The business landscape and workplace has changed drastically in recent years. Professional environments are growing more “digitized”, as companies look for ways to reduce operating costs, align distributed (hybrid and remote teams), and boost productivity.
In this changing landscape, the way employees communicate, both with each other, and with customers, has evolved. We now have endless options for live (synchronous) communication and asynchronous interactions. The challenge is in figuring out which communication method makes the most sense in different scenarios.
Here’s your guide to live vs asynchronous communication.
Let’s start by defining synchronous communication, or “live” communication. This refers to any form of communication that happens in real-time. Face-to-face discussions, phone calls, video conferences, and so on are all forms of synchronous communication.
For most people, synchronous communication is the most natural way to share information. We’re used to talking to people in-person, or over the phone when we want an immediate response.
There are many situations where “live” communication makes a lot of sense. For instance, when you’re onboarding a new customer, being available to answer their questions in real time delivers a better level of service. When you’re building rapport with a new prospect, a live conversation allows for a more human level of “natural back-and-forth”.
Used correctly, live communication can lead to:
Of course, there are downsides to synchronous communication too. For instance, a live conversation can draw a person’s attention away from another more important task in the workplace. It can also be difficult to arrange a time when people can communicate freely, particularly if two members of a discussion are located in different time zones.
In instances where synchronous communication makes sense for your business, it’s important to ensure you’re taking the right approach to empowering and aligning teams. Some of the best ways to improve “live communication” include:
It also helps to ensure people have a variety of different ways to communicate in real-time, from phone conversations to video conferencing, and in-person interactions. Use complementary tools like calendaring software to streamline the scheduling process.
Where synchronous communication refers to live, real-time interactions, asynchronous communication covers all interactions that encounter “delays” between messages. In other words, it’s when you communicate with someone without expecting an immediate response.
Common methods for asynchronous communication include emails, or direct mail, sending messages through collaboration tools or project management apps, text messages, video recordings, and asynchronous meetings.
When an immediate response isn’t necessary, asynchronous communication can be extremely useful. It can be a great way to deliver training and guidance to employees in a high-performance team, without disrupting the flow of work, or just keep employees updated about workplace changes.
Used correctly, asynchronous communication benefits from:
On the other hand, asynchronous communication can be frustrating. There’s no sense of immediacy, so people are left waiting for a response for longer. Plus, because you’re not interacting with someone in “real-time” it’s much harder to build an emotional, human connection.
Asynchronous communication is becoming increasingly common in a world where employees are working in distributed environments and geographies. It’s also crucial to the sales cycle for many companies, allowing businesses to nurture relationships over time.
However, once again, you need a strategy to boost the outcomes of your communication efforts:
Additionally, it’s worth looking for opportunities to use asynchronous communication as often as possible. A message or email can be an excellent replacement for a meeting or complex conversation when you want to avoid disrupting your team member.
Asynchronous and synchronous communication methods both have their pros and cons to consider. One option isn’t necessarily “better” than another. Rather, both forms of communication are valuable in different circumstances. If you want to improve your internal and external communication strategy, the key to success is choosing the right communication method for each use case.
Thinking about the following factors will help you make the right decision:
One of the first things to think about when choosing the right communication style, is who you’re communicating with. Everyone has their own preferences when it comes to communication. Younger generations tend to prefer asynchronous communication methods like text and messaging over phone calls or face-to-face conversations. Older generations may prefer more “live” discussions.
At the same time, you need to think about what the objectives of the discussion are. If you’re trying to build a relationship with a customer or brainstorm new ideas with a colleague, live communication makes more sense. If you’re just sharing updates on your brand guidelines with your team, a face-to-face conversation probably isn’t necessary.
Next, think about how quickly you need the person you’re communicating with to respond to whatever you say. Some forms of communication don’t require a response at all, like when you broadcast information about your company’s most recent accomplishment to your team.
Others require rapid feedback, such as when you want to find out the answer to a crucial question, or when you need to assess a customer’s response to your sales pitch. If a conversation requires immediate responses from both sides, synchronous communication is best.
Finally, one other variable to consider is the complexity of the communication required. If you’re training a new team member in your sales business, you might be able to share quick tips and insights through an email or a video recording. However, if you need to walk someone through a complicated process, like mastering a cold call with step-by-step instructions, live communication makes sense.
Ask yourself whether you have the capacity to convey the right information to someone else without their immediate feedback, and whether they’ll be able to get the most value from your message, without having to clarify certain points.
If you think the person that you’re communicating with is going to have questions, or need additional clarity, then arranging a meeting or real-time conversation will speed things along.
No matter your business, or the industry you serve, effective communication will always be critical to your chances of success. The right approach to internal communication ensures collaboration between staff members, helps promote knowledge sharing, and keeps your employees aligned.
The best external communication strategy, when you’re connecting with clients and customers, strengthens your relationships with your target audience, and builds rapport. In most business environments, you’ll need to use a combination of both asynchronous and synchronous communication to drive the right results.
The key is learning which strategies work best for which circumstances.
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