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Consider Credible and Collaborative Communication Choices

In today’s world, communication modes run the gamut from “in person” to social media. In between, we can communicate via phone, email, texting, and snail mail. The question we want to answer is what method is most effective to achieve our objectives. Purposeful communication can ensure that all parties are on the same page, and communication touch points may thwart opportunities for unethical behavior.

“In person” interaction is a preferred method of communication overall. You can discern non-verbal signals from other people that complement or do not match what they are telling you verbally. We establish more meaningful connections “in person”, and we are able to better observe that what people are telling us is true. This “in person” communication is especially essential for growing a business, when meeting new clients and vendors.

Phone calls are excellent, too, because you can hear whether a person is sincere for the result that you are trying to achieve. When setting a date to meet, phone calls may be the most efficient method instead of back and forth emails or text messages. Phone calls are also smart for follow ups to interviews. Additionally, we may not know if an email or text has been received by the other party, and we can receive confirmation with a phone call. It is important to think about what information you want to convey in a voice mail before you call. For example, you should leave (1) your name, (2) phone number, and (3) a concise message, in that order. Have you ever listened to a lengthy voice mail and missed the quick phone number at the end? Did you really want to listen to the entire voice mail again?

Emails tend to be the most utilized method of communication in business. All email programs should have a confirmation message that asks senders if they really want to send emails that they have written. That is, “Warning! Warning! Are you sure that you want to send this? Think about the consequences.” When replying to an email with multiple recipients, consider who should be receiving your response. Do not just hit REPLY TO ALL.

Usually, most snail mail communications can be more efficiently sent via email. However, snail mail may be more appropriate to send an original signed document and to add a more personal touch to a thank-you note, birthday communication, or invitation.

Texting is popular for personal communications, and it also may be efficient in a business setting. For example, if you are meeting someone, you can confirm an appointment time or receive a quick clarification. You should not use texting, twitter or any other social media for play-by-play accounts of your life (i.e. what you are eating for lunch while you are actually eating it, how many traffic lights you sat through this morning, etc.). It is also not appropriate, especially in a business setting, to be on a mobile device during meetings or when gathered with other people in conversation. Additionally, refrain from using your mobile device while driving, walking, or where you could be disturbing others.

The point of choosing the right communication method is to be more effective and efficient with the time and resources belonging to you and others. It is important to find a safe place when using mobile devices. Self-defense classes teach us to be aware of our surroundings, and mobile devices impair our abilities to respond to any situation. This warning also applies to business meetings. You may miss an important and even fraudulent detail if you are paying attention elsewhere.

About the Authors:

George is an instructor for the AuditSense team, specializing in providing ethics and core-level staff training. Since 1976, George has worked in many areas of accounting, focusing on Auditing and Accounting Education. In 1976, he participated in the Internal Auditor Intern Program at the Clark Equipment Company. While working for the public accounting firm of Deloitte, Haskins, and Sells, George served as a Senior Assistant Auditor and a Comprehensive Business Services Consultant.
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Elizabeth Pittelkow is an Accounting Manager at ArrowStream, and she works in the areas of accounting, taxes, and financial reporting. Elizabeth previously worked in Finance at Motorola and in Assurance at PricewaterhouseCoopers. While at PricewaterhouseCoopers, she audited large public-accelerated GAAP filers, IFRS filers, private equity-owned companies, and non-profit businesses.
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Are Evolving Modes of Communication Helping or Hurting Us?

November 17, 2010 |  by  |  Communication  |  No Comments

Whatever you want to call those handheld devices that once upon a time were referred to exclusively as telephones, there is no doubt that they are changing the way we communicate.  When we go to buy one now, we not only want to know about receptivity, but we also want to know the all the specs concerning memory, resolution, megapixels, and what generation of mobile technology it is using.  It is not just the camera, calendars, games, web access and apps that are diminishing our vocal use of the phone, it is written electronic communications as well.

Perhaps it is not surprising that a survey taken by Nielsen found that people in their 50’s and early 60’s tend to talk on the phone as much as they ever did.  On the other hand, young adults, specifically 18 to 34 year olds, are talking on the phone substantially less, a fall from an average of 1200 to 900 minutes per month over the past two years.  During that same time period, there was an increase in the average number of text messages from 600 to more than 1400 per month in that same age group.  The reason given for this is that they feel the more personal nature of a phone call gives them less control over the communication than the more impersonal text message or email.  They also feel that phone calls are more interruptive to the other party than an incoming text message.

While the progress we have made technologically is fantastic, it appears that live, person-to-person voice communication is on a steep downslope.  The question is does this help us or hurt us in our profession?

As with every debate, there are clearly two sides to the issue.  On the one hand, text messaging and emails do have their place.  First, they provide a record of the communication that can be invaluable.  For example, if you have given instructions to your team by email, you have that documentation to refer back to if a conflict arises.  Furthermore, emails can save a lot of time when you need to get clarification on an issue from a client that is not too complicated and has a short answer.

Where emails are not appropriate is when they are used as a substitute for calling in order to avoid speaking directly with a client.  That would not be the best approach for someone wanting to maintain or even improve client relations.  There may be times that it is unpleasant to call clients, especially if you are bringing them some bad news.  However, by not talking directly with them, you may miss certain opportunities with your clients such as:

  • solving problems that arise in the fastest and most efficient way possible — one phone call may save you a lot of time spent receiving and answering multiple emails,
  • learning more about your client’s business, thereby gaining more rapport with your client — the client may say things in person that he/she would not necessarily elaborate on in an email, and
  • adding timely value through your conversation and leaving the door open for additional work from your client.

I hear many times that newer staff are just too quick in sending email requests for information from clients as opposed to picking up the phone and having a real-time conversation with them.  Frankly, I think that we are all guilty of taking the easy, least-effective way sometimes when it comes to communications with other people.

I would be interested in what you think of this subject.  How would you handle it if it was to go the other way in that a client preferred emailing you, and he/she never returned your telephone calls?

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