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Types of electronic communication in business

Here’s how to take advantage of the wealth of electronic communication channels available today, and how to use them wisely

By the team at Slack19th November 2021

According to 2021 research by SuperOffice, 46% of customers expect companies to respond to customer service requests in less than four hours. Another 12% expect a response within 15 minutes—but the actual average response time is more than 12 hours.

In a 2020 survey, found that:

  • 92% of customers had to repeat information to multiple people within an organization
  • 85% find repeating information annoying

Here’s where electronic communication can be a game changer.

Types of electronic communications

Electronic communication is any form of communication that’s broadcast, transmitted, stored or viewed using electronic media, such as computers, phones, email and video. But each has specific uses and is better suited for certain scenarios.

1. Email

In an email stats report covering 2021 to 2025, research firm Radicati predicts that businesses’ and consumers’ total number of emails sent and received per day will surpass 319 billion by the end of 2021. With so many emails flying in and out and no clear prioritization, the risk of losing vital intel is high.

Although it’s not the most efficient for workplace communication, especially in highly collaborative environments, email has its uses:

  • Providing directions, data and links to online sources
  • Sharing brief status updates
  • Sending attachments
  • Delivering timely information, such as a weekly newsletter to an email list

If you don’t have an effective email organization strategy in place, you’re wasting precious time searching through your inbox, separating junk mail from high-priority and digging for conversation strings.

2. Instant messaging and live chat

Instant messaging (IM) refers to the real-time or instantaneous transmission of messages via the internet or an internal network or server.

IM tools such as Slack and Facebook Messenger reduce, and often eliminate, the unnecessary and time-consuming back-and-forth of phone calls and emails. IM also lets you immediately raise and address issues that could otherwise languish unnoticed for days or weeks.

Live chat is similar to IM in that participants can send one another messages in real time. Both parties usually need to be in each other’s “friends” or “connections” list with IM. To use live chat, you don’t have to be friends with someone. It’s similar to live-chat apps on websites where customers can chat with a service rep. Live chats are also session-based. Unlike open-ended IM chat, you need to initiate another session after terminating the first one.

3. Websites and blogs

According to a 2021 post by online statistics portal Statista, there are 1.88 billion websites. Of this number, e-commerce platform Oberlo found that approximately 600 million have blogs. Research by Top Design Firms also found that 28% of U.S. small businesses still do not have a website.

Unless potential customers know your brand well, they won’t know you’re in business without a website. Most people research a company or product before they visit a store or make a purchase, and often prefer transacting with businesses online. Market intelligence firm eMarketer expects online grocery shopping to surpass $100 billion in 2021.

Even if you don’t have a home website, blogs can solidify your reputation as a go-to industry expert—provided you consistently publish insights that address your audience’s pain points.

Desktop with folder on top about to go inside

4. SMS/text messaging

According to a recently published Pew Research study, 97% of Americans “now own a cellphone of some kind.” Additionally, 85% of Americans now have a smartphone compared to just 35% in 2011 when Pew first surveyed smartphone ownership. Worldwide, Statista found that active smartphone subscriptions stand at more than 6 billion in 2021, and projects they’ll surpass 7.5 billion in 2026.

This means things will continue to look up for companies taking advantage of the power of short message service (SMS) and text messaging for customer communications. Here’s why:

  • Convenience: More customers have access to it
  • Ease: Most SMS platforms also support template use for repetitive tasks such as opt-in confirmation, order or issue resolution confirmation, appointment reminders and delivery notifications
  • Speed: It takes only a few seconds for messages to reach vast audiences

5. Phone and voicemail

With most business communication now happening via mobile and desktop apps or cloud-based platforms, it’s easy to forget the old-school phone system. Customer behavior may have evolved in response to technology, but there’s still a need for a personal touch.

Voicemail systems have come a long way too. Modern voicemail services take messages and send them as text (voicemail to text) or email (voicemail to email).

