Recently, I got on my teenager for not setting up voice mail on her newly minted cell phone. I needed to reach her ASAP, but instead I got ring…ring…ring. I defaulted to texting, to which she replied right away.
My concerns were met with rolling eyeballs, a cluck of the tongue and this response: “Mom. Nobody DOES that anymore.”
Huh? Does what—talks on the PHONE? I mean, TALKS on the phone?
Apparently, while I was hiding under a rock, the ancient custom of speaking to one another using actual voices versus thumbs or other appendages became totally passé. Emojis and txtspk—well, and Botox®—have replaced spontaneous, more genuine expressions of emotion. Gone is the simple pleasure of hearing a friendly voice on the other end of the line. Conversations with Siri just don’t cut it.
WTH? ZOMG! IDK.
Fast forward to two weeks ago when I returned to the offices of V2 Marketing after years of writing while stay-at-home parenting (thank you, #thankyouverymuch).
Among my self-doubts during my five-minute commute downtown (lookin’ good, Rockford!): Would my co-workers be cool to hang with? They are. Would Deb make her amazing cheesecake? She did. And has technology passed me by to the point where I can’t effectively communicate with important folks like clients?
People don’t talk on the phone anymore; I get it. But do people even…talk?
As it turns out, my fears were unfounded. In my short time here I’ve seen dozens of actual people come and go. I’ve sat down with potential new clients, chatted up longtime vendors and reunited with loyal customers who welcomed me back. I’ve seen my colleagues run around to client coffees, lunch-and-learn sessions, networking events and volunteer commitments. Occasionally I answer the phone (talking!), answer the door (buzzing!) and, in general, interact with no problem at all.
My point? Face-to-face (or at least, voice-to-voice) communication still has an important place in cultivating a successful customer relationship. Sure, emailing, texting, tweeting and such are great ways to touch base. Of course companies separated by oceans do business every day.
But when it comes to really understanding what a customer wants—then collaborating to determine what she truly needs—nothing can replace a good, old-fashioned sit down around a conference table with a hot cup o’ Joe and possibly a cat in your lap (if you know us, you’ll get it). Picking up the phone and speaking comes in a close second.
How many times have you misinterpreted the tone or meaning behind an electronic message? It’s easy to come across as too terse, too blunt or just plain too busy when communicating via keypad. It’s possible to misunderstand what’s being asked, leading to a flurry of follow-up emails and frustrating games of “tag, you’re it.”
As I wrap up my thoughts, a client just walked in having traveled two hours to get here. We offered to meet him halfway but he insisted it was no trouble. Perhaps he was craving some face-to-face time with his V2 Marketing partners. No doubt he appreciates how much progress can be made when computers and phones are set aside and professionals take the time to really talk (and listen).
Most likely, he heard about the cheesecake.