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6 Reasons Why A Phone Conversation Is Better Than An Email

By Ken Narita|Thursday June 7, 2018

Email messages are great. But there are certain business situations when it is better to talk on the phone than send an email.

Auditory neuroscientist Seth Horowitz explains that our brain’s circuitry that interprets our hearing has evolved over 400 million years. We’re hard-wired for conversations, and “we’ve evolved to listen to other people talk,” he said.

Instead of defaulting to an email, making a conscious choice about the way that you communicate means that you can leverage the communication methods advantages. Need help deciphering when you should pick up the phone? Here are the six situations when a phone conversation is better than an email.

When emojis aren’t enough to convey tone

emails vs. phone calls

Emails are notoriously poor at conveying a writer’s tone and context.

As one NYT writer says, “It’s a lot to think about, from subtle cues in punctuation…to specific emoji choice to indicate tonal nuance.” She adds, “And so goes the tyranny of judging one another by the minutiae of our email tone.”

Even when you’re careful, the email messages that you send are full of possibilities for misinterpretation. In contrast, the back and forth dialogue of a phone conversation gives you the opportunity to communicate beyond your words. The tone and rhythm of your voice indicate both meaning and emotion.

When you want to get things resolved quickly

The McKinsey Global Institute reports that the average worker spends 28 percent of their workweek reading and answering emails. And whether you pursue the elusive “Inbox Zero” or you’re an “email hoarder,” managing your inbox takes time.

We don’t recommend that you opt for a phone call for every single item that you need to communicate. Instead, be strategic in using phone calls for urgent or time-sensitive matters.

In these high-priority situations, choosing a phone call means that your message won’t be lumped together with the rest of an email queue.

When you don’t have the clarity to send an email

If your work project is in that crucial brainstorming and ideation phase, you might not yet have the clarity around your ideas to put them into an email. That’s a perfect time to jump into a phone call and talk it through. Phone calls give you much more leeway for the type of exploratory idea building that generates good results.

conference call conversations

Want to bring several coworkers in on the conversation? Ooma Office offers both three-way calling and conference calls.

When you want to build camaraderie

Whether it’s a networking conversation or a personal catch-up chat, phone calls are a way to build better rapport.

Sure, you could catch up by email, but a phone conversation adds layers of information in an interactive dialogue. Camaraderie is deeply tied to the transfer of emotions, and phone conversations can do a much better job of that than emails.

Los Angeles-based entrepreneur Joe Huff said, “There have been so many times, a new store or account or potential press relationship, we’ve gotten on the phone with them and after the conversation, even [after] just a 15-minute story about what we do and why, they say, ‘Wow, I read everything on your website, but to hear you tell it, there’s a huge difference.’ Because we have a passion-based business, it’s really important for us to get that across.”

When you expect there will be questions

Volleying emails back and forth on an issue is not very efficient. Instead of spending hours or days to get something resolved via email, it’s possible that a brief conversation can get more accomplished in a shorter amount of time.

Whether you’re launching a new business product or planning a party for a coworker, you can replace the seemingly endless email thread of questions and answers with a single telephone conversation.

In particular, consider situations where there is ambiguity or when you predict that clarification will be needed. In these cases, real-time communication via telephone can be more effective.

phone conversations reduce email questions

When it’s personal or sensitive

When you can lose so much auxiliary information in an email, you can best handle discussion topics that are sensitive, personal, or potentially negative in a conversation. Think about this as situations where you don’t want to get it wrong; for example, a poor performance review, an illness, or a death.

The Harvard Business Review said: “Research from NYU has shown that many people are overconfident in their ability to accurately relay emotions when it comes to email.” So even if you think that you won’t make the mistake of an email faux pas, maybe you should think again.

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Loyal customers are critical to business success because they tend to be a source of repeat business. According to The Loyalty Report 2018, “Loyalty programs that establish positive emotional connections with Members see 27% more of their Membership increasing their spend with the Brand.” This research tells us that building customer loyalty can lead to more spending.

