Market musings

Which Is Worse: Too Many Emails Or Too Little Voice Communication?

by Sasha Viasasha
August 14, 2017

Email overload and conversation avoidance aren’t two problems. They are only one -- seen from different angles. The problem is inefficient communication that arises from using the wrong channel, and the all too human impulse to resort to the path of least resistance. 

This can be especially painful in a small business where time is your most precious resource. One recent study estimated that businesses lose an average of $11,000 per employee per year due to poor communications.

Those productivity losses include worker confusion over conflicting communication channels and defaulting to the easiest channel, even at the cost of misunderstandings.

Based on that research, a company with 20 employees could be losing close to a quarter of a million dollars each year.

 By correcting these problems, small businesses could be devote the savings to reinvestment, expansion, or an additional 3-months of runway.

Reversing the Trends

This widespread problem is both unsustainable and unnecessary. In the big picture, the cumulative effect of these inefficiencies across industries and regions adds up to a significant drag on the global economy. 

Could methods like zero inbox actually encourage a work culture where employees deflect important decisions? An empty inbox feels satisfying, but does it foster the hard work of consensus building and problem solving that moves business forward?

After talking with literally hundreds of business owners over the years, we’ve concluded that talking is the still the best way to solve problems fast.

For example, picture two workers sitting a few feet from each other, absorbed in their work. Their tuned into their computers so they converse by chat. It's the most natural impulse but it often leads to undesirable outcomes.

Asynchronous communication channels like chat, text, and email have their strong points but not for all types of communications. Chat is good for quick check ins and transferring files. Text is great for short messages that follow the intended receiver anywhere. Email is perfect for disseminating info to a large group or aligning intention at the start of a project cycle. 

Decision making, and problem-solving are a different matter. Direct, 2-way, voice communication is the most effective way to clear away ambiguities and come to a shared understanding.

Quantifying Conversation

Here are a few data points in support of our informal findings:

MIT’s Media Lab collected data on business conversations using sensors for biometrics like voice level, tone, subject matter, etc. They concluded that workers who talked more and engaged in more social interactions in the workplace registered with higher productivity overall.

That may sound counter-intuitive to traditional business thinkers who treat casual conversations as work avoidance, but there is more data to back it up from Gallup organization.

In her piece quantifying the value of conversation, Gallup’s Jessica Tyler wrote, “Engaged workers are capable of exceptional performance, so managers who successfully engage employees in their workgroups are vital to their organizations' success. Ford is on the right track with her question because it shows she cares. But it also invites her workers into a meaningful conversation -- the kind that brings engagement to life.”

She then goes on to give several examples of companies that have improved the bottom line by engaging their workers in various types of voice communication.

Preparation Is Everything

While there are many reasons why workers in general and millennials in particular don’t like answering the phone, a closer look at their reasons shows that they don’t like being unprepared for the call. There are generational bridges to build, as well.

Effective voice communication can be difficult for those who have grown up in the internet age without a family phone. In the past, children answered the family phone and learned how to communicate appropriately with strangers and friends alike.

Now that the smartphone has replaced the family phone, young people may be arriving in the workplace without these skills. Fortunately, new technology can also help SMBs make up for lost time. 

The Goal of Spoke

At Spoke, we believe in simple things, like the value of conversations. As technology has evolved, having conversations with each other is becoming more important, not less. 

This one simple idea is our north star. Everything we build points to it. We want to help people connect easily and with a minimum of pain, because we've seen over and over again how simple conversations can eliminate confusion, spark collaboration, support a culture of criticism and analysis, and boost engagement and productivity. It leads to happier customers, happier employees and better business outcomes.

At Spoke we're designed a simple but robust application that make it easy for you to turn your mobile phone infrastructure into a business phone system with enterprise level functionality and security. 

We're developing smart features to help your business grow, and to mediate the unique communication barriers of our digital age.Call context prepares recipients for phone calls, while live presence allows people to indicate their availability to speak. Each employee is assigned an extension number, so employees don’t have to share their private number to use their own device. In fact, all of your mission critical data is protected when you are using the Spoke application. 

Best of all, it's easy to use, and easy to try. It takes three minutes to set up and is simple enough to start using right away. 

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