Monday, April 12, 2010

The Communication Chameleon

by Sarah Showalter, Account Manager

As the point person for clients, media reps and vendors it is necessary that I act as a communication chameleon; depending upon my surroundings I must adapt to fit in. This holds especially true when communicating with various clients throughout the day. Each client has their own preference for how they choose to do business and through what mode of communication. For the sake of discussion I will categorize them into: The Emailer, The Caller, The Follow Up, The Old School, and The Socializer.

The Emailer Client
As most of the population, this client communicates through email. They send you emails for everything- questions, requests, simple “oks” and this is what they prefer. As schedules vary and are unpredictable, this is a convenient method to get the communication out there and as they multi-task they wait for a response. I must adapt and be available through email and respond in a timely fashion. It is important to follow up and notify the client that you received the email and are working on their request. Professional tones, greetings, and thoroughness are key to email replies, as tone and sincerity can be lost in the translation in this type of interpersonal communication.

The Caller Client
The Caller Client seems like is a rarity with email around, but as one could guess, this client prefers to pick up the phone. They find it easier to get the answers they need to ask over the phone and this is certainly a benefit of phone calls in addition to being able to build a relationship and having the ability to gauge their tone. This style also allows for immediate gratification since waiting for an email reply is not a factor. The downfall of phone calls is that you take the chance of the person not being at their desk, relying on voicemails and trying to schedule time when all parties are available to talk. Phone calls also fail to provide a “paper trail” as opposed to email; one cannot go back and reference details or what the conversation entailed. When communicating with The Caller it is important to maintain expected phone etiquette: speak clearly at a reasonable volume, ask questions if you do not understand and follow up to voicemails.

The Follow Up Client
This client type lies between The Emailer and The Caller. They tend to use both methods equally and often will follow up one method with the other- hence The Follow Up Client. They may email you and then immediately call to ensure that you received the email or have any questions. This method allows for both the benefits and disadvantages of emailing and calling, but this also allows for twice the thoroughness and immediate access to the client if you have any questions. An additional benefit is efficiency as any questions get answered without the time delay of email or phone tag.

The Old School Client
The Old School Client tends to feel more comfortable using old school methods such as fax and snail mail. Overall, this is not the primary way of communication they use for everyday communication, but as clients still use it is it worth mentioning. The benefits of old school methods are that they are fairly easy to use and require little effort. On the other hand, these types of modes require more time to get to the intended party and they are behind in most technological aspects.

The Socializer Client
The Socializer is on the other side of the spectrum than The Old School. This client embraces new methods of communication and may elect to use this method over other options because it can be more convenient for them. For example, if a client uses BlackBerry Messenger, AIM (or another type of instant messaging), Facebook or Twitter and you use that method as well-they may send you a message while they are using that program or ask you a question while they see you online. These social media outlets are unarguably popular and growing so the odds of connecting via one of these modes is common. The benefits include instant gratification and accessibility, but all business formality is lost.

Every client may not neatly fit into one of these categories, but as the Communication Chameleon it is important to be able to adapt to client preferences while maintaining professionalism and follow through no matter what the mode. The communication that is relayed is more important than through what mode, but it is how you respond is what determines your success.

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