Loyalty programs vs. improving customer experience: Designing your approach

There are different approaches to building customer loyalty. Some companies use loyalty program cards, bonus offers and other incentives. You might offer access to special deals like CVS or take 5% off the purchase price like Target. You might even give some or part of your product away for free, like airlines that provide free flights through their loyalty programs. What if your small business isn’t interested or able to offer these kinds of loyalty programs?

There is another way to encourage loyal customers to keep giving you repeat business. Gather customer feedback through a phone survey and then use that data to improve the customer experience. When customers see that the business owner has acted on their feedback, they may feel inspired to return to that business. That means more revenue for the bottom line. You just need a fast and straightforward way to conduct a customer satisfaction survey. That’s where a focused business phone survey comes in.

Why increasing customer loyalty with a phone survey is a good choice.

Organizing a customer satisfaction survey by phone offers notable advantages compared to other methods. While a net promoter survey can give you interesting data, there is no conversational element involved. Further, using the net promoter survey approach effectively requires a certain degree of specialized training in the net promoter methodology.

You might also consider online customer surveys. Surveying your email list or website is worth attempting. Depending on the size of your email list or website traffic, you might be able to get a large number of survey responses. The challenge with online customer surveys is that you will have to spend a lot of time reviewing the data to find insights. There is no way to ask a customer to clarify their survey responses or provide an example.

Conducting a customer satisfaction survey by phone gives you the best of both worlds. You can ask questions and get survey responses. However, you also have the opportunity to provide the human touch. For instance, you may hear a customer complain about a lost or delayed order. When you hear about a problem during a phone survey, you can gather all the necessary details to make the situation right with the customer.

How to increase customer loyalty with a phone survey step by step.

The following steps give you a starting point to create a simple customer satisfaction survey. Over the course of a month, you could gather a significant amount of insights to improve your customer service by calling five to 10 customers per day.

  1. Define your customer satisfaction survey goals.

Before calling a single customer, reflect on your business goals. Are you seeking to improve your profit margins? In that case, you may want to focus your survey on the customers that spend the most on your business. Finding ways to make high-spending customers content may give you an excellent return. Alternatively, you may decide to focus your survey project on whether your local SEO has attracted customers. 

  1. Write your customer satisfaction survey questions.

Now that you have clarity on your goals, it is time to write your questions. According to Survey Monkey, a survey software company, it is best to focus your survey on closed-ended questions. An example of a closed-ended question would be: “How many times have you bought from our business in the past 12 months?” However, this kind of question may not give you the ideas you need to improve the customer experience.

At the end of the survey, consider asking one or two open-ended questions to understand better what your customers like. Encourage customers to think creatively with a question like this: “If you could change anything in our business, what would you improve?”

Tip: Reduce your need for note-taking by using call recording, but make sure that you ask for permission first.

  1. Test the survey with a small group of customers.

With your list of customer satisfaction questions, make a few test phone calls to customers. The purpose of the test is to discover if any of the questions are unclear. If you receive confusing answers, revise the question to make them clearer.

  1. Train employees on how to gather survey responses.

Consider running a few training phone calls for your employees. Ask them to call you or other employees in a role-playing scenario. Making a few practice calls will help your employees become more familiar with the questions. Besides, practice phone surveys will help employees learn how to record survey responses accurately. Once the training is complete, give your staff a list of customers to call and let them get started.

  1. Review the survey responses for insights and follow up with customers.

After all of the survey responses are in, schedule time to review the results. In particular, look for patterns in the results. If a large number of people gave low scores to your website, you may need to make improvements. Also, review the survey responses received in the open-ended questions. You might be pleasantly surprised at what customers tell you.

  1. Follow up with customers after the survey when needed.

A phone survey lets you gather rich insights because you can quickly ask follow-up questions. However, merely gathering survey responses may not impress your customers very much. Instead, offer to refer problems to the business owner for improvement or offer to enter the respondent in a drawing for a gift card. That is a much more compelling improvement! By addressing problems and issues when they arise, you stand a much better chance of winning additional loyal customers.