In one corner is email—younger, quicker, a real contender. And in the other corner is the phone—older but proven as an adept close-quarters fighter. And the winner is…
Both! In the world of business communications, the email vs. phone match continues round after round. And for good reason: Both have advantages, and both have disadvantages. So, email versus phone—which one is best? Let’s review some pros and cons.
Advantages to Using Email
Sheer convenience! Emails are easy to send and can be done at any time. Therefore, you don’t have to wait until “office hours” or schedule a time to call.
Email is an excellent way to convey the same information to multiple people. You can attach supplemental information—plans, case studies, graphs, documents, pictures. When sending instructions for an upcoming project, using email is a time-saver. Do it once, send it, done. And if you keep a copy of your “sent” emails, you can easily forward them to additional people if needed.
Another pro: The recipient is allowed time to reply—they don’t have to respond immediately. They can think about their response or gather the information you are requesting and then return your email or call you if needed.
Disadvantages to Using Email
People hate to be ignored. We’ve all been there—did they get my email? Why haven’t they responded? Unfortunately, not everyone is as diligent as you are in responding to emails (if only… life would be so much simpler). Reality check: Emails are often ignored or put off till later.
Emails lack the human element of voice and tone. Therefore, depending on the subject you need to discuss, it could offend the other person that you didn’t take the time to call. Some things are better said over the phone.
Ever get lost in a labyrinth of forwarded emails? It can consume a lot of time and energy trying to keep up with the back-and-forth volleying. Valuable time could be saved by simply making the call.
Advantages to Using the Phone
Admit it: It feels fantastic when you call someone and they say, “It’s so good to hear your voice!” You immediately feel liked and appreciated. That’s the power of a phone call. They get to hear your voice, personality, mood, excitement or hesitation, and even detect sarcasm or a smile.
Having a conversation by phone promotes healthy work relationships. And it is more likely to lead to sales. Need to explain a complicated subject that is sure to generate multiple questions? Using the phone allows for immediate answers—no delays.
Disadvantages to Using the Phone
Have you ever gotten a phone call at the worst possible time but feel compelled to answer it? Not a good feeling. Unlike an email, a phone call demands immediate attention. However, just because it is a good time for you to talk doesn’t mean it is for the other person.
Picking up the phone takes more effort and preparation. You need to be ready to address potential questions. In addition, you need to prepare yourself for a possible negative reaction. Or you may get flustered by having to respond quickly. That can lead to answering or saying things you didn’t really intend to say or in that manner.
Lastly, a phone call requires a quiet space and time to talk.
How to Choose
When determining which one to go with, use the following questions to help you decide:
- What is your relationship with the person?
- What will you be discussing? Is it personal? Does it demand privacy?
- How much detail will you need to cover?
- Do you need to document what you said and their response?
- Is it time-sensitive?
Here are a few additional circumstances to think about before hitting “send” or reaching for the phone:
- Apologies are best made in person or over the phone. The recipient of your apology needs to be able to gauge your sincerity. And it’s much easier to hear heartfelt remorse over the phone than to detect it in the written word.
- If you are going to use email for an apology, be sure to include the following:
- Clearly state what you are apologizing for.
- Make it sincere—don’t rationalize your actions.
- Don’t rehash the topics that caused the disagreement.
- Remember that the email may be kept or shown to others.
Explaining Something Complicated
- Email vs. phone on this one weighs in equally. It all depends on how much time needs to be spent in explanation. And how many questions might arise. For example, a project for an employee may have multiple steps—some quite complicated. You need to determine how that person will best absorb the information. Do they need verbal direction? Or are written instructions preferred?
You’ve Put This Off for Way Too Long
- You procrastinated. In fact, so much time has passed that you are almost embarrassed to make contact. In this case, pick up the phone. It will speak volumes to them; they will feel that you consider them a priority by calling. You could say something like this:
“Jenny, I wanted to call in person and apologize for not responding to your email. I didn’t mean to neglect it; my inbox just got overloaded. So, I wanted to take a few minutes now, if this is a good time for you, and respond to your question.”
So, email or the phone? The choice is really up to you. Keep the above tips in mind, and you’ll be sure to make the right decision.