Building Your Business Communication Toolbox
Before the digital revolution, we relied heavily on telephones and yes, even fax machines, as means of communication. Do you remember the days when we wanted to speak with a co-worker, we either called a local office phone number or stopped by a colleague’s desk or workstation? Or if we needed to discuss something critically important with a client, we would go directly to the client’s office for a meeting?
Our workplace technology has evolved rapidly and we are blessed with so many new tools for communication that are far more efficient. Our youngest professionals in the workplace today are unfamiliar with what a fax machine is or why they would use it for business! Many young professionals today have shared they even have an aversion to making phone calls. A study done by European telecommunications company, O2, showed that smartphone users don’t like talking on the phone and find phone calls intrusive and unpredictable. Millenials, in a review by Forbes, describe a preference for text and email applications which allow them to think through the composition of their messages before sending. Thus, they use their phone for everything, except to make calls!
Yes, phone calls may be intrusive, but they are still one of the best ways to communicate in business. They are faster, more efficient, and direct. When you need to reach a client right away, sometimes the phone is the best way to reach them.
In today’s complex communication landscape, how does the phone call fare versus email/voicemail and text? Is one better than the other? Let’s break it down:
We are natural listeners more than we are readers, and for most of us, nothing beats a real conversation. Hearing another person’s voice on the other line helps build a connection and rapport that no text or email can accomplish. People can be their real selves on the phone. A good listener is able to learn a lot through tone of voice, use of humor, and pacing.
A phone call — not a voice mail message — is best for these key situations:
- You need to explain something complicated.
- What you have to say should not be put in writing.
- One party is taking too long to reply to a text or email.
- You want to be absolutely certain you are communicating directly with the party you need to reach.
Text messages are sent instantaneously, and meant to be read and answered promptly. They are known to have a high open and response rate, and are perfect for brief responses and one-word answers. Phone calls and voicemails may be ignored and email responses may be delayed, but a text is hard to miss. According to eWeek, “More than a third of business professionals claim they can’t go over 10 minutes without responding to a text, indicating worker habits with quick response time and text protocol are evolving. Eighty-eight percent of those surveyed said they could not go more than a day without responding to a text.”
Here are some reasons to choose texting in your business:
- You need a decision or response that does not require a lot of dialogue.
- Stakeholders, clients or colleagues have indicated their preference for texts.
- If the communication started over text – it should finish over text unless both parties agree to switch to a phone call, email or in person.
In some industries, email has overtaken U.S. postal mail as the primary way to communicate. Some of the advantages of email include:
- You can send or respond to them whenever it is convenient for you without disturbing the other party.
- It is a cost-effective way to include a lot of information by including various attachments.
- Email conversations can be archived and reviewed later if needed.
- You can optimize an email with a call-to-action (CTA). A CTA is a line or a link that encourages the reader to perform a task or action.
My favorite tool, and the one I’m told is part of my personal signature style, is a card or letter sent by USPS, the old-fashioned U.S. Postal Service. Some lovingly refer to this as ‘snail mail’ because of the time it takes between sending and receiving. A tangible personal letter or card has a life of its own, and can be meaningful and impactful for both sender and receiver. Postal mail is best used in these circumstances:
- You need to send a note of congratulations to a colleague on a new job or promotion.
- You need to send a note of sympathy or get well wishes.
- You want to send greetings of the season for both marketing and strategy, and to stay top-of-mind with important clients.
You need all of these tools in your business toolbox. Phone calls, texting, email, and U.S. postal mail serve different purposes. You need to be skilled at each and use a careful balance of all of them in your business communications.
To summarize, it is important to adapt the method of your communication to suit the preferences of your stakeholders, clients and business associates. This flexibility will go a long way to build a strong rapport with your colleagues today and in the future.
Meeting Your Mission, Inc., works collaboratively with nonprofit , community, and educational organizations to help advance initiatives and increase community engagement by applying best practices in strategic planning, research, and event and meeting management.