, get to know their preference when it comes to communicating on a project. Believe it or not, some people still like to get a phone call! (More on that in a bit.)
Put It in Writing
Of course email is a great tool for clarifying information and keeping several people in the loop at the same time. But before you press “send” re-read what you’ve written and make sure your message is clear, concise, and without error. Your clients might wonder if you’re the right person for the job if you don’t know the proper use of “your” or “you’re”. Of course, you can work around that since using “y’all” is always acceptable here in the south!
Most importantly, get back to people as quickly as possible. I train my staff to reply to a customer’s email even if they don’t know the answer. After all, getting a message that says, “I’m working on an answer to your question and will be back with you just as soon as I find out” is much better than no reply at all. This is a business courtesy that goes a long way and I think it’s this type of good communication that influences repeat business.
Tried & True Texting
If you have a close working relationship with someone and you’ve exchanged cell numbers, it’s okay to text as long as you keep it brief and don’t text after hours or on weekends unless you have a mutual agreement or if something is extremely time sensitive. Since phones are constantly alerting people to texts, if you don’t abuse the privilege, when a client sees a message from you, they’ll know it’s something important and not relegate it for later.
Call Me Maybe
As efficient as emailing and texting can be, there’s nothing that replaces a phone call in certain situations. Especially in the early phases of a project, it’s often best to talk things through either in person or on the phone.
One of the downsides of a text or email is that the person on the receiving end can’t hear your tone. And depending on the circumstance – especially a problematic one - there aren’t enough smiling emojis in the world that can soften the blow like a reassuring voice on the other end of the phone! So pick up the phone – your business associate will appreciate your effort and respect that you have taken the time to effectively communicate.
Dawn Morgan has owned Collins Construction since 2009. The firm has recently celebrated its 25th anniversary and has offices in Savannah, GA and Beaufort, SC.