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A Guide to Online and Interpersonal Business Communications

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shutterstock_149924441Communication in business occurs in a variety of ways. Once upon a time it was across the shop counter or door to door, then telephones became the primary means of interaction.

Today, the average business has a variety of communication methods at its disposal, and this article looks at each of them and at how technology has improved business communications overall.

Interpersonal business communication

Face-to-face communication has always been a vital aspect of doing business. People communicate largely through visual cues rather than speech, so having a confident, professional, likeable manner is a successful business person’s number one asset.

Body language is everything, and successful business people employ various techniques to communicate effectively with others. These include:

  • Maintaining eye contact at all times.
  • Shaking hands whenever the opportunity arises.
  • Matching their tone and manner to that of the person they are conversing with.
  • Using the same body language as the other person.
  • Actively listening to determine the true meaning of a conversation.

When the conversation is via a telephone, they must rely on their vocal skills to connect with customers and colleagues, and they do this by:

  • Always speaking slowly and clearly.
  • Adjusting their tone to that of the caller.
  • Focusing solely on the caller, regardless of background distractions.
  • Observing good telephone etiquette (i.e. answering promptly and always returning calls when they say they will).

Online business communication

The digital age has dramatically expanded the communication methods available to businesses. These now include:

  • Email – This has become the backbone of business communication, allowing almost instant communication with any number of people and the ability to transmit files and documents along with each message. It is a very low cost tool compared with other means of communication, but has limitations due to its inability to communicate tone and has a high occurrence of causing misunderstandings.
  • Instant messaging (IM) – IMing is faster than email, but transmits less information in each message. It is a fast, effective way to stay in touch using short messages more often, and is a cheaper way to communicate without having to make a phone call. Errors and misunderstandings can also occur with this type of communication, however, due to its informal nature and the number of abbreviations used to reduce the size of each message.
  • Social media – This is a relatively recent development in business communication, where companies interact with their customers by blogging and via social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter with the intention of building a brand following. While this can be hugely successful when done properly, it can also backfire and cause damage to a brand if not carefully monitored and controlled.

The ultimate communication tool

While email, instant messaging and social media have all become important communication tools in the digital age, there is one technology that has totally revolutionised business communications in recent years.

This is VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), which uses the Internet to transmit voice data packets, as opposed to analogue telephony where electrical impulses travel over copper wires to their destination. VoIP has turned the humble telephone into the ultimate communication tool. It has it drastically slashed the cost of business telephony, with local, national and international calls now a fraction of the cost of traditional landline calls.

shutterstock_138016556VoIP has also opened up the opportunity for communicating in new ways. One of these is video conferencing, which allows for interpersonal communication while saving on the time and costs associated with travel. Business people can meet with their clients and colleagues face-to-face in real time, simply by sitting in front of a computer, tablet or smartphone screen and logging into a virtual meeting from wherever they happen to be. They have all the benefits of voice and visual cues, and business relationships can be created and maintained in this way sometimes without the participants ever actually meeting in person.

The other great benefit of VoIP is the staggering variety of call handling features that Internet telephony makes available. Features that were previously the preserve of large corporations are now accessible by anyone with a VoIP-enabled smart phone, and they can help even the smallest business to run like a well-oiled machine.

Features available include, but are not limited to:

  • Find-me-follow-me call routing – This allows for a call to ring on various phones until it is answered.
  • Personalised ringtones – These allow you to identify and priorities callers by their allocated ringtones.
  • Auto attendant – This is an automatic answering service that directs callers to a menu of options.
  • Voicemail transcription to email – This service translates a voice message into printed words and then emails the message to you.
  • Call screening – This allows you to view the caller’s ID before deciding how or whether to answer a call.
  • Speed dialling – This lets you dial any one of a number of pre-programmed numbers with the tap of a finger.
  • 3-way calling – This lets you hold a conversation with two other people at the same time, much like teleconferencing.

Because you have access to the Internet, VoIP phones also give you access to cloud business services and a huge range of applications that you can download to your device to improve your time management and productivity.

Business communication has come a long way from telegrams and faxes, but interpersonal communication has continued to play an important role in establishing and maintaining business relationships. And because of that, putting great technology like the tools described here in the hands of people who are naturally good communicators is the best recipe there is for ensuring business success.

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