Have you ever received an email that was frustratingly vague? How about the dreadful instant message (IM) with about twenty lines of eye-glazing text? Yeah, we bang our head on the wall too. Unfortunately, choosing the wrong medium or channel of communication is a common problem in the workplace. It leads to miscommunication or a lack of communication and many hours of frustration for everybody involved in the conversation.

Convenience or Effectiveness?

It is very easy to spot when someone else is using the wrong channel to get their message across, but it’s harder to determine the appropriate channel for our own communications. Often, we choose the channel that is most convenient for us, based on our situation. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this, it can become a problem when you begin to choose convenience over effectiveness. Just because it’s easier to send an email to that guy across the hall, doesn’t necessarily mean that email is better than an in-person chat. After all, emails get lost, and IM’s can be missed, but a quick call or brief stop by your co-worker’s office can save you precious minutes that you would have spent waiting for a reply. Save yourself the frustration and choose the tool that is most effective at communicating your message.

It Matters How You Say It

Because the tool that you choose can affect your effectiveness as a speaker, it’s important to use the most effective tool possible, based on the type of message. Below, we’ve outlined the benefits and drawbacks of the four most common communication tools in the workplace: phone, email, chat. As a note, we won’t talk about an in-person communication since that is undeniably the best way to communicate any message.

Instant Messaging (IM)

The Benefits & Disadvantages

There a variety of enterprise-level IM tools available in the marketplace today, with more being released every year. Because it provides a fast and relaxed setting, IM is quickly becoming a popular choice for communication in many companies. While IM is a fast and informal way to talk to your co-workers, it can get chaotic and messy when there are multiple people involved (think group texts) or multiple subjects being discussed.

If the efficiency and collaborative opportunities of IM appeal to you, check out our business SMS service. Utilizing SMS in your business allows you to reach coworkers and customers in a comfortable, relaxed medium. For customers, this means gaining valuable feedback data. For employees, this means improving the flow of communication and collaboration in your company.

Bottom Line: You should use IM for “water cooler” talks, collaborative projects, or quick questions – not an all-staff meeting.

Email

The Benefits & Disadvantages

Email is the tool of choice for most companies today because it it is so convenient. For example, sending an email doesn’t require that you make sure Bob is at his desk because Bob can just respond when he gets back. However, despite email’s convenience, it is less effective and efficient than video, phone, or an in-person conversation. After all, when you use email, you lose things like tone of voice facial expression that can be important, especially in emotionally-charged conversations. When writing emails, you usually also have to spend time formatting it (unless you’re one of those annoying people who always send vague, one-line emails…). While you should definitely use email, of course, you should also understand its limitations and advantages so you are a better communicator.

Bottom Line: Use email to communicate emotionally-neutral, summaries, or evergreen information that doesn’t require immediate collaboration or feedback.

Phone

The Benefits & Disadvantages

As the most traditional communication tool in this article, phones are a good alternative to in-person conversation or video conferences. Phone calls are good for discussing sensitive or complicated information because they allow for immediate clarification and understanding of any questions. Conference calls expand on this idea and are great for staff meetings and similar situations. Phone calls don’t require prep time, like video conferencing, so they can be a way to quickly get or send information. Because it’s more intrusive than IM, a phone call is generally not the go-to communicative tool for younger workers. There are many benefits to incorporating a phone system into your company, but generational preferences may impede it’s unanimous adoption within your company. In any case, phones are a trusted and reliable method of communication that many companies still rely on in their daily operations.

At FATPBX, we offer VoIP phone systems that are used in enterprise settings to improve communication among employees and with customers. It’s simple: we take care of the maintenance and support while you take of driving your business to success. Our VoIP phone systems allow you the mobility and flexibility you need while dealing with business needs on a daily basis.

Bottom Line: Use the phone as an alternative to video conferencing or in-person conversations when you need to communicate sensitive and complex information to a few individuals quickly.

Video Conferencing

The Benefits & Disadvantages

Video conferences are the best alternative to an in-person conversation because they still allow for nonverbal communication, like facial gestures. Video conferencing does require the right technology and some preparation time, but it can be very effective for large-scale collaborative efforts. At FATPBX, we offer a video conferencing system that can be set up in only three steps. If video conferencing will help you achieve greater business success, check out our video conferencing solutions and start enhancing your communications!

Bottom Line: Use video conferencing to replicate in-person meetings and enhance large-scale collaboration efforts by allowing for both verbal and nonverbal communication.