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Published on:

11 April 2023

Author:

Rachael Adams

The Right Business Tools for Communication

It is well known that the ability to communicate can make or break a business, but with a wealth of tools at our disposal, how do we select the right one for each purpose?

Whether reaching out to a prospect, or updating a long-term client, you’re faced with many choices. Should you spend time drafting a perfectly worded email, will a scheduled Teams meeting work better, do you need the immediacy of instant messaging, and do people still pick up the phone? There are a few key rules that can help your business connect more effectively with staff, customers, and the community.

 

Understand Work Style

Most people are busy and finding focus can be a challenge. Interruptions can disrupt a carefully developed juggling act, especially where a role requires a very high level of concentration. When someone is solving complex coding problems, writing a report or crunching numbers for a budget, chances are they won’t welcome interruption. Add to that the number of people working flexible hours, or in different time zones, an unscheduled phone call might not seem ideal. Nobody will be thrilled to be disturbed in the middle of school pickup, or when they’re sleeping after a night shift. For others, working regular hours and in a role where accommodating interruption is far easier, the situation is different.

 

Consider the Type of Message and Situation

There is a huge difference between telling someone a quick, simple, time-sensitive piece of information and communicating something more in-depth. Consider whether the communication is formal or informal, whether it is a two-way discussion or merely sharing information without any expectation of a reply. Think about whether each participant will be available if you’re hoping to bounce ideas around. While you can certainly record Teams meetings to be viewed later, it doesn’t have the same feel as real-time interaction.

Also, think about whether you are communicating about an emotional topic. One now long-gone multi-national announced mass redundancies in a pre-recorded video from the CEO and suffice to say this was not well received. If you’re talking about something sensitive that is likely to affect individuals on a personal level, face-to-face is generally best or, if distance makes that impossible, a voice or video call.

 

Consider your Audience

It is worth thinking about the way different generations choose to communicate – parents of teens will tell you that most Gen Z youngsters joining the workforce would rather go to the dentist than pick up the phone to call someone. For their parents, the opposite may hold true. Given this diverse range of preferences, it may be worth communicating via multiple methods.

 

Which Tool, Which Situation?

Email

Perfect for formally communicating decisions, confirming agreements, documenting important conversations, and sending non-urgent communications to a wide audience, whether within the company or to customers. If, for example, there’s a new feature added to Microsoft 365, we might email our customer base to tell them about the highlights. Do not send sensitive data, such as personal identification documents or medical details via email.

Phone

A phone call is, hands down, the best choice when you need to make an apology and cannot do it in person. It is more personal by far than email, and your tone is far clearer. A call is also great when a discussion is likely to involve a lot of questions or details, or will be complicated. It is also a strong contender when you need to discuss something personal or of high importance, or when you want to build a relationship in a way that email simply can’t support.

Chat/Instant Message

When you need a quick answer to a simple question, an IM is quicker than an email, and less of an interruption than a phone call. If you’re checking on a task, booking a meeting, or want to share something informal or social, this is a handy way to get the job done.

In-App Comments

Most Microsoft 365 apps now allow users to add and reply to comments, and tag other users, who will automatically be alerted by email. If your communication is specific to a document, for example, this collaboration takes others directly to the right word, sentence or paragraph.

Meetings

Whether in-person or via video, meetings are best when you want to brainstorm a topic, work together on strategy, or bring together a group to tackle a problem. When you need a big idea, nothing compares to the real-time experience of bouncing ideas around. Likewise, presentations are still best when the group can interact and ask questions, and the presenter receives immediate feedback, although it is great that the option of video still exists for anyone unable to attend. For complex or sensitive matters, meetings are still the number one choice.

Here’s a Quick Guide:

I need something fast Phone
Share a thought on a task or project already underway Teams
Relay a message to multiple people that needs to be read Email
Something that requires lots of explaining Phone
Bring a team together (weekly meeting, project, etc) Meeting (face to face or Teams)
Confirm expectations after a meeting Email
Ask a non-critical question Teams
Something that involves emotions Meeting (face to face where possible or Teams)
Additional information for a project Teams
Performance management Meeting (face to face where possible or Teams)
Something that will require back-and-forth Meeting (face to face or Teams)
Social share Teams

Extra Communication Tips

Once you’ve chosen the right communication tools for your needs, there are a few more things to think about before you get started. First, try using multiple communication options, especially for anything very important – some people may not, for example, pay much attention to Teams, or may keep their phone switched to silent when they’re busy. It is worth setting expectations around urgency and being clear about whether you need a response.

Prepare in advance where possible – this helps you to present a clear, unambiguous message and avoid confusion. Likewise, this aids running meetings on time to a planned agenda, which reduces side conversations. Although it is wonderful that technology facilitates many options, having a webcam doesn’t mean that every interaction must use video – sometimes a phone call is still better. And finally, never forget that nothing replaces human interaction, so even though it requires a little extra planning, use in-person meetings where appropriate and feasible. Stepping into your customer’s world, or welcoming them into yours, creates a deeper understanding and helps you to stand out from the crowd.

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