As we spend more time in digital spaces and more workplaces move to remote or hybrid models for employees, our communication styles are changing too. We’re relying less on real-time conversations – synchronous communication – and becoming more versatile with our interactions. Asynchronous communication is allowing us to get more done on our own time than ever before.
Synchronous communication, or real-time interactions, could be thought of as the traditional way of interacting. Pre-internet, conversations across a desk, over the phone, or in meetings were simply how things got done. Synchronous communication was largely the way of the world – aside from snail-mail and one-sided communication like advertising.
So what is asynchronous communication? Since the explosion of our digital world, it has become ubiquitous. Email, text messaging, collaboration platforms, and video messaging allow people to communicate and hold conversations over time and on their own time. The delays between each party’s input can even facilitate greater collaboration, honesty, and thoughtfulness.
In some cases, asynchronous communication is expected and preferred to synchronous communication. But each still has its place in the world of human relations.
Using Asynchronous Communication
Asynchronous communication allows us to interact with each other on our own time, rather than scheduling a meeting or jumping on a call. It provides an ideal solution for keeping in touch with people across time zones or with schedules different from our own. By sending information through a collaborative platform – logging details in a CRM, for example – the receiver is able to make use of it when they need it and respond accordingly.
However, asynchronous communication isn’t always the best way to give or receive information. This style of communication lacks urgency. If relied upon too heavily, asynchronous communication can result in missed deadlines, opportunities, or more dire consequences. An emergency service, for example, could never use this form of communication to respond to customers.
Examples of Asynchronous Communication
Almost any form of communication that doesn’t require an immediate response or reaction from the receiver falls into the category of asynchronous communication.
Tools for asynchronous communication include:
- Customer FAQs and tutorial clips allow brands to provide information for their customers to access when and where they need it.
- Text messaging, email, direct messaging, and ‘instant’ messaging all enable the receiver to access information when they are ready to and respond in their own time.
- Project management tools and CRM systems are asynchronous collaboration tools that detail interactions and processes so users can engage over a period of time rather than in real time (although real-time collaboration may also be possible). Crazy Egg has a good list of project management tools here. Even file sharing tools like Google Drive or Dropbox can be considered tools for asynchronous communication.
When to Use Asynchronous Communication
Asynchronous communication is ideal when information is not urgent or more thought needs to be given before a response can be provided. Team collaboration is an ideal situation for asynchronous communication – people need to access information at different times to perform their part of the project, and the record of conversations and detail can support better engagement for the team.
Asynchronous communications in sales, such as text messaging, can also drive engagement as it can appear less pushy while still delivering information a prospect needs to make their decision. When combined with synchronous communication, asynchronous interactions can build more trust and move prospects toward closing deals faster.
Using Synchronous Communication
Sometimes, all we want is someone to listen to our problem and sort it out right then and there. That’s when synchronous communication works its magic. 69% of customers try to resolve issues on their own before reaching out to brands. When they reach out, they’re done with asynchronous communication – it’s a real-time collaboration they’re looking for!
Live chat and phone calls are the primary tools for these sorts of conversations, although video calling has grown in popularity over the past few years. In these situations, a standard synchronous communication protocol should support first-time resolutions for customers. If this simply isn’t possible, a robust CRM is necessary. This stops customers from needing to repeat details to have their problems solved.
Examples of Synchronous Communication
All real-time communication is synchronous, each party is engaged and interactions are dynamic. Sometimes this kind of communication is the only one that will do the job.
- Phone calls and live chat – put customers in touch with someone who can listen and resolve their issue then and there.
- In-person meetings and video conferences – face-to-face meetings help teams collaborate and bounce ideas off each other to come up with new innovations, solutions, and ideas.
- “Water cooler” conversations – sharing information over short breaks with colleagues strengthens workplace relationships and can help to keep people from feeling isolated or left out.
- Socializing – getting together with others and interacting in real-time is good for our health and wellbeing. We are social creatures that thrive on being a part of a community.
When to Use Synchronous Communication
Synchronous communication should be used when time is of the essence and the dynamism of real-time communication will help to generate new ideas or innovations, and strengthen ties between groups. Whether you’re providing urgently needed support or simply lending a listening ear, synchronous communication is the only way to satisfy these needs.
Balancing Communication – Asynchronous and Synchronous Communication
No one style of communication is inherently better or worse than another. Ideally, both types of communication should be used by teams, between customers and companies, and even in personal relationships. The key is to not become too reliant on one style and instead use both as needed. Pausing to consider the nature of your message and the situation and environment of the recipient should be enough to decide which style of communication is most appropriate.
When both synchronous and asynchronous communication are used in partnerships, we can build stronger connections, more flexible relationships, and create better conditions for people to work and prosper in. Being mindful of where, how, and when we communicate can increase the productivity of our teams and the satisfaction of our customers. Becoming proficient in both synchronous and asynchronous communication methods can set brands above their competition.