Email vs. Phone Call vs. Face-to-Face

How do you know when it is best to communicate with an email or whether you should pick up the phone and call? Or when might a face to face conversation be more appropriate? How can I really communicate effectively to the people in my organization?

In a recent coaching time with a new leader, we talked about this issue.  It is easy to feel overwhelmed with all our responsibilities as leaders and miss connecting with our people. So, before you craft that next email and hit “send”, consider the advantages and disadvantages of various methods.

Advantages of email

  1. It is fast.  You can communicate with anyone in a second
  2. It is global.  You can communicate with anyone, anywhere.  So if you have people across the country, or across the globe, you can send information instantly.
  3. It is cheap.  If you have internet, sending an email costs nothing
  4. It gives you an easy to reference record of your communication.

Disadvantages of Email

  1. It is impersonal, or at least can feel that way.
  2. It can be misunderstood, especially when the person fails to re-read before sending.  Communication can be unclear and you either have to send more emails back and forth…or pick up the phone and call to sort things out.
  3. It can lead to emotional responses.  I have made the mistake of firing off an angry response to an email that only escalated the tensions.

When I refer to email, Facebook, Twitter and other social media have similar advantages and disadvantages. According to Mashable post[i], social networking has become more popular than email.  But I already learned that from my kids!  For more advantages and disadvantages of email, Time Management Success[ii] has a great post on this topic. In general, I have found that if the email is going to be more than a few lines, it is better to pick up the phone.

Advantages of Phone Calls

  1. It is easier to ask questions and give feedback.  It is much easier than sending emails back and forth for two days.
  2. It is easier to reach agreements and usually much quicker.

Disadvantages of Phone Calls

  1. Communication by phone is oral, so agreements still have to be written down and sent in an email.
  2. Sometimes it can lead to conversations that are too casual.

Advantages of Face to Face Conversation

A CIO article, “The importance of face to face communication at work”[iii], says, “A global survey shows that 67 percent of senior executives and managers say their organization would be more productive if their superiors communicated more often by personal discussion. While they desire more personal discussion from their superiors, however, the top personal method of communicating for these same business leaders is e-mail, based on the survey by NFI Research.”

  1. Face to face is more personal.  Dialogue is personal and consensus can be reached easier, especially where more than two people are involved.
  2. Surveys show that nonverbal communication is anywhere from 50% to 93% of our communication.  Face to face gives you the chance to pick up on all those nonverbal clues.

Disadvantages of meeting face to face

  1. It can be more costly since it requires travel to other cities
  2. It requires more time away from home and family.

For coaching and other communication, today there are other hybrid options like Skype or Google+ Hangout.  Weblinxx[iv] seems to have a fair head to head comparison of both.

In conclusion, there are many advantages and disadvantage for email, phone calls and face-to-face meetings; it depends a lot on the situation and the person.  You have to know the person and what his or her preferences are because, in the end, it all boils down to relationships. I’ve found that emails, phone calls and face-to-face meetings all can help you start or continue conversations but you still have to do the hard work of building the relationship.

What kinds of communication have helped you build better relationships with your staff or those you coach?  I invite you to leave a comment here.

Other posts you may enjoy:

[i]  From article, accessed on Sept 16, 2011

[ii] Time Management Success article, lists 10 advantages and 10 disadvantages of email.  Accessed Sept 9, 2011

[iii] Chuck Martin writes for CIO.  His article is found at, accessed on Sept 9, 2011

25 thoughts on “Email vs. Phone Call vs. Face-to-Face

Add yours

  1. Its like you read my mind! You seem to know so much about this, like you wrote the book in it or something. I think that you could do with a few pics to drive the message home a little bit, but other than that, this is great blog. An excellent read. I will certainly be back. cebfaefkdfcb

    1. Thanks for visiting the blog. I am glad that it was helpful to you in your learning process. Much of what I learn has come the hard way–by making mistakes and reflecting on what works and what does not. Thanks for your comment about the pics also. I love pics also and they help me connect better. I will try to add more in the future. Let me know if you see a difference in the future.

  2. I do agree with all the ideas you have introduced for your post. They are really convincing and can certainly work. Still, the posts are very brief for newbies. May you please extend them a bit from subsequent time? Thank you for the post. ddekcbcdgdbf

    1. Hi Johnk218. Thanks for visiting the blog and commenting. Thanks also for your suggestion on improving it. My philosophy of blogging is to keep things shorter and bite-sized. Most people, myself included do not have the time to read long posts. So, I challenge myself to write creatively, clearly and concise. Perhaps I could add more links on blog posts like this one for those like you who really want to dig into the topic in more depth. Would that be helpful?

  3. Great post, thanks for sharing! A few years ago I incorporated the Six Sigma methodology into an outbound prospecting program (combination of calls and emails). We actually pulled the data which validated which combination works best, and why.

    Check it out in the white paper in my blog:

    Six Sigma Strategy for Outbound Prospecting!blogger-feed/c48e

    1. You have a good point Ravi, and using all three at different times is helpful as well. When I am doing email or Skype, it is helpful if I have had previous face-to-face time with the person to build trust. Perhaps face-to-face is not always necessary though. Having worked cross culturally, I wonder if face-to-face is even more important in some cultures than others…or with some personality types than others. What do you think? Thanks for reading and commenting.

  4. Please let me know if you’re looking for a writer for your site. You have some really great articles and I feel I would be a good asset. If you ever want to take some of the load off, I’d absolutely love to write some content for your blog in exchange for a link back to mine. Please blast me an e-mail if interested. Kudos!|

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: