Alison Forsyth, Our Operations Manager, talks about the decline of the phone conversation within the office environment and tell us why good telephone manner is still important within our industry.
I note with sadness the apparent decline of the phone conversation in our open plan office environment and wonder whether this is replicated in other offices. I have observed over a long time now the growing reluctance of my colleagues to use the phone when contacting clients preferring to send email after email. Some of them seem to positively dislike using the phone. And I find myself wondering why this is.
The telephone revolutionised communication when it was invented in 1876. It was a much quicker and more informal way of relaying information replacing as it did the written letter for so much day to day business. Written communication was only needed to confirm what had been discussed on the phone and provide a formal record.
Of course, the reluctance I note is not about using mobile phones, as most of us seem to be surgically joined at the ear to our mobiles. It has never been easier to talk to someone. When I ask why the team avoid talking to clients on the phone at work, it seems that some feel self-conscious talking when everyone else in our open-plan office is able to hear. One has to ask then whether the open plan office have become a place for the free exchange of information and ideas as was originally intended or just a large room full of people quietly beavering away in front of their PCs. Others are anxious to get everything in writing as soon as possible so that there can be no misunderstanding and there is an electronic paper trail. Others hate the potential for awkward silences or the risk that the client will get angry.
And yet I can’t help thinking that this is a shame for us who are working in an industry which is all about people. Are not events all about human interaction and communication? Maybe it is a generational thing; some of us spent the early years of our careers working in the events industry when there were no emails, no PCs and the quickest way to contact someone was the phone or to type a letter and fax it. I can’t help wondering if we were any less effective then than now. It could be that expectations have changed. Please don’t misunderstand me; I was as happy as the next person to see a PC on my desk even if I did have to teach myself how to use it and I welcomed the advent of emails with open arms. However, I only ever saw the use of emails as a replacement for a letter and not the phone conversation.
In the absence of a face-to-face meeting, the single phone call is I suggest the best way to gain so much more information and establish a rapport with a client than you can in a string of impersonal emails. Over the phone, one can gauge whether a client is a professional organiser or needs our help and support in organising their event, understand their reasons for holding the event, their expectations and what they are looking for from us. We can negotiate, explore, suggest and even upsell in a phone call. We can allay fears, reassure and even brighten someone’s day. Most of us would like to think we give excellent and friendly customer service, so is not telephone contact a part of that service?
But we all know how to use a phone, right? Not necessarily I would claim. Is a good telephone manner still important? I think so because it reflects confidence and professionalism. Maybe it is a training issue and if people were trained in the art of conducting telephone conversations at work, and expected to talk more to their clients, their confidence on the phone would grow.
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