The joy of phone

Love & Hate: Why I love the telephone - Donald Hamilton doesn’t care much for e-mail .It’s just too impersonal and, in short, he views it as the bane of his life. No, he prefers to pick up the phone and do business through the medium of speech

You may not have noticed but there is a power struggle between e-mail and the telephone. Is it true that as a nation we’re losing our ability to converse on the telephone in favour of sending a quick e-mail? With the increasing rise in sending messages electronically, whether for business or pleasure, I feel that people are forgetting that it’s good to talk. Back in the ’80s and ’90s, BT built a huge campaign around the telephone and its effectiveness as a business communication tool. But e-mail over the past five to ten years has slowly begun to push the telephone to one side. As I walk round the office, I’m aware that some of my colleagues regularly conduct their whole working day via e-mail, heads down, accepting the 60-words-perminutechallenge that this medium affords.

But, it’s vital to remember the advantages of the telephone when it comes to strengthening relationships – both internally and externally.

When I speak to someone on the phone, subconsciously I hear far more than a factual premeditated message. I respond to the tone of their voice, to moods and I’m able to interject at any time following a remark. The telephone also allows me to discuss, persuade, enquire, argue and resolve uncertainties as well as reach an agreement in a matter of minutes.

This can be done only through dialogue on the telephone.

Obviously, telephones are part of our everyday life and it is inevitable that we all need to use them at some point during the course of a day. But some people regard the telephone as a noisy intruder, spending the best part of the day ignoring it, determined not to give it the attention that it demands.

That concerns me, because we’re all in danger of losing the interpersonal skills that makes the phone such an effective communications vehicle. Personally I love it and it’s vital to the way I do business. It’s much easier to just pick up a phone and have a conversation with someone than hide behind e-mail and run the risk of misinterpretation. It’s also impossible to put any kind of emotion into an e-mail (even using crass acronyms) and still remain professional unless I’m explicit, in which case I may create a bad impression, not only of my company but of myself, too.

With e-mail, I no longer determine my day.

I can’t go on holiday for more than a day without having around 50 e-mails flooding my inbox from employees and clients demanding something from me. I’m copied on e-mails that have little or nothing to do with me, but still require me to give them reading time.

More of the day is spent handling e-mail – in short, I view it as the bane of my life. Of course, e-mail is potentially a time-saving device that has an important role to play in the workplace.

But it’s in danger of becoming seriously out of control and all the advantages of time efficiency it originally offered are fast being outweighed by the information overload it now carries to our inboxes. And now it can follow us wherever we go since O2 launched its latest techno gadget – BlackBerry – a handheld communication device which allows individuals to be stay in touch with their e-mail inbox. Aargh!

I think people forget that the telephone still gives us access 24 hours a day. It’s an insistent and instant medium. It is actually difficult to resist its persistent ringing, without it grating on your nerves. I feel a sense of urgency to answer the telephone. I enjoy ringing people up and having a verbal conversation. It allows me to re-establish my relationship with them again. The telephone also gives me the opportunity to stop, think and digest information before acting on it. I am able to have more control of my day and to be proactive.

A telephone conversation means far more to me because it gives greater assurance, even if the news isn’t pleasant. And in a sales environment, the telephone is much more likely to generate results – either with clients or suppliers. But regardless of what is going on in my office, when the telephone rings I feel compelled to pick it up. It’s time that we all rediscover the telephone and enjoy the benefits it has to offer. I dare you – pick it up and get dialling! 

Donald Hamilton is managing director of digital media company, AdLink

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