Unified communications etiquette: The do’s and don’ts

Technology alone isn’t enough to improve employee productivity and collaboration if they use it in awkward or inappropriate ways. Follow these guidelines

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Video calls … text messages … email … social media …

It seems like every day there is a new way to communicate with your colleagues, customers and vendors.

However, how do you know what’s appropriate? If your boss leaves you a voicemail, is it okay for you to respond via text?

And the more technologies you have available within your organization, the more confusing it can get.

To help you communicate more effectively, expertIP has put together this guide to the do’s and don’ts of unified communications (UC) etiquette.

Do Think About Your Audience 

In marketing, we often talk about the importance of understanding your audience. This also applies to your day-to-day communications with colleagues, vendors and customers. Before you pick up the phone or send an email, think about your audience and the technology they prefer to use. For example, leaving someone a voicemail when you know they rarely check their messages is a guaranteed way not to get a response.

You should also consider your audience when responding to messages and mirror their technology usage. For example, if someone leaves you a voicemail, call them back. If they send you a text, it’s okay to reply via text. However, responding to a voicemail with a text might be seen as offensive.

Do Create a Unified Communications Etiquette Guide

Although you should consider your audience when communicating, you should also develop an UC etiquette guide. UC tools are complex, and employees need training on not only how to use the technology but how to use it in an acceptable manner.

“An internal UC etiquette guide sets standards of what’s appropriate and what’s inappropriate within your business,” says Dr. Sandra Folk, President, The Language Lab. “This is useful for heading off problems before they arise. If someone abuses these standards, management can refer to the guide and discuss the problem in a more business-like manner, without making it seem like a personal affront.”

Don’t Assume that Just Because You Can Communicate at All Times You Should Communicate at All Times 

IT can be a 24/7 job.

But unless it’s an emergency, you should respect your colleagues’ personal time. This means no emails, phone calls or messages on the evenings or weekends.

“If you’re working late and responding to emails, you can use the delayed delivery feature in Outlook,” says Christopher Henry, President, CEO and CIO, iConcierge. “This supports work-life balance and brings down the ‘tempo’ during non-business hours. You don’t want to build the tempo or create a discussion at midnight. Although some employees – such as mangers and salespeople – check their messages at all hours, this should be the exception and not the standard.”

In addition, you should always ask, “Is now a good time to talk?” when you call someone or send them an instant message. Although you may see your colleague commenting on cat videos on Facebook, they may not have the time for a discussion.

Do Use Audio and Video for Group Communications

Using audio and video when you communicate with groups can improve the delivery and understanding of your message. A Wharton Research Center study has shown that people retain 10% of verbal presentations. However, when you add visuals to the presentation, they will retain nearly 50%.

But audio and video conferences have their challenges …

Have you ever spent the first ten minutes of a meeting trying to figure out why a participant’s microphone isn’t working?

Henry recommends that group members connect 15 minutes early to make sure that all of their technology works. “You can also use endpoint-independent meeting apps and send log-in links to group members,” says Henry. “This ensures that everyone can log in, and you can start meetings on time.”

Don’t Go AWOL 

In The 4-Hour Workweek, Timothy Ferris stresses the importance of not wasting time on phone and email. However, your boss, colleagues and customers may not agree.

It may be tempting to set your technologies to “not available” when you don’t want to be bothered, but you should do this selectively. For example, take an hour to yourself first thing in the morning, or put your phone on “do not disturb” when you’re in an important meeting. If others rely on you, it can become a problem if you’re never available.

Do Watch Your Language 

According to a study by Creative Communications and Training, “a company with 100 employees can expect to lose approximately $450,000 a year or more because of email blunders, inefficiencies, and misunderstandings.” Now imagine what that number looks like when you add all of the other UC technologies within your organization.

Since it’s easy to misread an email or text, Dr. Folk recommends that you do a tone check, or an emotional spell check, before you send out any messages. “It’s key that you read your messages before you send them to make sure that they won’t offend anyone,” she says. “A quick check also lets you know if your message is clear and reads well.”

You should also watch your use of technical jargon – especially when communicating with customers who may not know all of the latest acronyms. If you have any doubts that they won’t understand the jargon, leave it out.

What about you? What other UC etiquette tips would you add to this list? Please leave your comments below.

Learn more about UC by watching the Webinar, ‘Introducing Allstream Hosted Collaboration Solution,’ now available on-demand.

Image courtesy of jannoon028 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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