Advances in communication technology have made life both easier and more complicated. The availability of options is great—you can call, video call, host a conference call, leave a voicemail, text, instant message (IM), group chat, post a message on social media, and so on.
However, choosing the right channel depends on your purpose and message. Depending on the platform you use, you could compromise the quality and immediacy of your message. For example, emails tend to be used for more formal, official, and lengthy communications. If you send a message that’s more suited for an email via IM, you’re leaving yourself open to miscommunication and a lot of errors. IMs tend to be used for more informal communications. Therefore, if you use IM to send official work correspondence, the gravity of your message might be lost on the recipient. Calling used to be straightforward—just pick up the phone, dial a number, and wait for the other line to pick up. This isn’t the case given today’s new communication rules.
So, how can you navigate the new rules of communication in the modern age? Here’s a brief guide to help you out.
When it comes to calling…
The sheer availability of communication alternatives has relegated voice calls secondary to other platforms such as email and text. Thus, while you have the option to use your mobile phones to make phone calls instantly, you don’t necessarily have to anymore. This means making a phone call to get in touch and collaborate isn’t as straightforward as it used to be.
In the context of internal communications, it’s important that you ask the other party if they’re available for a phone call first before you actually pick up the phone and dial. One reason is that they could be busy and unable to take your call. Your call could also be disruptive to the other party. Unless it’s absolutely urgent, be sure to send an email first or reach out via text. This allows you to schedule a time that is most convenient for you both.
Employees today have also become increasingly mobile. So, while they could take your call, common phone use etiquette dictates that people keep voice conversations while on the go as brief as possible. If you’re calling to discuss something important that requires more than 10 minutes, it’s best that you send a text asking if they’re free to pick up the call, or send a quick email to agree on assigned date and time.
You should also keep in mind that calling isn’t solely limited to voice these days, or between two parties, for that matter. For example, video calling technology, or conference calls, are available for businesses that have Hosted VoIP systems. This allows the company to host meetings with multiple parties remotely.
The general best practices for traditional, face-to-face meetings apply to video or conference calls as well—set a schedule, be prompt, and set an agenda. There’s essentially no difference except for the fact that you and your attendees are not in a single meeting space. Be sure to speak clearly so that nothing gets misinterpreted.
When you’re sending emails…
This year, email users are projected to reach 2.9 billion. Among business professionals, 86% say they prefer to use email when it comes to official business correspondence. And on average, an office worker receives 121 emails daily.
Email is a preferred way to communicate—especially in the modern workplace. However, the sheer volume of emails that are sent and received on a daily basis can make coordination confusing, unwieldy, and prone to errors. To minimize this, be sure to use emails for official workplace correspondence and always customize the subject header accordingly. Avoid replying something unrelated to the email thread as it will only confuse the recipients. Be sure to add an email signature as well in your emails.
Nearly half of emails are opened on mobile devices.
Keep in mind though that emails don’t usually get read immediately. If it’s urgent, be sure to indicate it in your subject line, but send the email knowing that you will get a reply in the next few hours, if not the next few days. For more immediate correspondence, you can opt to send a text or initiate a phone call.
Copy only the necessary people you need to keep in the loop and always be mindful of the privacy required between you and your recipient.
When you’re using instant messaging or text…
Instant messages (IMs) are good for staying in constant communication. This means it’s a great tool for collaboration as it allows employees to reliably chat throughout the day. Of course, there are certain downsides to consider—like the fact that it can be pretty distracting to have your phone or chat boxes constantly popping up while you’re trying to get work done.
Most IM platforms indicate whether or not a user is online. Pay attention to it and be mindful of whether your recipient is busy, unavailable, or present to reply to your messages.
Communicating using IM platforms also implies a certain sense of urgency in your response. These platforms make it easier to communicate emergency updates and alerts, share short reminders, facilitate quick coordination, and sending out brief commendations.
It should be noted that text and IM are considered the most informal of all communication platforms. Therefore, it’s best not to use it for sending official and detailed announcements.
Among all the communication options available today, keep in mind that there will always be a time and place for emailing, calling, and texting. What you want to communicate, and how urgent your message is, will help you determine which platform should be best used. Each one has clear advantages and is in fact, complementary to one another. A lot of businesses understand this, and to that end, they try to prevent employees from getting too overwhelmed by the options by streamlining the various communication tools through technology.
Reports say that switching from one platform to another constantly throughout the day affects productivity. This isn’t uncommon among employees who have to use multiple communication tools throughout the day. To help centralize everything, Hosted VoIP and Unified Communication (UC) tools are being implemented in numerous offices.
Navigating communication in today’s digital age is tricky. However, figuring out the new rules is essential given how much impact the right message and platform can make for your business. Indeed, learning how to express yourself professionally and comfortably while using the different communication tools available today is critical to efficiency and success.
Robert Oscanyan is a Product Marketing Manager at Jive Communications by LogMeIn, a hosted VoIP provider which helps thousands of organizations simplify how they manage their phone and conferencing systems. Rob spends his time creating new adventures with his wife, six kids, and rambunctious dog while still finding time to binge on crime podcasts. You can find him on LinkedIn.