Q & A About Techno-Etiquette

So here’s what business pros want to know about email, voice mail and cell phone technology:

Q: What do I do if I expected to get voice mail and I get a person? (I didn’t really want to talk to the person!)
A: Unless the voice mail system allows you to dial directly into the person’s voice mailbox, always assume you may get the person. Be prepared to have a conversation.

Q: With caller ID, is it okay to let my caller know I know he or she is calling? Can I answer the phone, “Hi Jack?”
A: No. First of all you may be wrong. Someone else may be using the person’s phone. Second, not everyone has caller ID or is familiar with the technology, so many people are startled when you answer and say “Hello Jack.” Plus, you may seem as if you are screening your calls. If people know you have caller ID and you don’t pick up the phone, a person may suspect you don’t want to talk to him or her.

Q: Can I e-mail a thank you note?
A: E-mail can be used as a quick and informal note of “thanks” but it doesn’t replace the personal impact of a handwritten note.

Q: Is it okay to use call waiting in business?
A: No. It’s rude. What you are telling the person is that the next call may be more important to you than his or hers! Invest in a voice mail system that allows your phone to be answered when you are on the phone.

Q: Can you answer your cell phone in a meeting? A seminar? A restaurant?
A: No. The use of cell phones when sharing space with others is causing all sorts of conflicts these days. Cell phones have been going off in church ceremonies, theaters and intimate dining settings. It’s disturbing to others! Even if it is an important call for you and you excuse yourself after answering it, it is still disruptive to others.

Q: But what if I really, really need to take a call on my cell phone?
A: Unless you’re expecting a critical call—and I mean critical—such as your wife is expecting a baby at any minute, and the people in the meeting know it, turn your phone off.

Q: If I need to borrow someone’s cell phone, should I offer money?
A: Depending upon the nature of the relationship, yes. If you ask a stranger when you are stuck on a train and need to call your babysitter, the consensus in my classes is to offer a dollar. Yet, if you both work for the same company and it’s a business call, it’s not usually necessary to offer to pay for the call.

Q: Do I need to update my voice mail message to let callers know my schedule?
A: If you will be out of the office for an extended period of time, it’s professional to let callers know this information. Some people let their callers know their schedules daily. If you do this, it must be done regularly. It’s unprofessional for someone to listen to your message that states you will be out of the office until September 5th and the call is occurring on September 10th.

SOURCE: Pachter & Associates, Cherry Hill, NJ, September 1999.