Choosing the Right Communication Tool at the Right Time

Man holding cell phone and laptop computer

When it comes to how we connect with others, we all have personal preferences. Whether your go-to communication method is emailing, texting or calling, each has its ideal time and place. We can pick up the phone and talk to someone, shoot off an email or send a quick text. Each method has benefits and, in some cases, limitations. The choice we make often comes down to opting for the channel we feel most comfortable using based on the reason we’re reaching out to someone in the first place. 

The beauty of having options is that we’re not limited to just one. The three tools listed above can be used individually or collectively. Sometimes using two of them in tandem is the most direct way to get results. For example, sending someone a text to let them know you’d like to speak with them on the phone is a fast and convenient way to agree on a time when both people will be available.  

Why take the chance of calling only to have it go to someone’s voicemail? Will the other person even listen to your message? Data shows that the answer is increasingly becoming “no.” It’s not surprising that companies like Coca-Cola have scrapped voicemails altogether to improve employee productivity. Instead, try reaching out with a text to set up a time for both parties to talk. It only takes a few seconds and it can prevent you from playing an endless game of phone tag; a game that nobody ever wins. 

Shared and unique benefits of email, texting and phone calls

Venn Diagram Communication Methods

Email Subject line: Can we talk? 

Sure, it’s true that the same tactic can be used for email. You can send a message asking the other person about their availability for a call, but the chance that they’ll see the message in a timely manner will be lower. Since most people with cell phones have them within eyesight or earshot throughout the day, being alerted that a text has arrived gets their attention quickly. And since reading a text is usually faster than reading an email thanks to character limits that encourage the writer to get to the point faster, the person reading the message is also likely to respond sooner so no one is left waiting 

Email also has its place at the top of the “which method to use” list. It’s just a matter of knowing when to use it for the best ROI for your time. If you need to send a standard document, then email is hands-down the better option. You can send attachments of original documents that the receiver can open and then take the appropriate action. You can also include a lot more information per message compared to texting, which may be beneficial depending on the context or reason for the email.   

While texting is a fast and effective communication tool, sending documents using SMS (short message service) or MMS (multimedia messaging service) can have its limits. Although texting allows the user to send an image of a document (such as a photo of your driver’s license to an insurance company so they can process your new auto policy), its generally better suited for quick visual approvals of documents and not the documents themselves. It’s also ideal for quick chats, and in the case of businesses, sending alerts, reminders and automated responses; tasks that would otherwise take up valuable time for employees during the work week.MMS for recruiting driver's license

Phone Caller ID: Mom  

Phone home. It’s more than a line from the film, E.T. Sometimes it’s a reminder to call Mom. 

When you want to speak with someone directly and would benefit from an immediate back-and-forth conversation, a phone call is the better choice. If hearing the other person’s voice is important, as in emergency situations or just preferred as when talking to a loved one, picking up the phone and reaching out to connect with someone in a more personal way and on an emotional level makes sense.  

However, research shows that younger generations (Generation Y and Z, specifically), shy away from talking on the phone in favor of texting. Whether it’s because they feel anxious about being put on the spot due to a lack of practice—many grew up in the age of the internet where options other than talking on the phone were available—there’s a growing trend toward texting that is expanding among all age groups, including Baby Boomers and Generation X. And businesses are taking note.  

More and more companies are adopting software that enables employees to send and receive texts from their laptop and desktop computers and mobile devices. It’s proving to be a very effective way to connect with customers. And the timing couldn’t be better. Our survey on generational texting found that 64% of Baby Boomers, 76% of Gen X, 82% of Gen Y (aka “millennials”) and 83% of Gen Z wish more business would text them. 

Text: Are you free to talk in 15 minutes? 

When you want to check in with a friend while waiting for an appointment, let your dentist’s office know you’re running late or send a family member a funny meme to cheer them up, texting gets your message to them in an instant. As noted earlier, it’s also a great way to check with someone to see if they’re available to talk before you take your chances and hit that “call” button. 

With texting, the world is at your fingertips. You can tap out a quick message to your sister, send a reminder text to yourself to pick up milk after work, share the perfect GIF, or text your florist to see if they have pink peonies in stock—saving you a trip to their shop. It’s also great for rapid-fire dialogues or leisurely exchanges. Texting is a flexible medium that suits your needs, whatever they may be.  

 

Cell phone conversation

How email, texts and phone calls work together   

As referenced above, email, texts and phone calls all have a place in our everyday lives, and each can stand on its own as an effective form of communication. However, many of their benefits overlap with each other, as shown in the bullet points below. Depending on the task at hand, picking the best way to connect usually comes down to what will work best for your specific situation. 

While many of us stick to one or two of these tools out of habit, trying a new way of doing things could be fun, and it might even make us more productive. Rather than keep putting off making a call because you don’t feel like talking, send a text first to get the conversation started. You never know, it might even eliminate the need for a call. 

Or maybe you don’t feel like checking your email because you don’t want to wade through a sea of messages. By letting the folks that you communicate with most know that you or your business prefers texting, it could reduce the number of emails cluttering your inbox. And that in turn can make you more likely to check your email more often, even if it’s just to delete all those spam messages. 

Which communication tool or combination of tools works best? 

  • Sending photos: text, email 
  • Relaying quick messages: text 
  • Unlimited message length: email, phone 
  • Offers message read receipts: text, email 
  • Sending original documents: email 
  • Having private conversations in public: text, email 
  • Sending scheduled messages: text, email 
  • Sending automatic replies: text, email 
  • Sending mass messages: text, email 
  • Engaging in more personal communication: text, phone 
  • Hearing your loved one’s voice: phone 

Ultimately, the choice is yours when it comes to how you start a conversation. The method you choose will probably depend on who you’ll be contacting. Is it a business or personal matter?  

If it’s the latter and your company is an SMB, Franchise, Mid-market or Enterprise-level organization, texting can be a powerful tool to reach your customers.  

For tips on developing a texting communication strategy and building stronger customer relationships, download our free e-book: The Ultimate Guide to Texting Your Customers. 

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