When things go wrong or conflicts arise among coworkers, it’s easy to label it a “communication problem” and leave it at that. Often, however, labeling is less than useful, because solving communications problems can be complicated by our processes. It requires us to think hard about what we are doing, what is and isn’t working and how we might need to change the way we communicate.
Often, when it comes to communication, we would rather rely on the “way we’ve always done it.”
Instead of diving deep into the psychology of how people think, let’s look at three areas in the workplace, and see if we can revise our notions about how we communicate.
The Fax Machine
When you need to send a fax, it’s usually because there is no other way to get the information to someone - or for legal reasons. Consequently you probably only use the machine once a month, and you forget how to use it every time … like what prefixes you need to dial before the number, how to feed the document, etc.
There are other solutions. There are several software programs and online services that can make sending documents via fax as easy as sending an email. Likewise, with the right software, you can receive faxed documents as an attachment in your email box.
The Front Desk
There are a number of ways the receptionist/front desk can more efficiently communicate. Right now he or she probably answers the phone, answers questions and transfers calls to the right person. If that right person isn’t answering, it goes to voicemail or gets transferred to someone else who may or may not have answers. Let’s take a look at that model...
- Automated Attendant— The complaints about non-human phone answering systems are growing every day. But what if they were set up right? What if they asked smart questions and got you to the answer you wanted in less than a minute? They can do that. But we have to think smarter about them, and design them much better.
- Hybrid Automation— If you feel strongly about having a human answering the phone - and many companies do - you can start with the receptionist answering the phone. He or she can then transfer the caller into an automated system, often getting them to the right answer much faster.
- Software Switchboard— If you have a physical switchboard up front, maybe it’s time to replace it with a software switchboard that will operate on a computer screen. What does that add? With a software switchboard you can see all your employees, all their extensions and even who is available or already on the phone. In many ways, it gives the front desk a window into the whole company.
- Warm Transfers— A warm transfer is when the receptionist gets a call, puts the person on hold and then checks to see if the intended recipient - we’ll call him Bob - can take the call. If the receptionist had the software switchboard, she could open a chat window to Bob to see if he can take the call. This way the customer is never put on hold.
The Desk Phone
It has been said before and it will be said again (in a future blog, likely) that we need to rethink the typical desktop phone. Most believe it needs to be left behind in favor of the smartphone or softphone, and many have already done that even if that’s not the company’s policy. Let’s step back a second.
How old is your smartphone? It’s probably no more than a year or two old, if that. How old is the phone system your business owns? It’s probably 5 to 15 years old. Nevertheless, there are capabilities built into the desktop communications systems that most businesses aren’t ready to abandon quite yet. More importantly, significant advancements have been made to these systems - under the umbrella of Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) - that should be on your radar.
For example, you can have a desktop phone system that mirrors most of the functions of your smartphone including apps, bluetooth, wifi, a 7-inch touchscreen and more. When you do that, you gain all the advantages of the smartphone your employees are used to without losing the functions you want in your desktop system—transferring, conference calling, parking and more.
Improving communications throughout your organization is not an unreachable goal. It can be done in small steps or giant leaps. It can be done with changes in technology or just by simply reaching out to coworkers in new ways. It can be accomplished, but we need to reverse the mindset that says “we’ve always done it that way.”