The ping of instant messages is now commonplace in organizations worldwide. Many of us already use messaging apps to connect with friends and family, and worldwide, accounts have hit over eight billion. So, it’s no surprise that business instant messaging apps have also exploded. Fast and efficient, what’s not to like about corporate instant messaging, right?
There’s no doubt that instant messaging platforms have much to offer as an effective internal communication channel. Many companies are using them to connect hybrid teams and improve customer service. But in the business world, is it all good news? While there are plenty of advantages to using instant messaging tools, there are also a few downsides.
This post covers all you need to know about business instant messaging apps. You can then make an informed choice about whether they are right for your organization.
Topics covered include the following:
- pros and cons of instant messaging in the workplace
- ground rules to support the successful implementation of instant messaging at work
- popular instant messaging platforms
What Is Business Instant Messaging?
Instant messaging software enables users to send and receive messages in real-time. Instant messengers mean business users can quickly and efficiently communicate using text, video, and voice calls. Some chat apps also allow for screen sharing and video conferencing.
Messages can be public or private. You can communicate directly with one user or create group messages. The best instant messaging apps also include shared chat spaces.
To take team communication to the next level, all workers need to do is download the software to desktops or mobile devices.
What Are The Benefits Of Instant Messaging At Work?
Instant messaging is a quick and convenient way for people to communicate. The best part about it? You don’t need to worry about following a dress code!
It’s an alternative internal communication channel without having to sit face-to-face or pick up the phone. Using instant messaging means connections can be made in real-time, bypassing long email chains and unnecessary office meetings.
An instant messaging app allows for faster replies, which means less time spent on tasks and more efficient outcomes.
Real-Time Internal Communications
Many projects are fast-moving, and the ability to make decisions on the hoof is a big plus for companies. With an instant messaging app, you can hold a real-time conversation online with one or more team members.
Instant messaging for business, or group chat, as it’s also called, is a handy tool in hybrid workplaces. On-the-move or remote workers have instant access to office-based colleagues.
When it comes to business communication, team chat trumps traditional channels like email and phone calls. There’s often a time lag with emails and no guarantees they will be opened, let alone read. Plus, phone calls usually mean workers have to stop what they are doing to take a call. And how often have you wasted time playing phone tag with a colleague or getting an out-of-office email?
By contrast, with business instant messaging, you can see when a colleague is online and ready to chat. And you can cut to the chase with a short message. An instant message doesn’t have the formality of an email or the requirement for polite conversation that goes with a phone call. From a VoIP perspective, you can always look at the phone.com competitors for a VoIP business phone system.
Furthermore, features like #channels, notifications, and @mentions improve the relevancy of your instant messaging. Staff have more control over information, which helps reduce unnecessary noise.
Improved Productivity And Efficiencies
Convenient, fast, and easy to use, business instant messaging boosts productivity. Issues get resolved quicker, and updates are shared faster. Workers can even provide immediate feedback with a simple thumbs-up emoji.
One survey found that 21 percent of workers who used instant messaging services had a moderate or significant improvement in productivity. Among the top productivity benefits identified by participants was decreased call and email volume (75 percent). Furthermore, 66 percent identified quick resolution of simple questions as another crucial productivity gain.
Group chat also makes collaboration a whole lot easier. File sharing is simple. You can attach documents to instant messages, share in-the-moment innovations, and assign tasks. You can even use the search to find that crucial nugget of information. Chat channels can be public or private, allowing for real-time discussions on the next steps. And as a collaboration platform, chat apps level the playing field for remote or on-the-move team members.
Speed is undoubtedly one of the main advantages of instant messaging apps. And with faster decision-making comes increased agility and the ability to adapt to changing circumstances. When it comes to competitive advantage, these factors are crucial.
Promotes Social Relationships And Team Spirit
Survey after survey has confirmed the pandemic-led shift to hybrid working is here to stay. According to McKinsey, 30 percent of workers pre-pandemic said they preferred more flexible, hybrid working. Post-pandemic, the number has increased to 52 percent. However, hybrid working makes maintaining team spirit and social connection harder.
Corporate instant messaging bridges the gap between remote and office workers. And it helps build team spirit for all your people.
When casual chats around the coffee machine are off the agenda, informal chatting can take place on business instant messaging. #coffeebreak channels bring people together to share personal news and chat about their favorite sports teams or weekend plans. Casual conversations may not be business-critical. However, don’t underestimate the value of connection-building conversations to a happy, motivated workforce.
