Market musings

Is Your Business Phone System a Roadblock to Communication?

by Nina Quasebarth
November 29, 2017

Information exchange drives business decisions, so it’s crucial to keep communication within the organization fluid. Employees have ongoing conversations about projects and strategies through meetings, email threads, chat sessions, and phone calls. Timely responses to business issues keep businesses competitive, but there are so many channels of communication that it’s difficult to keep track of all the threads, and decision-making becomes mired in email or project-tracking systems.

Smart businesses are removing roadblocks to communication and are encouraging employees to simplify data exchange. Part of that strategy is encouraging employees to send fewer email messages and start picking up the phone for faster response.

Communication Channels Are Becoming Clogged

Today’s businesses use various channels of communication, such as email, meetings, chat, corporate intranet, and telephone. The more personal the interaction, the more effective the information exchange, but employees and businesses are increasingly adopting tools such as email that eliminate any personal connection. In fact, email is taking over business communication and costing corporations a bundle.

According to the McKinsey Global Institute, the average employee spends 13 hours a week dealing with email; that’s 28 percent of work time. Excessive email saps productivity. Estimates are that the average employee costs his or her employer $1,800 annually in productivity dealing with unnecessary emails and $1,250 annually dealing with spam. And email traffic is just increasing. Research from the Radicati Group predicts that global email traffic will grow from 205.6 billion messages daily in 2015 to 246.5 billion messages daily in 2019. The average number of business emails sent and received by each user also is expected to grow from 122 to 126 messages over the same period.

Email is a great tool for creating a paper trail, but it is a poor means of timely communication.

The lag time for email responses varies based on corporate culture, age group, and other factors, but it certainly is not real time. A study by Boomerang, which makes email productivity software, found that the average email response time is 23 hours, although 50 percent of responses are sent within two hours. That’s still a long time to wait for information that affects an important business decision.

You Need More Than a Telephone

Making more business phone calls can shorten the time to decision-making and make employees more productive. If the average email response takes up to 23 hours, consider how fast you can exchange the same information in a single phone call. The office phone system can remove roadblocks to communication, except, of course, when it doesn’t.

Millennial employees, for example, prefer texting to phone calls for immediate response. A Gallup poll reveals that 68 percent of those between ages 18 and 29 text “a lot” versus 47 percent of those between 30 and 49 and 26 percent among those from 50 to 64. Millennials explain that they find the phone intrusive, making the caller’s agenda more important. A text message, on the other hand, can provide clear instruction without emotion, getting to the point right away.

If texting isn’t an option, telephone communication is still a great way to reach quick consensus, assuming you can get the other party on the line. If the other party isn’t there, there is the risk of losing your message in a black hole of voicemail. Voicemail is time-consuming and inefficient, as anyone who has ever engaged in phone tag knows.

New telephone technologies are helping resolve some of these issues. Unified communications (UC), for example, bundles multiple communication channels in the same service, so users can call, chat, send text messages, exchange files, and even video-conference over the same link. UC provides an all-in-one communication platform that lets you choose the right communication medium for your message. More important, UC offers presence, so you know whether or not the other party is online and available.

However, UC is not a panacea that removes all roadblocks to communication. UC technology is versatile and offers a variety of communication features, but it requires infrastructure. UC requires network bandwidth to support multiple simultaneous users with services such as voice, video, and messaging. Network bandwidth isn’t keeping pace with UC demand, and companies can’t pay to rip and replace their local area networks and wide area networks to accommodate more bandwidth. If you do have the bandwidth, UC software can run on a desktop or laptop computer, although many UC systems are designed to accommodate their own special handsets, which means adding more expensive UC hardware.

The Smartphone Removes Roadblocks to Communication

Rather than trying to wean your employees off email or investing in a UC infrastructure, why not take advantage of the features already available in the average smartphone?

Today’s smartphone actually offers most of the features you get from a UC system at a fraction of the cost. Smartphones support email, chat, teleconferencing, email access, and a telephone in a handheld device. And because service is wireless, it can go anywhere your employees go.

The smartphone also has become the primary tool for accessing email. Fifty-five percent of all email is opened on mobile devices. However, with a smartphone, you can turn an email query into a text exchange or phone call to close the communication loop faster.

To eliminate a phenomenon such as phone tag, smartphones can be used to verify presence using tools like texting (“Hey, you have a minute?”), or you can send a text or email rather than leaving voicemail. Most voicemail systems now offer email transcription, so you can leave a voice message, and it will be delivered as email, which shortens response time.

What makes the smartphone so valuable as a business communication tool is portability.

The smartphone goes with you everywhere, both inside and outside the office, so you are always available to respond to a message or a phone call. To improve accessibility even more, mobile services such as Spoke keep employees in touch with the office by seamlessly routing calls from an office extension to your smartphone. With Spoke, you have one office number that follows you everywhere, including features such as auto attendant, voicemail, and smart directories, so employees are reachable but also in control of calls.

Your phone system should simplify communication rather than creating roadblocks. Adopting smartphones for business communication gives employees a tool that is familiar and that they are likely to use, and it supports all the communication channels your business needs. And with tools such as Spoke, employees never miss a phone call.

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