If you’re reading this, you probably use typed text and video calls to communicate with clients – something many Aussies have come to rely on during the COVID pandemic.
We take a look at the problems and solutions around digital communication and find out how to streamline its efficiency in the workplace.
It means email, sms, social media, video calls – a long list of pretty much any communication that’s not face to face.
It also includes an organisation’s marketing material, website and blogs.
As easy and convenient as digital communication is, it can be the source of confusion, misunderstandings and loss of productivity for a business.
A 2021 study of around 2,000 professionals from industries including business management, real estate, sales and finance found up to 10% of a week’s work hours are lost to poor digital communication.
Further impacts of poor digital communication include
- 48% of millennials (born 1981-1996) experience digital communication anxiety
- 75% of those surveyed say they experience a lack of communication when relying on digital means
- 71% report feeling their supervisor does not value their work
- 36% of employees report feelings of low trust when communicating digitally
Digital anxiety or digital stress
This means stress caused by negative interactions in email, text, social media and other digital communication. It also includes anticipating negative reactions or misunderstandings as well as overanalysing correspondence after receiving it.
For example, if you’ve sent a vague message to someone and they’ve come back asking for more clarification, they’ve likely experienced some form of digital anxiety.
The term also includes overwhelming notifications, online bullying and negative online culture.
Poor digital communication can have consequences too
It’s easy to get confused by digital communication when you’re on the receiving end. Consider the following message;
- ‘By email’
- ‘By email?!?’
- ‘BY EMAIL?!?’
Depending on the use of caps or adding ‘?!?’, the emotion attached can change considerably. Urgency, excitement, impatience and irritation can all be conveyed by simply using caps and punctuation marks.
Research also shows that only around 50% of people accurately interpret sarcasm in written words, compared to 80% when hearing it out loud.
Experts also say that when using video conferencing like Zoom or Google Meet, it’s extra obvious when someone gets distracted with their phone or other tasks.
Loss of eye contact with the camera, replies in sounds like ‘mmm’ rather than words and the sound of typing in the background are signs that someone isn’t paying attention.
The effects of poor digital communication can be severe
Other than wasting time (and money) through miscommunication and the need for clarification, poor digital communication can affect a business in other ways.
Bad customer service
This can result from employees and representatives not having the exact information they require to service a customer. It can also result when a customer receives vague or unclear updates or instructions.
For example, a common source of confusion in the asset finance industry is certified copies. Do the copies have to be JP witnessed or can a dentist or pharmacist sign a copy as per Google results?
Lower employee productivity
When staff receive blunt, short or vague messages and updates from team members, lower productivity can often result. The need for clarification and confirmation takes time.
This can get worse as people avoid others they may have received vague messages from in the past.
When giving prospective customers and/or those new to finance instructions, it’s easy to assume they know the lingo. Unclear or misunderstood instructions are a common source of frustration.
This can also happen in promotional material. It’s not uncommon to have customers assume they’re eligible for a certain product only to be disappointed upon finding out they’ve misinterpreted the details.
Tips to avoid poor digital communication
Emojis are great at expressing and clarifying feelings – assuming it’s the right one. Emojipedia is a good resource as you can copy paste them and check their meaning. As these are so common in digital communication today, don’t feel they’re too unprofessional, especially in social media and light-hearted correspondence.
Minimise short, blunt messages
People often get confused by short answers, especially if in response to a complicated matter. Make sure to write a full sentence or more, so that the reader fully understands.
Use full stops correctly (and carefully)
Similarly to the above, even adding a full stop after a word can come across in a negative tone. For example;
Using a full stop can signal, “this conversation is over” rather than “Okay, sure, we both agree”.
Bashing out a quick message to a friend or close colleague is something second nature to most people but if you’re sending messages riddled with typos to clients, it can come across as rushed or even angry.
Give you messages and emails a quick read over to not only check for typos but also any emotional issues. For example, “let’s talk” can mean a simple chat about work or it can mean a serious matter needs to be dealt with. “Help me understand” is another sentence that can easily be taken the wrong way.
Use video calls if / when message or email conversations get long
When conversations through messages or email back and forths get long, invite the other person or people to join a video call. With tones in voices and the ability to see a face, miscommunications are far less likely to occur.
Avoid emails when you need a yes / no response
Many people see emails as less than urgent and they often get buried in inboxes. If you need a simple yes / no response or similar, give that person a call or use another channel.
If you can help it, don’t put off replying
It’s easy to let replies to messages turn into a chore. When they get put off and postponed, the other person can quickly lose patience, especially if they consider it a simple question.
Furthermore, completing other tasks before replying can mean spending time rereading and checking what the issue was regarding.
Keep a record of customer pain points
Finally, try to keep a record of complaints or comments from clients. These might be a simple comment over the phone, online review or a formal email.
If you find numerous people struggling with a certain step along their financial journey, you’ll know it’s time to retool and improve the process.
Digital communication overall
If you’re concerned about your communication, a good first step is to start rereading your texts before sending. Better yet, try an online tool like Reverso or Grammarly – just make sure they’re set to British English to suit Australian readers.