Email, texting and social media have long been important facets of marketing and conducting business, but many still struggle to communicate effectively through these mediums.
If you think your online communication skills are in tip-top shape, there’s a good chance those around you might beg to differ. According to Udemy, an online learning and teaching marketplace, a whopping 72% of employees think their coworkers need communication skills training. Ouch!
Whether you’re a studied social media whiz or rarely stray from work lunches and phone calls, here are three common digital faux pas to watch out for and tips to improve your online interactions:
Not Responding Promptly
Rarely do people allow their physical mailboxes to become crammed to the brim while they’re home or away on vacation. But that same fastidiousness often doesn’t extend to email, where inboxes quickly become chaotic with messages from clients, leads, marketing websites, and co-workers. Things seem to disappear once everything starts piling up. Have you ever experienced that sinking feeling when you discover a long overdue correspondence languishing in the depths of your inbox?
According to Toister Solutions’ 2018 survey of 1,200 customers, an email response within 1 hour would satisfy 89 percent of customers’ expectations. It wasn’t just younger consumers looking for rapid response times; out of all generations represented, Baby Boomers who took part in the survey expected the quickest response. Customers across the board also expected a super speedy response on social media—15 minutes or less.
Tip: If you’re not responding to work emails because they’ve blurred together, set aside some time to get organized. Create subfolders and filters so reoccurring messages are immediately categorized and not jumbled up in your inbox. You can also set autoresponders to let people know you’ll get back with them asap. Many people are satisfied getting an acknowledgement that their email has been received and a response is coming their way.
The downside to the instantaneousness of online correspondences? There’s little holding us back from saying exactly what we’re thinking, when we’re thinking it.
The speed at which we communicate today can lend itself to impulsiveness—generally not the characteristic professionals want to handle their business dealings with. If someone gets on your last nerve or leaves a negative comment, you can fire back within mere seconds to vent your frustrations, all without looking someone in the eye. Knee-jerk reactions rarely produce their intended result, and you run the risk of alienating clients or ticking off important work connections if you’re trigger happy with the send or post button.
Tip: If you’re itching to send an email or post a social media comment written in in the heat of the moment, don’t—especially if it’s 2:00am. Allow yourself a moment to ruminate or sleep on the matter and reevaluate with fresh eyes. Chances are, the message you wrote while stressed or uninhibited from lack of sleep isn’t quite what you were going for. Neither were the typos. Nor the grammatical errors.
Whether by habit or reaction to looming deadlines, skim reading can seem like a good way to cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time. Similar to multitasking, skimming can actually cost you more time and headaches in the long run.
According to Front App’s analysis of 5,000 inboxes, the average number of emails per conversation were 4.5 to 5 responses. How much time have you personally spent going back and forth with clients or coworkers because the point of the original inquiry or response was missed the first, second, or third time? Email threads begin to look like Wimbledon and both parties become bewildered.
Responding without paying attention to what's being said also causes friction between coworkers. The Udemy research mentioned previously also revealed the top email pet peeve (25%) was directed at coworkers who did not read the previous message before responding.
Skim reading doesn’t only cost us time by missing nuance in our search for key words and phrases, but it changes how our brains function. Skim reading impacts comprehension, emotional intelligence, auditory processes, phonemic awareness, and more. It can make face-to-face interactions harder when characteristics like empathy slump in the pursuit of speed.
Tip: Slow down enough to fully comprehend a message to prevent frustration and time-wasting back and forth. Re-reading a message just once will improve your chances of understanding the actual meaning and can help cut down on unnecessary delays.
Along with creating more successful online interactions, this will also increase your ability to listen and empathize with work connections, clients and leads while interacting in person.
Honing your online communication skills is as easy as thinking twice before you send, re-reading to prevent confusion or delays, and getting organized so that you can attend to what matters most.
What facet of online communication do you find most challenging? Comment below and share your thoughts! We’d love to hear from you.