Do you have someone in your life that has a cell phone, but refuses to turn it on? For me, it’s my parents. It doesn’t matter if my 76-year-old father is riding his Harley Davidson through the Blue Ridge Mountains and no one has heard from him in three days. We just have to sit tight until he gets sick of camping and checks into a hotel. Then, he’ll call us. We can tell him to keep his phone on until we are blue in the face. We can buy him an unlimited calling plan for his next birthday. It isn’t going to make a difference. The phone is for emergencies only. As long as he is ok, it stays off.
Have you ever threatened to take away your daughter’s cell phone because they won’t pick up your calls? You don’t understand why she doesn’t take your calls when she knows it’s you, and she knows you want to reach her. She doesn’t understand why you have to talk to her when you can just send a text. She probably doesn’t want her friends to know she must actually talk to her parents. She definitely doesn’t want her friends to hear how she talks to her parents. She would much rather you text her. That way she can whine in private. On the contrary, you’d prefer to hear her voice so that you can better gauge the situation.
With varying degrees of aggravation, we have learned to conform to communication preferences in our personal relationships.
When it comes to your relationships with clients, however, you want to avoid communication frustration. Recognize that clients have their pet tools, and demonstrate a willingness to communicate with them according to their preferences, not yours.
Ask clients how they want their appointments confirmed. Do they want a text, e-mail or a phone call? Would they rather your newsletters and routine correspondence come in the mail to their home or office, or would they rather have them e-mailed. Would they prefer Skype sessions to face-to-face meetings? What is the best number to reach them? Are they among the 33% of American’s that have chucked their landlines in favor of cell phone service?
Keep in mind, communication frustration is a two way street. A client you’ve worked with for years could now be tossing out your newsletters, when he or she used to pour over them. It isn’t because they no longer value your insights, but rather they read their “news” online. You won’t know this until you ask about their preferences. Maybe it is during the intake process, or the annual review, or even a midsummer survey. The key is to get ahead of the issue before it becomes an issue.
Using your clients’ favored communication methods is as much of an offensive play as a defensive play. You become more efficient and eliminate some frustration in your day. You also ensure that you never unwittingly earn the label, “that annoying caller/texter/e-mailer/snail-mailer/Skyper/or Facebook messenger.”