Does "voice" communication really matter as much today in business communications?
Think about it. When you need to reach someone today, what do you do? Do you call them on the phone? Or do you send them email? Or a text message? or IM?
I know personally that my normal communication flow usually goes something like this:
Now, this flow changes if something is urgent. I believe voice is still critical when you have something to convey that might have emotional undertones (ex. negative feedback on a project that might be misconstrued in email) or when you really need answers right now on some matter. If I have to urgently get in touch with someone, the flow is usually more like:
Why don't I just start out using the phone? Really for the reason I mentioned above:
whenever I call someone I almost inevitably wind up leaving a voicemail message.
I don't remember the statistic from the messaging presentations I attended, but I seem to recall the stat being that something like 80% of phone calls wind up going to voicemail. The reality is that most of us aren't usually available to take phone calls.
Presence can help us with this. Many of the "unified communications" solutions out there have the ability to give you "telephony presence" information, i.e. is the person on the phone or not. This can help avoid the case of your phone call going to voicemail because the person is busy on the phone. (It does not help with case of the person sitting there at his/her desk not on the phone but not wanting to take the phone call.) So we can know not to initiate the call and to use some other mechanism. (such as IM'ing them "can you call me when you are done?")
Now I recognize that I'm often in the early-adopter/bright-shiny-object-chaser category, but in watching colleagues at work and how they communicated, I saw the same pattern play out. IM or Email ruled for most all communication, with IM taking an increasingly larger role. Voice was somewhere farther down in the list of communication modes.
So what does that mean for those of us in the world of telephony? I'll suggest the following:
This last point is to me why I think we are seeing so much disruption happening within the world of telephony. The fact that voice is no longer quite as critical gives us the freedom to explore how it can be used in different ways. Plus, we need to answer the question — if voice isn't the most critical way to communicate, what is? How do we integrate it all together?
What do you think? What is your communication flow? What do you use as the first way to reach someone? Do you pick up the phone? Or do you IM? or email? Do you agree that voice is less important than it once was for regular communication? What lessons do you think we need to draw from that?
By Dan York, Author and Speaker on Internet technologies. Dan is employed as a Senior Content Strategist with the Internet Society but opinions posted on CircleID are entirely his own. Visit the blog maintained by Dan York here.
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