May 15, 2017
By Jacki Hart CLM
Prosperity Partners Program Manager

Jacki HartIn an era of emails, texts, Tweets and Facebook posts, one of the most common sources of mis-communication in business happens when the receiver of a message perceives an unintended tone between the written words of an email or text.

Mired in the instant expectation of an answer or reply by the sender, is a perceived pressure placed on the receiver to respond immediately, without thinking. Now that we’ve shifted from ’90s technology, when a fax would be followed up with a voice mail left at the office to see if we received it, to receiving both a text and an email to see if we heard a voice mail left on our smartphones, the impatience our culture has adopted can be the kiss of death in business.

When the intensity (or the stakes) are high, many times I have re-read a reply I had just sent and thought ‘uh-oh.’ Even at times when you’ve slowed yourself down enough to check the tone of a text or email, that’s only half of the communication battle. The other half is the state of mind of the receiver.

Don’t respond too quickly

Here’s an example: I have sporadic communication with a business owner who always replies to my emails within five minutes, regardless of the time of day I send them. Every time, they either miss the point of my message, or mis-read it (i.e. misses information contained in my note) or both. This is a person with whom I have occasionally mentored over the past few years, and who is their own worst enemy in their business. They are pulled in many directions at once and micromanaging (aka demotivating) key team players. Their work style is chaotic and disorganized, resulting in having to frantically put out fires at every turn. They are always changing everything to improve what is not broken and always promising to fix or work on something “today or tomorrow” and it never happens. I am sure you have met someone similar in your entrepreneurial travels.

Business owner is high risk

The reason I use this example is to draw the parallel in my observation over the years, that it’s the business owner who is actually scrambling the most and who is at the highest risk to either misread tone or miss important details, when both sending and receiving messages. There’s always drama. And their chaotic style typically makes more problems to fix than there’d be if they had just picked up the phone instead of jumping on the keyboard in haste.

I am a firm believer in following up a verbal conversation with written communication to confirm key points and next steps. And I am a firm believer that when given the chance, most busy people frequently default to the keyboard instead of the spoken word. I believe at times, this creates more headaches and fires to extinguish than we realize.

Don’t hide behind email

I’ve repreimanded managers in the past for ‘hiding’ behind email… by being ‘too busy’ to stop and pick up the phone, to address in person an issue or concern, or a request expressed by a customer. I know of many other business owners who have done the same. If the mirror were in front of each of us, I’m fairly confident that hind sight has, on occasion, told us things would have worked out better if we had just picked up the phone. Too often, we become focused on our processes and systems, and forget the human side of customer loyalty. It’s a threat to managing your customers experience of how your company communicates with them.

Keep the human connection alive

So, in this busiest of our busy months, please consider my advice: resist the temptation to hide behind emails or send them in haste. Keep the human connection alive and thriving in your business. It took me a long time after the advent of call display to realize how much more efficient it was to take every call that I could in the moment (but NEVER during a client meeting or a family meal), rather than ignore a caller. I often was so embroiled in my day, that I believed I was too busy to speak with them. An inefficient and frustrating game of phone tag would typically ensue, all the while a client often would become frustrated in trying to get a quick answer.

Listen to your intuition and teach/empower your staff to do the same. Pick up the phone whenever you can, for a potentially smoother customer loyalty relationship.
Jacki Hart may be contacted at