Preferred Forms of Communication
Cyber cavemen – the future’s looking good!
There are a lot of ways I can get in touch with people nowadays isn’t technology great! but I’ve learned over the past couple years their are distinct advantages and disadvantages to each form of communication. I thought it might be useful to anyone else out there wrestling with the choice of which platform to use to see my thoughts and ranking of each form of communication and the rational behind it. I dare say this evaluation stems from a marketing perspective with a sprinkling of consideration for the international pioneer.
Face to Face
This is a no brainer. If you want to get something done, the decision made, critical information clearly understood by all concerned parties – meet face-to-face. Shake that hand, get right up in front of them – up close and personal. It’s proactive, interactive, and requires your full attention. Passive forms of communication (see my ranting below) are overused in my opinion, typically when our fears get the better of us.
So you don’t have time to meet with everyone you’d like to communicate with. You don’t have to tell me that, I’ve reconciled a weeks worth of business efforts recently and realized I spent nearly 30% of my time transporting myself from place to place! The next best thing to being able to look whomever in the eye is a phone call. It requires a person’s full, immediate attention and therefore is the next best option for communication when your looking to get things done. You can’t respond to a phone call later once you’ve picked it up, it needs to be addressed immediately. Your also gaining more points with the person your communicating with by making a phone call over using less personal forms of communication (see below)
Text Messages (SMS)
Honestly I believe text messages are one of the most overused forms of communication when it comes to conducting business – at least amongst us younger folk. The only times I condone using text messages are when the person your trying to communicate with cannot take a phone call – for instance if they’re in a meeting, a noisy place, or otherwise incapable of having a conversation. I find those of use that are more addicted to tech *guilty!* tend to use text messaging in place of phone calls as they are less stressful and afford the sender/receiver a degree of padding between one another live interaction is so stressful!. It’s no wonder we use them more often when we are insecure about a relationship or otherwise fearful of interacting with someone.
The biggest problem with text messages is they are a passive form of communication – more easily ignored and prioritized beneath any form of communication listed above. They are also very poorly suited for situations requiring a lot of detailed communications – like say terms of a service contract. I’ve steamed over a few of my contacts who’ve sent a barrage of text messages to settle a matter over the course of hours instead of simply calling me. More often than not I’ll just dial them up after the first few instances of eye rolling. I rate text messages over e-mail overall as people have a tendency to reply to text messages within 60 minutes and there almost always viewed – whereas it’s quite normal to get a response by e-mail within 24 hours.. if they even ever open the e-mail.
Though sometimes necessary, and much better suited to detailed queries, unlike text messages – I feel e-mails are also slightly overused. Then again you can’t exactly attach a pdf proposal to a text message… yet! There are also instances where tracking responses in digital format would be desirable (testimonials anyone?). However, again the biggest problem with this form of communication is it is passive – I’ll get to it when I get around to it *cough* never.
I’ve yelled at employees and contacts before when it’s quite obvious they’re sending an e-mail because their afraid of meeting or speaking to the person directly. Trying to pin someone(s) down for a meeting? (long e-mail chains trying to coordinate a meeting are particularly annoying to me), confirming a few bits of information?, conducting a simple follow up? I suppose using e-mail is fine if you want things to get done…. tomorrow or next week… any time except “right now”.
Don’t get me wrong their are instances in which you cannot immediately decide upon something but I’ve yet to run into a situation where a phone call or meeting would not expedite the process over an e-mail. As a rule of thumb however – even for us nerdy tech entrepreneur types – I want things done and decided now or as soon as possible – which puts e-mails in the doghouse for many interactions.