But you don’t have to have a phone system to make calls. With more audio communications happening over the cloud, Slack has a built-in calling feature for making voice calls. Slack also supports adding guest roles to your workspace for temporary contacts (contractors, vendors, clients or interns).

6. Video

Explainer videos are short videos that highlight the features of a product or service. They’re particularly helpful for potential customers researching a product or current customers trying to understand how one functions. Explainer videos can also be used for online advertising.

Video conferencing platforms have multiple uses besides organizing conferences or conducting meetings:

  • HR and recruitment initiatives, such as interviewing job candidates and onboarding new employees
  • On-demand training and live, instructor-led courses
  • Employee engagement through remote team-building activities, such as virtual happy hours or personal-fact guessing games

Pros and cons of electronic communications

Pro: Shortens communication time

With email, response times can vary between a few minutes to days or weeks. But if you need to connect in real time, use video conferencing software (or phone or softphone). You can also fire up your Slack app and send an instant message or launch a video chat.

Pro: Enables various communication flow types

  • Downward: Communication flows downward when leaders or managers share information with lower-level employees. Some don’t warrant a response, such as announcements, memos, company handbooks and instruction manuals.
  • Upward: Communication flows upward when lower-level employees respond to a downward communication, such as when the CEO directs the project manager to make a proposal. Other examples include status reports, project questions or complaints.
  • Horizontal: This happens between colleagues at the same level. Think sales and marketing managers coordinating to improve brand messaging or employees sharing information to facilitate collaboration.
  • Diagonal: In organizations that follow a matrix or flattened hierarchy structure, diagonal communication occurs between people at different levels of the organization, such as lower-level employees emailing senior-level employees and vice-versa.
  • External: The first four types happen within the organization. External communication is about communicating with people outside, such as the legal or PR departments. External can also mean organizations outside the company entirely.

Con: Lack of nonverbal cues

Face-to-face communication gives added context from nonverbal cues. A shrug can indicate indecision. A frown can signal disapproval. And silence might mean you have more explaining to do.

Nonverbal communication lets you read the room and change tack if needed. Email messages are open to interpretation. Things like sarcasm, especially without emoji, can be hard to detect in written communication.

Con: Disruption due to server outages or electronic malfunction

Outages are disruptive and costly if you rely on electronic communication to support business activities, particularly email or softphones. Data compiled by Atlassian found that significant IT downtime can cost companies anywhere from $137 to $9,000 per minute and up to $1 million an hour.

Best practices for electronic communications

To get the most out of electronic communication, follow these tactics.

1. Determine which mode of communication is appropriate

What type of message are you conveying? To which audience? An announcement on your website or a press release might be the best way to reach consumers. If you want quick answers and you work remotely, use a messaging platform like Slack.

2. Know your audience

Cater the tone of your message to the recipient. If it’s your boss or the CEO, being professional is critical. If it’s a colleague you banter with, an informal tone can inspire a more positive work environment.

3. Keep your subject lines concise and descriptive

One of the tenets of sound email marketing is to grab attention right out of the gate because:

4. Be brief

Keep your texts and chats to the point. When sending emails, stick to one subject whenever possible. Get to the bottom line right away.

5. Check grammar, punctuation and spelling

Before hitting send, proofread. Poorly worded messages or texts peppered with punctuation, spelling and grammar errors look unprofessional. Even if you have an unsend option, the time window is usually only a few seconds.

6. Be polite

No matter the medium, never use offensive language. Digital messages create a paper trail. Anybody could see what you send. Don’t put anything in writing you wouldn’t want someone to see.

Make effective communication a priority

Getting everyone on the same page is the critical first step for businesses to hit their goals consistently. Take advantage of the wealth of electronic communication channels available today, and use them wisely. Using an all-in-one platform like Slack that integrates with your current tools is the most efficient way to manage your communications. Harness the power of Slack’s strategically organized channels, efficient real-time (and offline) chat, cloud-based documentation and easy automation tools to dramatically streamline your workflows and radically boost productivity.

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