Working in Frome in Somerset we’ve found the small business’s we work with need to cast a wider net when finding customers.  As the business population is spread across the Somerset and Wiltshire reliance upon technology to communicate efficiently is key.

With our experience in providing technology solutions (websites, IT support and training) we know there is a huge range of options.  Our job is to sort through those, listen to our customer’s problem and help them find a solution that’s right for their business today, in the future, their location and the types of information they need to communicate.  Let’s take a look through the main communication options and how they are used, and misused today.


Types of communication

Face to Face

Being in person allows you to build rapport, transfer message, meaning, intent and copies of documents.  However, all these benefits come at a cost of requiring the most amount of time especially as small town or rural locations need additional travel time between business’s.  For a lot of message types it can be the least efficient.  If you disagree with this statement I’m assuming you don’t have any eMail, Facebook or Twitter accounts!

One limit of a face to face conversation is the lack of documentation.  If you want a record of the conversation, you can still send an eMail afterward with a summary of the conversation and next actions.

A benefit of face to face is you can ensure the other person is giving their full attention to you.  All other methods of communication you do not have this guarantee.

Telephone

If you were to propose inventing a device that lets you set off an alarm anywhere in the world telling someone you need to talk to them, I doubt you’d get very far in Dragons Den!  however, it’s still the most viable option in most circumstances.

A phone call has nearly all the benefits of face-to-face plus you don’t need to add travel time.  The main limitation is you can’t transfer documentation.

A phone call is great for shorter interactions where there are likely to be questions so you can converse freely.

Messaging (WhatsApp, Slack, Text, Skype)

Born from a history of short telegrams, messaging systems can be very effective in communicating small pieces of information, informal chats, links and other snippets of information.  Consider the size of display your message is likely to be read on, anything more than a few lines of text this probably isn’t the best method to use.

These short form messages are best used if the message is disposable, while searchable logs are kept in most systems these are often awkward to search and because the subject matter tends to be transactional the context of your short message is lost if it was part of a conversation.

These are also best kept to short factual messages as you cannot easily communicate emotion with messaging.  Tone and intent can be added with Emoji however many feel this add an informality which may not be appropriate.

Our tip is to add the Emoji before your text because if the person reading a text applies an aggressive tone, adding a smiley at the end is too late as they’ve already taken the message in with the tone they’ve applied.

Skype / FaceTime

This offers a great blend of messaging, document transfer, telephone and face to face communication.  The main downside being the possibly distracted nature of the person at the other end and the reliance upon a good connection at both ends of the conversation.   You can share screens and even take control of the other person screen.  This is best used in a situation where you can schedule the call with the other person.

It is difficult to convey eye-contact while using video chat, you may find it smooths a conversation if you look into the camera while you are talking and not at the picture of the other person. The person viewing you will feel a greater connection as your eyes will be square on. Also position the other persons picture as close to the top of your monitor where the camera is to give a more natural gaze.

eMail

eMail is often the most convenient method to the sender, you can say as little or as much as you want, send documents and have a searchable record that you’ve sent a message.  It’s very easy to fire off an eMail especially if you’re in a hurry but you have no control over when the person receives the email or when they reply.  So while you’re in that urgent frame of mind the person on the other end may not be.  The person receiving an email also has the option to not send read receipts (I never do!).  When reading an eMail I can make the decision to not acknowledge now or leave it to later.

Large attachments are also troublesome in eMail, anything over 10MB should be avoided.  Take a look at the paperless tips below on better ways to send larger pieces of information.


Can, or should you go paperless?

Paperless offices have a distinct advantage both in accessibility and searchability.  All modern computer systems have the ability to index the contents of files (PDFs, Word, Excel etc.) so you can easily locate any document with a few key presses.  Documents can be shared in real-time both in the office and with workers in the field.  The business’s information can be backed up and stored in case of disaster such as fire.

There are limitations with paperless for specific situations.  For example, architectural plans which tend to be large format A0 or even larger.  There are however options that save significant costs within the office environment such as ceiling mounted projectors projecting down onto a table (estimated cost £600 for a full installation which is comparable to the cost of a large format printer but without the ongoing running costs).

Document storage

We recommend using Cloud services where your Internet connection is good, our article on Cloud Services Basics can help you understand the benefits.  These can be managed using a device called a NAS (Network Area Storage).  This small shoe size box can sit quietly in the office and act as the central server, sharing files between everyone in the office and with the correct configuration securely share those files with users outside the office.  Most of these modern systems also allow synchronisation with external cloud services such as Dropbox or Google. They also keep a real-time offsite backup of your information, also covered in our Backup Best Practice guide.  With add-ons to Dropbox you can even have version control, allowing you to step back to older versions of documents.


If you want to know more about finding the right use of technology for your small business, get in touch.  We can complete a 1-day audit on your business for £399:

  • Efficient use of communication
  • Adherence to data protection principles
  • Basic computer security checks
  • Advice on your data backup options

Which communication method will you use to contact us, face to face, eMail, website form or phone?  Get in touch: https://somersetonline.net/contact/