E-Mail vs. IM vs. Phone vs. In-Person Meeting? | Quisitive
E-Mail vs. IM vs. Phone vs. In-Person Meeting?
March 1, 2012
Choosing the right method of communication boosts efficiency

A helpful time management principle is knowing when to pick up the phone instead of drafting a long E-Mail. New communication methods like IM and SharePoint can also help save time if you know when to use them. You can save hours in a week by implementing the tips that I have outlined below. If you have other good habits or recommendations please share them in the comments below. 

In the context of communicating with customers, a face-to-face meeting is not always possible for customer service organizations. However, these meetings are still useful in the context of a team or business unit. Face-to-face meetings are efficient time savers when you have a conflict you are trying to resolve.

Have you ever participated in a back-and-forth e-mail war? Not a very efficient use of time, was it? When you see one of these developing, stop emailing and offer to schedule a call or meeting to resolve the issue. If an in-person meeting is not possible, offer to discuss the matter further over the phone, ex: “if you would like to discuss this further, please call me.”


Mode of CommunicationProsCons
EmailFast. Scales fairly well. Sometimes necessary to document a facts.Not effective for resolving conflict
Instant Message & PresenceInstant. Great for short snappy dialogues before adding voice.Pop-ups can be disruptive  (set presence to do-not-disturb when necessary)
Not the best for documenting a response. Limited to internal team communication unless the client has IM federation enabled.
PhoneTone of voice can clarify meaningTakes longer to schedule
In-PersonTone of voice plus Body Language = Fastest way to resolve conflictTakes longest to schedule
SharePointUseful for team collaboration and documenting ideas, tips and tricks.Not a complete substitute for the other modes of communication.


  • Email is useful for most all communication and non-urgent matters. Useful for communicating or clarifying policies and procedures, or scheduling a call.
    [A wise CEO once told me that he does not communicate a new idea in an email, as that requires everyone to write a detailed response. Have a call or meeting instead.]
  • Instant Messages are useful when a candid back-and-forth email thread develops – IM is always more efficient. However, if you IM for more than a minute or two, offer to add voice as it is quicker than typing!
  • Phone calls are useful for scheduled calls, or critical issues that cannot otherwise wait to be scheduled. Unscheduled Phone calls are not recommended because you will almost always hit voicemail and commence in a phone-tag exercise. 

[If the goal is “how do I maximize my time” then try reducing back-and-forth e-mail dialogue. Pick up the phone. ]

  • In-Person meetings are useful for conflict resolution and brainstorming sessions. I also recommend having this meeting happen as soon as possible (do not let a problem linger!). Be careful to not schedule too many meetings as this can be a time-killer. Only schedule meetings that are truly necessary and make sure that there is a clear agenda communicated in advance so everyone has time to prepare. Make sure someone is responsible for taking meeting minutes, and document action items.  Follow the meeting up by sending everyone the meeting minutes and action items.  TIP: Mentally think about everyone’s salary in the room and visualize how much the meeting is costing the company. Use meetings sparingly and end the meeting early when the meeting goal has been achieved. Postpone or reschedule meetings when key representatives are unable to attend.
  • SharePoint sites are recommended for storing content and collaborating with teams. Email should not be used to document tips, tricks and ideas because they are not easily referenced for future use. Send an email to a SharePoint list or library instead of storing the content in an email.  That way the information can be indexed and surfaced in search results.