No less than 2.4 million spam emails are sent every second, says Richard Harris from Okappy, but, he says, this isn’t the only reason why business communication is broken. So how do we fix it?

In the time it takes you to read these words - over 4 ½ million spam emails will have been sent. Almost 6 ½ million emails will have been sent in total.

205 billion emails are sent each day of which 70% are spam. This equates to 2.4 emails per second and 74 trillion emails per year. (Source: Email Statistics Report, 2015-2016 Radicati Group)

It’s now more likely than ever that the emails you send will end up in someone’s spam folder. But this isn’t the only reason why business communication is broken; we’re inundated with messages across a multitude of different apps from WhatsApp to Facebook to Slack.

Given the deluge in electronic communications, you would think that the paperless office will have finally turned into a reality. Unfortunately, we’re still drowning under a mound of paper with over 2.47 million trees cut down each day, a lot of which is used for paper forms, job sheets and printed invoices.

So although it may seem like we’re in a golden era of communication, we’re actually finding it harder than ever to (excuse the pun) separate the wood from the trees and be able to communicate effectively with our employees, customers and subcontractors.

You might send a job sheet, email or message but will it be read or understood? Read on to see why broken communication is a big issue for companies and what the best companies are starting to do about it.

How does broken communication affect companies?

Broken communication can lead to a multitude of different issues including time wasted copying information from one place to another. Disputes with customers over incorrect invoices and arguments with employees and the finance department about overtime paid.

More and more time is spent on administration trying to find information and then having to correct it if it’s wrong. This becomes even harder when information is finally found but is out of date or out of mind.

When we speak to prospects, one of the biggest gripes they raise is around missed or late jobs and missed or late invoices.

Even when you’re job sheet, email or invoice has reached its destination. It still has to compete with the hundreds of other communications that are received throughout the day. On average we all receive about 140 emails per day. And that’s if your email has even reached their inbox. With so many spam messages being sent now, email programmes such as Microsoft Outlook and Google Mail and working harder than ever to fight the spammer. Unfortunately this often means your own emails can get caught by overzealous spam programmes.

If communication is broken, how do you fix it?

If you do have to send emails, then think about how you are sending them. Tips include

Getting on your customers white list or contacts list. Ensuring contact details are kept up to date and not sending spammy sounding emails

There are a lot of choices nowadays for different communication options. So choose wisely. If you’re going to send short throaway messages, then maybe instant messages are best using applications such as WhatsApp or Slack. If you want to keep longer messages, then perhaps email is the route to go.

In the past businesses have been largely left behind by the communication revolution. With companies relying on emails for their main form of communication or even worse, relying on paperwork.

However, the communication revolution is starting to impact businesses as well with communication tools such as Slack growing rapidly. Microsoft is also looking at this space with its purchase of Linkedin in 2016 and the introduction of its Team products, which are aiming to take on Slack. Facebook Workplace has also been launched recently.

One other growth area is so called market networks. These are expected to revolutionise communication within and between companies and streamline how they operate.

The introduction of market networks

If the late 1990s and early 2000’s was characterised by the growth of social networks, the last few years have been all about market places then, the next 10 years is expected to be dominated by market networks; a combination of the benefits of social networks, online marketplaces and cloud based software as a service.

The aim of a market network is to streamline and improve communication across a unified platform where you can connect to your customers and subcontractors, send focused messages and keep everyone up to date in real time.

There are a number of examples including my own company – Okappy which is currently growing in the electrical contracting, plumbing and drainage sections. In the events planning space you have HoneyBook and for start-ups you have Angelist.

Each is about easing the pain of communication, ensuring information is readily available and in the hands of those who need it.

This means that message gets through to the right person. If information isn’t ready then you know straight away. Using market networks can cut down on paperwork and ensure that invoices are paid on time and with a minimum of disputes. If you’ve ever tried reading an electricians handwriting you’ll know that relying on a paper job sheet is not the best way to understanding what work you are paying for.

As information is stored on one unified platform, it is easily searchable which helps when managing your business and responding to customer queries. In this day and age you also have a legal obligation to maintain adequate records. For further information see my article on the importance of good record keeping.

Is it safe to say that communication is fixed?

At the end of the day, whatever the medium, communication is still about transferring information from one person to another. Whatever platform you use, you still need to think about what you’re saying and how you respond. Most importantly communication is still about listening.

By Richard Harris, director, Okappy