We are living in the age of technology. Even for those elderly members of the population (the Silent Generation and older) who haven’t fully embraced it, the technology age is still the governing power for communication. This means cell phones, text messages, emails, and voice mails. While people still leave voice mail messages, and did so originally with landline phones (with dedicated answering machines), this is becoming increasingly rare.
People don’t set up their voice mail accounts – an annoying message to hear when we are prepared to leave a message for someone – or they routinely don’t return calls. Therefore, reaching someone by phone and actually having a conversation with them is a matter of both persistence and luck – try long enough or pick just the right time, and we might just have them answer. Of course, persistence in itself is no magic formula. If someone rarely or never answers their phone, it makes no difference how many times we call them. If someone doesn’t recognize our number, they may ignore our call – or we might do the same.
So, let’s reverse directions here. We know how irritating or frustrating it is for us when we are trying to reach a new potential client or connect with a strategic partner to discuss a business relationship. How about when someone is trying to reach us to create a relationship or invite us to help them with a solution in their home? If they have difficulty reaching us, it’s no different than not having a phone number to call in the first place.
As an aside, how many professional websites and social media profiles fail to list a phone number? The answer is far too many. A good rule to follow is if we want people to contact us, we must provide as many choices as possible for them to use, including email addresses and phone numbers.
Remember the importance of the telephone. For many younger people, the phone is a device for sending and receiving text and email messages. It rarely is used for voice communication although that is its history. Many people will still want to reach out and contact us this way. Therefore, we have to make it easy for them. We must be accessible and treat each incoming phone call – even those we suspect as robocalls or spam – as an opportunity to engage someone interested in our services or requiring our help – until the caller proves otherwise.
It’s alright to have caller ID on our phones, but phone numbers can get masked, rerouted, cloned, or impersonated. Be careful and err on the side of answering almost every call. A clear indication of a bogus call is when we appear to be calling ourselves – clearly an impossibility and one which has been happening in increasing frequency. It’ certainly OK to ignore or cancel these calls.
As to whether to have a toll free number for people to use, it’s an additional expense that is not necessary but may have good optics. People, especially the oldest among us, may see the toll free number (traditionally an “800” number but now there are several others) as a positive indication that we want people to contact us. It’s not necessary because most calling plans (landlines and cell phones) include unlimited free long distance or out-of-area phone calls.
When people want to establish a connection with us by email, can they? It’s one thing to send an outgoing message. It’s quite another to receive a response or a fresh incoming request, read it, acknowledge it, and then act on it. If we aren’t ready to respond to emails we receive in a timely and professional manner, we are better off not even publishing our email address.
We also should have a specific contact as part of the email address – rather than “info” or other generic indication. Some email clients will reject an email being sent to an “info@,” “postmaster@,” “admin@,” or similar non-personal address. Remember the whole point of using email is to give our potential clients an easy way to reach out to us. Let’s make it as personal as possible – first names are great, but an initial and last name is alright as well. We should not be trying to conceal anything from the public or give our potential clients and strategic partners that we are not approachable or reachable.
Communication and marketing are both tremendous challenges that we must take seriously. We have to think like our consumer – how would like to be able to establish an initial contact (phone, email, text, or in-person), how would we feel about using the contact choices presented to us, or how would we like to be able to contact the business (in this case us)? Answering these questions, and even doing a little market research on this subject, will help us move forward my effectively in working with people who want to contact us for assistance with their aging in place needs.