The Six Touch Points of Communications

By Nancy Friedman, The Telephone Doctor

Are you aware of all the six touch points of communications? These are six ways you can enhance or foul up a business or a personal relationship. You should be familiar with them all. Let’s go over each point because throughout the day, both in business and our home life, we all have the ability to “touch” people in a variety of ways. And with each point, there are pros and cons.

Touch Point #1: The phone. This doesn’t just pertain to your business or home phone, it includes your cell phone, too. Telephone Doctor surveys show that more than 80% of all business transactions involved a phone call at one point. The telephone is what’s known as a ‘synchronous’ method of communication. What that means is you’re in sync with the person you’re communicating with. You can have a simultaneous two-way exchange of information. Both parties need to be communicating at the same time for maximum effectiveness.

That doesn’t mean you need to agree with the person you’re talking with, but more importantly, you both are able to communicate immediately. The best part of the telephone touch point is the ability to hear the tone of voice being used. That stimulates the listener’s imagination, similar to what happens when we listen to the radio.

On the phone, we have no sight, just sound. How we perceive those sounds makes a whole lot of difference. Therefore, tone of voice is critical with the first touch point. Two people can say the same thing to one person and yet the listener can hear it differently from each.

All that being said, the telephone is an effective and popular method of communication (providing you’ve reached your called party). It gets answers quickly and rapid responses. As you might imagine, this ‘touch point’ is one of my personal favorites. I don’t even want caller ID; it takes all the fun out of a phone call!

Touch Point #2: Email. Ah yes, the beloved email. Well, that’s “asynchronous.” Meaning you communicate one-way information, one direction at a time. And you may not get immediate communication back. With email, you have relinquished interpretation of the tone of voice to the other person. What you write can be “heard” whatever way they want to hear it. This can be dangerous. Remember, email etiquette is new. (You can read more about it on the Telephone Doctor resource page.)  However, suffice to say when we email something it needs to be short, sweet, and to the point.

In addition, it needs to be obviously friendly. It’s a delivery method that has the ability to “sit” for hours — sometimes days without an answer.

When should you meet rather than use email? A client of ours told us once, “When there are more than two emails on the same subject back and forth, it’s time for a face-to-face meeting.” That’s easy to say for those of us who work in the same area. However, if your emails are international or even regional, your emails are your critical “touch point.”

Be careful in your emails. Many hurt feelings have come about due to insensitive writing. That’s a good place to practice all your ‘pleases and thank yous.’ Short, terse, one-word answers are perceived as rude.

Touch Point #3: Voice Mail. Again, this is an “asynchronous” means of communication. You can leave a voice message for someone and when you get an answer, if ever, is up to him or her, not you. And it’s not instantaneous, as is speaking with someone on the telephone. So here again, your voice mail needs to be special.

As we’ve said many times, there are three types of voice mails: Poor, average, and great. When you leave a voice mail, make it a great one. Remember, you get to use your tone of voice. That’s a real plus. Your listener can hear the laughter, the smile, and the tone. Use it to your advantage. (Again, our Telephone Doctor website resource page has a voice mail article that will help you in making all your messages great.) 

Touch Point #4: Snail Mail. This includes things like letters, brochures, and samples. These are some of the original forms of business communication and they continue to be a great method of communication. As is true with emails, though, the written word can be miscommunicated easily. Also, email, voice mail, and snail mail are very similar when communicating. All are “asynchronous.” You must wait for an answer.

Touch Point #5: The Fax Machine. Remember when this method of communicating came on the scene? Now, it seems we didn’t know how we operated without it. Today, it trails sadly behind the other touch points. Yet, it’s still there and being used, but just not as much or as often. And a reminder, it too is ‘asynchronous’. It is one-way information, waiting for an answer.

Touch Point #6: Face-to-Face Communications. Obviously, this needs little, if any, explanation. When we communicate in a face-to-face situation, we have it all. Sight, sound, tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language — the entire package. It’s the ultimate “synchronous” touch point.

Maintaining eye contact is key in this special touch point. Those that will not make eye contact while communicating with us are sometimes judged as “suspicious.” We suspect that they may be hiding something.

Beware, too, in a face-to-face situation that your head doesn’t look as though it’s on a spindle. Focus on the person, or people, you’re talking with. They deserve your full attention. Moreover, you’ll find you soon notice when someone is talking with you if they’re concentrating on you and the topic or if their eyes are wondering around looking elsewhere – anywhere but with you.

Yet, with all these touch points and helpful hints, we often still “miscommunicate.” In our work place, we probably use all six touch points many times a day. A few simple guidelines can help us focus on which touch point to use, when to do so, and how to make them work for us and not against us:

  • Telephone: If you reach your called party, great. That’s immediate. It’s also good for leaving messages that don’t need an immediate answer. If you need immediate action, try to reach another person. The telephone is only ‘synchronous’ when you have reached the called party.
  • Voice Mail: That would be ‘asynchronous.’ Leaving messages that will be returned when the called party decides to return it (if ever).
  • Email: Again, one-way communication. Keep it short, sweet, and to the point. Use your manners. Remember, one word answers are perceived as rude.
  • Snail Mail: Still a great way to communicate but be careful with the written word. Keep in mind how possible miscommunications might occur. More than once, words have come back to haunt the writer.
  • Fax: For those that still use this method of communication, one page faxes are appreciated. Again, written correspondence needs to be checked and double-checked to be sure it won’t be misunderstood.
  • Face-to-Face: The ultimate method of communication. Immediate reaction, tone, sight, sound, and body language. Total “synchronous” communication, and that hug or handshake makes it all worthwhile!

Nancy Friedman, president of Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training, is a keynote speaker and will be appearing at the 2004 ATSI Convention and Expo.

[From Connection MagazineJune 2004]

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