Instant messaging was once the sole domain of the tech geeks. From the early incarnation of IRC (internet relay chat), it gradually made its way into the mainstream thanks to the popularity of MSN Messenger and has now all but replaced other forms of communication following the explosion of social media
Instant messaging is everywhere. Need to chat to your supplier about that last gas bill? You'll probably jump on their website and start an online chat session. Fancy a catch-up with your sales team? A WhatsApp group chat will likely be the most convenient for all involved.
Communication is changing and, as a result, businesses have had to adapt quickly.
Common business uses for instant messaging
Think instant messaging is a one trick pony? Think again. Here are some brilliant uses for it in business:
- Customer service. Your customers will probably do all they can to avoid picking up the phone. Make it easy for them to get in touch with you by offering instant messaging. If it's there, they'll use it.
- Internal communication. In some businesses, Slack has replaced email. Could it do the same for your team?
- Sales. Just like customer service, if potential customers can reach you with a click of a button, they will.
- Beta testing/customer feedback. If you're a software developer, by integrating online chat into your beta products, you can gain live, instant, crucial feedback from testers which may be otherwise lost via other forms of communication.
Why use instant messaging for business?
If you're still of the mindset that instant messaging is nothing more than a time-sapping distraction best reserved for Facebook addicts, think again. The following five reasons demonstrate why your business should invest in instant messaging.
- It's a universal skill. It is estimated that there will be 6.1bn smartphone owners globally by 2020. And, if you've got a smartphone, the chances are you're used to instant messaging. It is, after all, a form of communication that has evolved from the humble text message. Most people have sent a text message, so their ability to start using instant messaging effectively will be as intrinsic as they come. That means less training and higher productivity.
- It's cost effective. The cost effectiveness of instant messaging for business is perhaps its most significant advantage. In some businesses, services such as Slack can all but replace traditional forms of communication, and, from a customer service perspective, online chat may negate the need for an expensive telephone system to handle multiple incoming calls.
- It's secure. There are two forms of instant messaging available: public and private. It was once the case that the former was to be strictly avoided in business, given its susceptibility to cyberattacks, but that's changing, fast, with services such as WhatsApp implementing cutting edge end-to-end encryption for every message sent.
- It encourages efficient communication. SMS and Twitter have taught us all to say more with less and instant messaging, by its very nature, also encourages short, concise messages. No one wants to trawl through drawn-out emails or take long, needless telephone calls, and instant messaging can be just the tonic for communication fatigue.
- It's mobile. Any instant messaging client worth its salt will have apps available for both desktop and mobile and possess the ability to synchronise messages across all devices. This can be a lifesaver for businesses when crucial status updates or requests need to be issued quickly and to all employees no matter where they happen to be.
Still not convinced your business needs instant messaging? With so many free trials and service tiers available, you can do a lot worse than try it out. Start small by experimenting with IM internally for just one or two departments or colleagues. As confidence and productivity increases, you should find word about its many benefits starts to spread.
Blog written by Mark Ellis of BusinessFiction.co.uk