IM, Text, Email, Call – When to Do What

call email textWe’ve spent a lot of time on this blog on how you can leverage SIP trunking to support your communications infrastructure reliably and for a lot less money than traditional business phone lines. Today we thought we’d take a break from talking about how you should set up your phone system, and instead offer some advice for using it.

These days we have so many channels for communicating with people it can be difficult to figure out which one to use in each situation. Should I email, text, send an emoji filled instant message? It’s hard to know. While all of these ways of carrying on a conversation with someone have great value, an old fashioned phone call is by far the best choice in a number of situations. Here are some guidelines on when to do what.

Instant Messaging

The best thing about instant messaging is the immediacy of the platform. For example, looking for a quick response as to where your latest sales presentation is located? Send an IM to your coworker down the hall. Hoping to see if your team is free for lunch? A group message is perfect. It is a good idea to use IM when:

A quick one-sentence answer is enough: If you need more depth or the subject requires a lot of thought, use email or the phone.

You need to get someone’s attention quickly: A quick IM is a great way to ping someone who is running late for a meeting or to let them know that you’re running behind yourself.

No record is needed: IMs are fleeting and should never be used for a conversation that requires documentation or one that contains information you’ll need in the future.

Text Messaging

In the business context, it is wise to think of text messaging as a privilege.  Astonishingly, 44 percent of cell phone users sleep with their mobile device nearby so that they don’t miss a notification. Text messaging is a valuable option, but use it only when:

It is during working hours or the issue is urgent: There is a certain amount of urgency associated with a text message. Therefore, don’t use it outside of normal business hours unless there is an emergency.

You want to arrange a call: Texting is a good way to find out if now is an OK time to talk or if another time would be better.

The recipient is OK with texting: Texting is somewhat of a love it or leave it habit. Some people will reply immediately and happily, with other’s you’ll get crickets.

Email

Email fundamentally changed business communications. The creation of a paper trail and the ability to manage multiple conversations at once really changed the game. Email is the perfect way to communicate and collaborate when:

Multiple parties are involved: Email is great for tossing ideas back in forth and allowing all of the stake holders to weigh in.

The conversation has legal, compliance or contractual implications: Email is an easy way to document what was said and to facilitate later compliance with discovery or dispute resolution.

Careful wording of responses or questions are required: The great thing about email is that you can take your time crafting a query or response. When a great deal of thought is needed, email is the way to go.

The Phone

And we’re back to where we started. While we’re big fans of all these other mediums, nothing beats the phone when:

The content of the conversation is emotional: Subtlety and nuance are difficult with email and all but impossible with text and IM. If something you have to say is going to make someone happy, or sad, or frightened or angry, pick up the phone.

The topic is complex: The more complicated an issue, the more important it is to have a conversation that can flow easily back and forth.

You’ve already exchanged several emails on the topic:. If you are looking at the 15th email in a string, chances are it isn’t getting the job done. It’s time to pick up the phone.

As far as modern technology has brought us, there’s a reason we still rely on one that was invented in 1849. Reading messages is efficient and documentation is often essential, but sometimes there is no substitute for the human voice.