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Asynchronous Communication Definition and Implications for Business

Updated on December 29, 2017
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Heidi Thorne is an author and business speaker with over 25 years of experience in sales, marketing, advertising, and public relations.

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Asynchronous Communication Definition

Asynchronous communication, as it applies to business, is a dialog or transmission of information between two or more parties that is not occurring at the same time. By contrast, synchronous communication is happening in real time between two or more parties. Either type of communication can occur online or offline.

(Note that asynchronous communication also has a technological definition that is not being discussed here. Click here to find out more about that on Wikipedia.)

Asynchronous communication examples in business include:

  • Email.
  • Blogs.
  • Social media.
  • Recorded webinars.
  • YouTube videos.
  • Voicemail.
  • Postal or snail mail.
  • Direct mail.
  • Texting (see discussion below).
  • Online forums.

By contrast, examples of synchronous communication would include:

  • Telephone calls.
  • Live webinars.
  • A meeting at a client office.
  • Live radio or television broadcasts, sports or entertainment.
  • Trade shows.
  • Texting (see discussion below).
  • Live online chats.

Benefits of Asynchronous Communication

Though live interaction is always preferred, what asynchronous communications provide is a solution for the space-time problem. For example, someone may not have time to talk on the phone when another party calls. So voicemail and email can make the connection and transfer information without requiring all parties' availability at the same time.

Asynchronous communication also puts greater control of the interaction in the recipient's hands. Take email for example. The sender hits the Send button and the message lands (we hope!) into the recipient's email inbox. The recipient can decide when and if he wants to open, reply to or act upon the email... or even delete the message altogether (a popular choice for many!).

Contrast this with old cold calling methods where a salesperson would phone or visit a customer prospect any time he felt like it. In the days before voicemail, caller ID and laws which prohibit door-to-door sales in many areas, handling interruptive communications of this type required turning off the phone altogether or hiring a receptionist to be a buffer from unwanted callers. From the opposite perspective, this can be very frustrating for salespeople who are trying to connect with viable prospects. But this is the new sales and marketing reality that makes inbound marketing more important than ever.

Another way asynchronous communication can make a business more effective is through online training. Video, audio and text materials can be made available online 24/7 to give employees flexibility to get education on a schedule that works for them. It also avoids the time and labor costs associated with sending employees to in-person training whether onsite or offsite.

So, in sum, asynchronous communication efforts can offer the following benefits:

  • Ability to communicate even if all parties are not available at the same time.
  • Greater control of the conversation for communication recipients.
  • Less interruptions.
  • Lower costs and greater productivity due to reduced need for in-person meetings.
  • Lower training expenses.

The Downsides of Asynchronous Communication

While asynchronous communication offers significant benefits to businesses, it also could cause additional difficulties:

  • Important non-verbal cues including body language, vocal intonation, etc. could be reduced or eliminated increasing the chances for misunderstanding.
  • Time to communicate and come to agreements could be extended by hours or days since people may take a while to reply to or act upon communications.
  • The business could be viewed as cold or impersonal.

So the benefits of using more asynchronous business communication strategies need to be weighed against the impact it could have on sales and customer service.

Is Texting Asynchronous or Synchronous?

In theory, it would appear that text messaging is asynchronous since the sender sends a message and the recipient can read or respond to it on their own time. However, in practice, many mobile phone users have such fast and frequent text messaging going back and forth that it takes on aspects of a live online chat. So, actually, it could be both asynchronous and synchronous.

Disclaimer: Any examples used are for illustrative purposes only and do not suggest affiliation or endorsement. The author/publisher has used best efforts in preparation of this article. No representations or warranties for its contents, either expressed or implied, are offered or allowed and all parties disclaim any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for your particular purpose. The advice, strategies and recommendations presented herein may not be suitable for you, your situation or business. Consult with a professional adviser where and when appropriate. The author/publisher shall not be liable for any loss of profit or any other damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages. So by reading and using this information, you accept this risk.

© 2014 Heidi Thorne

Comments

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  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    4 years ago from Chicago Area

    Hi Chinaimport! I totally agree about the positive correlation between asynchronous communication and how far we've come as a species and civilization. But I also totally appreciate the warmth that real-time human-to-human connection brings. Thank you so much for reading and your kind comments! Have a wonderful day!

  • Chinaimport profile image

    Kamal Mohta 

    4 years ago from Guangzhou

    I always believed that asynchronous communication has a positive correlation with the advancement of human civilization. The more time we spend on asynchronous communication the more sophisticated technology we use.

    I do also believe that synchronous communication such as face to face meeting or phone call will never be out of fashion.