Instant messaging tools are accessible 24/7 from a desktop or mobile device. So, even on-the-move or non-desk employees can access the same information. This means your company benefits from the ideas of workers who otherwise might feel out of the loop.
The bottom line is that people love using instant messaging. It’s already an everyday part of all our lives. And your staff will feel comfortable using the platform, readily embracing all those familiar social features like emojis and hashtags.
Enhanced Customer Service
The benefits of business instant messaging go beyond your employees. Increasingly, companies are using it to provide real-time information to customers.
For example, a customer has a service issue or query requiring approval from a manager. A quick message to the team leader means your customer service staff can respond immediately. The result is a happy, satisfied customer.
What Are The Disadvantages Of Business Instant Messaging Apps?
Before deciding to go ahead with business instant messaging, you need to know the drawbacks. Here are some of the commonly reported disadvantages. And at the top of the list is distraction.
Potential For Distraction
It’s true that the constant ping of team messaging has the potential to distract employees from their work. However, so do phone calls or a colleague dropping by your desk with a query.
Remember also that workers can switch instant messenger off while focusing on a task. Most platforms have the option to set your status to available, away, busy, or even invisible. Plus, employees have control over their notifications and automated reminders. They can choose which channels and chats to follow. And they can turn off notifications for conversations that are not relevant.
You can introduce ground rules around using instant messenger apps in the workplace to minimize the risk of distraction. More on that later.
Third-party apps can pose a security risk. They can be vulnerable to malware and viruses. And there’s also the potential for IP or personal data breaches. Closed networks and end-to-end encryption help minimize the possibility.
There is a ton of popular messaging app software out there. However, most only operate within their own networks. Sending business communication to a user on another platform is not straightforward. For example, your sales team may already use the chat feature within their CRM platform. And Marketing may be using a WhatsApp group.
When selecting a platform for instant messaging in the workplace, ensure it integrates with the apps you already use. Whether you have collaboration tools, task management apps, or productivity tools, make sure they can be all synched. Otherwise, rather than solving problems, you will be creating even more.
Relying On Instant Messaging Only
Business instant messaging apps are perfect for quick one-on-one chats and project discussions. However, if it becomes the dominant communication channel, it can create problems.
Face-to-face team communication is still essential, whether in-person or virtually, especially for cementing personal relationships. Communicating only through instant messaging software can start to feel cold and impersonal.
Similarly, instant messaging platforms are not always the number one choice for sharing company-wide news or finding corporate documents. The best approach is to have a range of communications channels available. You can then select the right one for the right message at the right time.
Ground Rules For Instant Messaging In The Workplace
You can avoid many of the disadvantages we have discussed with general guidelines. Here are some of the issues to include:
Make it clear what content is relevant for instant messaging. For example, sharing jokes and GIFs on the #coffeebreak channel or even in one-on-one conversations may not be acceptable in your company. Furthermore, bullying, abuse, or harassment of any kind should be prohibited.
Respect Work/Life Balance
Instant messaging apps can reach colleagues at any time in a way that may seem more urgent than a standard email. Workers need to be mindful of respecting their colleagues’ downtime. Set expectations around when your staff should be reasonably available. And perhaps, more importantly, when sending a message is inappropriate unless it’s an emergency.
Furthermore, encourage employees to be upfront about the urgency of their business communication. Low-priority messages may not need an immediate response. Workers could begin these messages with ‘no rush on this’ or ‘when you get the chance.’ And if action is needed right away, something like the following makes it explicit: ‘Can you approve these financials by 11 am ahead of the Board meeting at 2 pm.’
Reduce Noise And Distraction
Ensure workers know how to organize and personalize their chats to minimize irrelevant noise. Keep an eye on the number of channels, threads, and group memberships to ensure they match your workplace. Team and group messaging can quickly become very noisy spaces, so it’s vital that staff know the pitfalls. And make sure your guidelines are included in onboarding programs.
Popular Instant Messaging Apps
A quick Google search will display a bewildering choice of top instant messaging apps. However, not all are relevant to business instant messaging. Some of the more popular ones are for use outside work.
Here’s a quick run-through of the best instant messaging apps for workplace communication.
Often the first name that springs to mind is Slack. This platform has been designed for business communication and has millions of users worldwide.
As one of the best instant messaging apps, it has all the fantastic features you would expect. These include voice and video calls, screen sharing, and public or private chats and threads. For the security-minded, Slack comes with end-to-end encryption and enterprise key management.
It’s a great tool and does what it says on the box. However, the price point can put it out of reach for SMEs and startups. Plus, integrations may be needed to get the most out of the platform.
