Globalization and growth of worldwide business collaboration means that online communication is not an optional activity, it is an essential tool in your business operation. There are clear advantages to this enormous growth but of course nothing can be totally positive, so there are certain potential disadvantages too. Most are obvious, but in this article we will clarify exactly what the key pros and cons are. With knowledge comes power, if you can see potential issues then you can do something about them before they become real problems. Equally if you can see the obvious benefits, you can improve and develop them, generating a successful business.
So what are the key advantages of online communication for businesses?
Let’s call it a pro. The power of the internet means that as long as you have a device and a connection you are available at the touch of a button. This may not always sound like an advantage but the ability to be in the loop at all times means that you are never far away from the action, and can keep your finger on the pulse. And of course not only are you available to make those vital decisions or offer you wisdom but your co-workers, colleagues, or management team are also available. Communication works both ways.
You’ve also got the great advantage of your availability to clients and theirs to you. In a global market, office hours and time zones used to cause significant difficulties. This doesn’t have to be the case any longer. The time barriers are broken down, and in general this is a plus.
Access from any device
In a very similar way to the 24/7 availability, a great advantage is your access to communication from all sorts of devices. No longer are you tied to a physical location, landline phone or desktop computer. All Mobile devices; smart phones, tablets, laptops offer access to the internet and therefore the world. You can reply or write emails and messages whilst on the go, check progress on projects, contact partners or clients whilst travelling, the list is endless.
These devices are getting better all the time, more powerful, faster, smaller. Planes, airports, trains, cars are all fitted with charge points, and other technology to make your life easier. You wonder how we ever managed without them.
And it’s not all about communication either, you can access documents from cloud storage and work on them wherever you are in the world.
Physical meetings cost time and money. Getting to the meeting is a timely concern and often means being unproductive during this time. The cost of transport, accommodation, expenses all need to be factored in. Online communication is much, much more cost effective. Not only saving you the monetary costs of the meeting itself but also you don’t have to waste additional time travelling to and from or compensating others to do it.
Even using the most costly online communication and collaboration tools is nowhere near as expensive as the need for physical meetups. Add to this messaging services, online calls- which save money on phone bills, file sharing- saving postal or delivery service costs and online communication is saving you money and time (and time is money),. The only expense that is creeping up is your electricity bill.
The fact that you can be in touch with every element of your business from anywhere at anytime and that you will save money on the need for physical communication -clear and obvious pros that everyone knows. Incredibly important but still the biggest advantage. However, there are other significant pluses too, one such is the organization and recording of communication.
Online communication lets you keep a record of all communication and gives you the chance to document discussions. You can save emails, messages and chats, you can record and often even transcribe video calls and conferences, and you can archive and file at the touch of a button. This is not only good for legal reasons but also you can go back and check details, reread messages, rewatch videos and often resolve disputes and misunderstandings by quoting the actual words.
There are plenty of tools online to help with this organization, from specialist project management software packages to basic storage systems like Google drives or just internal computer storage.
Improves the communication’s quality
Often online communication is written communication, emails, client area tickets, social media messages, even live chats -this kind of communication gives you time to think and organize your ideas, clarify, reword, assess the tone of communication and sometimes take a deep breath and stand back a little. You can consider options, and take the time needed to improve your quality. You have time you get the facts, research and not just speak from the heart or off the top of your head.
This works for all areas, the nature and tone of your messages has a tremendous effect and should not be underestimated. It is one thing getting a message across, quite another getting a message across clearly and with the correct politeness or urgency. If you are not a native speaker, you can consult a dictionary, the internet or colleague for help. Even if you are a naitve speaker you can still use spell checks and colleagues to proof read, especially very important communications.
It helps you arrange your priorities
A further advantage that is often overlooked is how easy online communication helps you prioritize your work and therefore improve your time management and productivity. You can reply to messages as and when you wish, you can write short replies or longer more detailed answers. You can signpost urgent messages, highlight and deal with the most important and put off the less critical.
We are all for more technology making the world of business easier, more productive and more profitable, breaking down barriers and saving time, money and effort. However, even we have to admit there could be some disadvantages of a reliance on online communication too. That said the technology is evolving to iron out these potential issues and improving all the time. Whether this leads to further problems down the line, we’ll all wait and see.
Internet access issues
The most obvious disadvantage of concentrating your business strategy around online communication is the need for internet access. Without the internet and electricity to supply the internet, you will grind to a halt. It happens, not very often these days but it’s a possibility that you need to bear in mind.
Additionally the internet needs to be stable, secure and speedy. This is also improving but more and more people are using the internet at peak times and traffic is intense. Losing connection or even slow connections can be extremely frustrating if you are in the middle of a crucial meeting, or vital conversation.
Lack of physical contact
Another possible downside of reliance and focus on online communication is the lack of physical presence and contact. As far as facial contact is concerned, the rise of video conferencing and meetings at least solves this problem in part. Collaboration tools also often use video links.
However, it should be noted that written communication can be misunderstood, especially the tone and great care needs to be taken. Bear in mind cultural differences and potential misunderstandings, as well as errors in grammar or spelling.
It is also still an issue that many people, mainly of the older generation still value physical meetings and this actual presence can help create understanding, trust and relationships. This goes not only for dealing with clients, sometimes you may need a hands on approach with staff too. Not that online communication necessarily has to be 100%, you can always mix your styles.
We’ve noted already how online communication can save you time and it’s certainly true. However, we’ve also noted that written communication gives you time to think, it can therefore be more time-consuming than a conversation or chat. Let’s point out that whilst this may be true, online communication does have a tendency to be far more focused and less social. As well as this aspect, spending a little more time getting things correct will save time in the long run.
Apart from technological issues the main disadvantage of online communication is perhaps the time you wait for someone to answer. Unlike verbal communication where you receive answers right away, an email may come days later, or even never, e.g. to cold emails. It may even take several rounds of messages and emails before any decision is made, which adds to overall time. However, when both parties are interested in the conversation, the response delay is usually insignificant and doesn’t affect the communication quality.
Without a shadow of doubt online communication for businesses is a valuable asset that offers more benefits than drawbacks. Every modern business these days should take control of the possibilities provided by online communication and utilize the immense benefits in order to grow and thrive.