What fraction of your internal (colleagues) and external (customers and vendors) communications are by email? An increasingly high percentage for most of us. If your inbox is overflowing, you may discover that some of these communications are better served by meetings, phone calls, or some other form of more immediate exchange. Don’t “hide behind” your email Email offers many benefits, including incredible efficiency and convenience. However, those benefits come at the expense of reduced urgency and “low bandwidth” information exchange. There are these famous statistics asserted by Dr. Albert Mehrabian, in his book Silent Messages:

  • Words only account for 7% of a successful message that is liked IT Solutions Company
  • Tone of voice accounts for 38%
  • Body language and visual cues account for 55%

This is a very famous assessment, much debated, even more often misunderstood. First, those statistics come with numerous caveats. I think we can all agree that face-to-face communication for every instance is not only unnecessary, but impossible. These and other built in assumptions are arguable and I think it’s safe to say the conclusions might be a bit exaggerated, but they provide a framework for understanding what is a legitimate concern and a jumping off point for a worthwhile discussion. Regardless of the accuracy of those stats, they encourage introspection. Even if you are not “hiding behind” email, are there instances where email is not the most effective way to communicate? You may be encouraged to pick up the phone and talk to a customer, or visit with a colleague in person to discuss an item of interest. We take for granted that the efficiency of email equates to effectiveness, and that is not always the case. The pros and cons of email Of course, we all must remember that email is an efficiency tool, and a very good one. There are numerous occasions that email is the superior choice, based on speed, accessibility, ease of use, and importance. These occasions almost all involve documenting or transmitting facts, rather than commenting on them, discussing challenges, and providing solutions. When you need a fast answer or one that does not require explanation or context, email is wonderful. When you need to simply update or inform and do not require response or elaboration, email is the perfect choice. When you are multi-tasking and do not have time to invest in more intensive forms of communication, email is typically superior. Too many face-to-face meetings, or even video chats, can lend a false sense of importance to matters that are routine. Worse, meetings consume time and resources that are better deployed to other uses. Email certainly has its place. Where email struggles is in taking control of problems and efficiently managing the back-and-forth required to generate a solution. This is especially obvious when the most pertinent portions of the message get lost in an email that is the length of your arm. Simple rule of thumb: if a problem is not solved within 2-3 emails, pick up the phone or find a way to meet in person to discuss the underlying problems that are frustrating resolution

Virtual CIO/CTOIT communications solutions

IT has become the most powerful tool available for optimizing communications, and of course email is one of the innovations IT has spawned. For instances when face-to-face meetings are desired but otherwise impractical, there are a number of video conferencing and telepresence solutions available. Organizations should regularly review with their IT department what new solutions are available for communications. Better yet, the IT department should be proactive at the C-Level in suggesting new technology solutions as they are needed. Finding the optimal communication solution The lesson here is to not make assumptions and not fall back on accepted practice: always tailor your communications to your goals. If emails aren’t getting the message through, call a meeting. If meetings are creating urgency where there should be none, use emails or phone calls. There are certainly alternatives to email, and good old face-to-face – or video-to-video, in today’s business world – may be superior or even necessary for certain applications. Take a moment to consider your email communications, review their effectiveness, and determine if in certain cases the message is being lost. What is your ratio of email contact to other methods? Can you benefit from adding more face-to-face time to your colleague and customer communications? Is there an IT solution that would improve efficiency and effectiveness?  If you need more advice from a IT Communications Solutions company click here and one of our representative will be happy to assist you.