Once upon a time, communication methods were quite limited. You could ring someone on their fixed land line (and hope they would be there to answer it), you could send a fax (and trust someone would pick it up) or you could post a letter (putting its fate in the hands of the delivery services). Of course, you could – and still can – find the person you wished to contact and talk to them face to face, but, thanks to technological advances, there are now far more efficient and modern methods of communication available.
Whether you need to check something with a colleague or contact a customer, communication choices are now copious. The internet and mobile devices have dramatically changed the way we contact one another and businesses in particular have benefited from the many choices available.
Take email, for example – the ‘sliced bread’ of modern communication. Dreamt up in the 1960s, electronic mail really came into its own when personal computers and home and business internet access became commonplace. Besides threatening death for the postal service, which is often aptly described as ‘snail mail’, email has no downsides (as long as it is used responsibly!) and allows you to instantly reply to queries, fire off bulletins, send team newsletters and attach photo/video files.
Mobile phones have also moved the goalposts. Back in the day someone had to be near their land line to allow you to reach them by telephone, but the mobile phone has cut that tie. Mobile phones mean there is nowhere to hide (apart from the off button and that can be overcome by leaving a voicemail message), meaning colleagues are always contactable in a crisis.
Some firms prefer to use two-way radios rather than mobiles, seeing them as a cheaper and more secure alternative. Particularly useful in security sectors and even childcare premises, they are certainly an option for business, but lack the added benefits mobiles offer, such as text and video messaging.
Text message use quite literally has no bounds. Many companies now use it to inform customers of up-and-coming appointments, scheduled visits from repair services, estimated deadlines for refunds/deliveries or as a marketing tool to promote special offers.
The smart phone has re-written the book on communication delivering instant access to the internet, email messages, video messages, office documents, and voice recording/dictation software. The iPhone and the Blackberry (and even touch-screen tablet PCs, such as the iPad) offer the ability to communicate on all platforms, at the touch of a finger, from any location.
With workers becoming more mobile (meaning out of the office), conference calling services have really come into their own. No longer requiring specific equipment, many conference calling services now allow calls to be made from any telephone, with access to the call established through the use of a provided telephone number and access code. A private and secure environment is created, allowing colleagues, wherever they are, to get to that all important meeting!
Instant Messaging services are not without their own benefits and VoIP (such as Skype) make communicating from your computer as efficient, instant and simple as it can get.
You cannot talk about modern communication methods without touching on social network sites. LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter have crossed the boundary from pleasure to business and are useful for promotional and advertorial communication. Blogging, of course, cannot be left out, especially as it is currently being used to tell you all about the ‘modern methods of communication’!
Matt Smith – Freelance business, conference call and technology blogger.