    It's a great article that you wrote. Thanks for sharing.

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    4 years ago from Chicago Area

    Hi Nell Rose! I love email for the same reason. I can clearly think through what I want to say. For business, this is a godsend. Though I enjoy socializing face-to-face, the objectives for those interactions are different. For email, it's business. Face-to-face has the high value social factor that can help business. It all works together. Have a beautiful week ahead!

  • Nell Rose profile image

    Nell Rose 

    4 years ago from England

    I believe that both sides have equal value, I know that by emailing someone I can sit and think about what to say and write, compared to face to face or on the phone, so yes I do prefer it, but it all depends on the situation, nell

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    4 years ago from Chicago Area

    Hi midget38! I have had some great online chats with friends in Hangouts, too. This one group and I have been video chatting since 2009 and we struggled through all the unstable and insecure chat sites until Hangouts came along. It's wonderful and we've been able to keep out a lot of the riff raff. Thanks for adding your experience to the conversation! Have a wonderful day!

  • midget38 profile image

    Michelle Liew 

    4 years ago from Singapore

    I have been using asynchronous communication (Google Hangouts) to chat with online writer friends all over the globe! I'd say it has its ups, though we need to be careful.

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    4 years ago from Chicago Area

    Hi spartucusjones! I think a lot of us would like to avoid social networking at times. :) But, you're right, it is important and unavoidable these days. Like you, without email my business could not function. Thanks for stopping by and reading! Have a great day!

  • spartucusjones profile image

    CJ Baker 

    4 years ago from Parts Unknown

    Very informative read. Even though I have a diversion to some forms of asynchronous communication (such as social networking) I realize that they are important and unavoidable. Also much of my work is done through email contact which means I don't have to commute for work. I also have a diversion to phone calls, so it saves me from that as well.

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    4 years ago from Chicago Area

    FlourishAnyway, though I do enjoy face-to-face immensely, asynchronicity is so much more effective and efficient. Like you, especially when transacting business, I need to be able to think through the inquiry or request (and sometimes do research) before I confirm anything. By looking into all the details before responding, I don't waste my customer's time either. That's why I've removed my phone number from my website and funneled inquiries through the website or email (it also gets rid of the telemarketers which further waste my time and energy). So I leave the live synchronous communications for networking efforts.

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting! Have a lovely weekend!

  • FlourishAnyway profile image

    FlourishAnyway 

    4 years ago from USA

    I like how you pointed out the pros and cons. People aren't always on the same timeline. I sometimes need time to process or consider what someone is pitching or describing and like being able to control my response time. I like asynchronicity.

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    4 years ago from Chicago Area

    Got that right, suzettenaples! Luckily, technology is helping us with communication in our over-multitasked lives. But we need to know when and how to use it right. Thanks for comments and stopping by! Have a great day!

  • suzettenaples profile image

    Suzette Walker 

    4 years ago from Taos, NM

    Very interesting and informative article on communication in today's busy life.

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    4 years ago from Chicago Area

    Hi Suzanne Day! I so agree that asynchronous communication tools such as email can bring order to business conversations (as well as documentation!). And, yes, the newbies to the e-comm world sometimes need encouragement to get on track. I've seen this happen on many occasions. Once the "system" is in place, it becomes the new norm. Thanks so much for adding the insight on orderliness to this conversation! Have a wonderful week ahead!

  • Suzanne Day profile image

    Suzanne Day 

    4 years ago from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

    A very unusual and informative hub! After using email for a long time to communicate with my clients, you forget that they really might be out of sync with you time-wise as you develop a way to keep the conversation going without gaps and stutters. I find email and text can actually be helpful with communication as the conversation is conducted in a more orderly fashion, first one person "speaks", then the other. It's only when people new to email or texting don't reply for days on end that you can get alarmed about their communication skills! Voted useful.

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    4 years ago from Chicago Area

    Hi sgbrown! Yes, indeed, asynchronous communication is becoming more and more of the way in which we connect with each other. Honestly, I'm kind of glad for that. But nothing beats in-person face-to-face conversation. Thanks for stopping by and have a great weekend!

  • sgbrown profile image

    Sheila Brown 

    4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

    Very informative hub! Asynchronous communication definitely has it's place in our world today. :)

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    4 years ago from Chicago Area

    Hi, billybuc! I prefer meeting people F2F, too. But I always make appointments for that (or go to events) so that all of us are prepared to communicate. You have a great weekend, too!

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 

    4 years ago from Olympia, WA

    Nice job of pointing out the plus and minus of this aspect of business. I prefer face to face of course because I believe body language is so important. Have a great weekend, Heidi.

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