With 270 million global users, Microsoft Teams can justifiably claim to be the world’s most popular messaging app for business. It integrates with the entire Microsoft Office toolkit, which is a strong selling point, as it also doubles up as a team collaboration platform.
File sharing is simple in Microsoft Teams, and you can also tailor shared chat spaces and make voice and video calls. And as you would expect with a Microsoft product, data security is a priority with end-to-end encryption.
However, Microsoft Teams doesn’t come cheap. And installation can be complex and time-consuming. There may be better choices for businesses on a tight budget or with limited personnel on the ground.
An oldie but goldie, Skype was started in 2003, making it one of the messaging app pioneers. Although the Skype for Business version was retired in 2021, it’s still used for business communication. You can rely on Skype for file sharing, video calling, voice calls, screen sharing, and chats. It’s also a good choice for video conferencing.
Skype may no longer be at the cutting edge for business instant messaging. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not a dependable and cost-effective option.
Not to be outdone by Microsoft, Google Chat is Google’s latest offering in the instant messaging app marketplace.
It’s a versatile platform enabling real-time conversations with teammates, partners, and even customers. You can use the software for video conferencing, video calls, and shared chat spaces.
Google Chat is an attractive option if Google Workspace drives your organization, as it integrates with Google Drive. You can share files and collaborate on documents in Google Drive. And you can also use it for task management. With Google Chat, you can assign tasks to the team and use bots to automate tasks.
However, Google doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to messaging apps. Remember the short-lived Google Hangouts? Whether this version will stand the test of time remains to be seen.
What’s The Best Messaging App For External Business Communication?
It’s not all about team communication. Whether it’s customers or contractors, external communication is just as important. So, what’s the best instant messaging for external communication? Let’s take a look at some of the contenders.
When it comes to customer reach, Facebook Messenger is hard to beat. Most companies already have a Facebook page, so enabling Messenger is a no-brainer.
Aside from customer communication, Facebook Messenger has a host of extra benefits up its sleeve. You can enhance customer service with a live chat plugin and generate leads from Messenger ad campaigns.
With more than 2 billion worldwide users, it’s one of the most popular instant messaging apps around. There’s a strong chance your customers already use it to connect with family and friends via text, video, or voice calls.
However, there is a business version called WhatsApp for Business, which is popular with SMEs. You can create a business profile, set up a greeting message, and send promotional messages. You can even use it as a live chat platform. WhatsApp uses end-to-end encryption for data security.
And if you have customers, contractors, and suppliers in China, WeChat is a must-have. Alongside standard instant messaging, the app offers a host of other tools, including payment services, news, and maps.
However, there are question marks over data security. So, be careful what you share on WeChat.
Best Instant Messaging Apps: The Intranet Solution
Before we sign off on this post, we couldn’t resist a few words about company intranets. You see, intranets tick all the boxes when it comes to the advantages of instant messaging in the workplace. Even better, intranets help reduce the impact of the downsides. Let’s find out more.
MyHub’s intranet software, like many other platforms, comes with a team chat feature. And this means instant messaging is fully integrated with all your fantastic intranet tools. Single-sign-on gateway access gives users a streamlined experience. Plus, the intranet is the go-to platform for everyone in the company. Instead of having several instant messaging apps on the go, all your people are on the mobile-friendly team chat.
Integration also means group chat works harmoniously with other digital communication channels, including blogs and newsfeeds.
Intranet team chat comes with enhanced security features, including data encryption. Moreover, the closed network reduces the risk of cyberattacks and security breaches.
Packed Full Of Great Features
Intranet team chat is packed with great features your staff will love. Conversations can be public or private. And you can also send direct messages. All the social features employees are familiar with in their personal lives are also available, including #channels, @mentions, and, of course, emojis. You can even pin a chat to your personal chat wall. Furthermore, you can attach documents for easy file sharing. And all conversations are fully searchable so your people can quickly find what they need.
Give workers control with the intranet’s personalization tools. Employees can follow trending channels based on their interests. And they can join team or project channels relevant to their work. Status updates make it clear when colleagues are available to chat. And notifications can be switched off when quiet time is needed. These great features mean the potential for distraction is significantly reduced. At the same time, the relevancy of messages is improved.
Is Instant Messaging In The Workplace Right For Your Business?
From connecting employees, working smarter, and improving customer service, instant messaging is hard to beat. And you can reduce the potential downsides with some well-planned guidelines.
However, selecting the right instant messaging app is the key to success. Fully integrated, secure, and easy to use, intranet team chat could be the game-changer your business needs.