Tuesday, January 24, 2012

In Praise of Online Communication

It should come as no surprise to anyone who knows anything about me that I like online communication. I have been a personal blogger for nearly six years, and I work in online marketing. And I'm an introvert who finds it easier to write than to speak.

Personal biases aside, I can't understand why people don't embrace the power of online communication, and especially email (which, closely followed by instant messaging, remains my favorite means of communication, though I realize that dates me). Especially for business.

If I am your friend, I'd love to get a phone call from you and chat about nothing in particular. I might be busy and ask to call you back (which I usually do), I might be surprised at hearing from you out of the blue, but I will always be glad that you thought of me.

But if you're a recruiter, why wouldn't you email me the job description and wait to see if I'm interested and then, if you're so convinced I'm a good hire, call me to follow up? What's the point of calling me up, when the first thing I'm going to ask you is to email me the job description? Isn't that what most candidates do?

(And once I've asked you to send me the job description (so that I can read and delete it, or if your email was particularly nice, write to you saying "no, thanks") because you don't seem to have much idea of what the job involves, why would you call me or have your colleague call me again without sending me the details? Why would you waste your time and mine asking me intrusive questions without knowing whether I'm interested at all? Is your time worth so little to you? Mine isn't, and even if I were interested in the job, this would strongly reduce my interest in applying through you. But this is just a tangent to the main rant.)

If you're a job-seeker and I've previously contacted you or someone who's referred you through email, why wouldn't you reply to that email instead of giving me a call?

If it's about something I bought online, why not contact me online?

This isn't just my dislike of talking to strangers speaking: it's just that email is so much less intrusive than a phone call. I might be busy and answer the call thinking it might be important, and then realize it's not (for me). I might think it's not important (or worse, an unsolicited sales call) and ignore it. I might miss it (because I'm in a meeting, because I forgot to turn it off silent or didn't feel it vibrate, or just because I went to the bathroom) and then not know who called or whether to call back. (Right, I need to get voicemail activated.)

I know this is a long rant about something minor, but I just wonder what I'm missing. I know sometimes a phone conversation is an easier and better way to resolve or even avoid a misunderstanding, but what about when it's a pretty straightforward message that is unlikely to be misunderstood? And how about having the courtesy to ask if the person would have time to talk on the phone? (I don't insist upon this last one, but that's what I'd do when it's someone whom I've only communicated with online before.)

Email is non-intrusive, it's often faster, it's easier for most of us who have our fingertips on the keyboard all day, it can be saved and referenced.

I'm not saying it's the only way. If you went to b-school with me and you see a job post from me, I'd be glad if you called me up and asked me more details. (Though that's another story. No, don't ask.) There are times when phone is better. There are times when your fingers are cramped with typing and you just want to hear a human voice already.

But otherwise--am I totally out of it? Have I been spoiled by working in outsourcing companies with colleagues in remote offices? Do I need to get off my high horse already? (Oh that, probably.)

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