We’ve all had the experience of sifting through email trying to find that thread you had with a co-worker about last month’s TPS reports. When you finally find the last message in the chain, you open it up to begin the next phase of your archaeological mission: scrolling through message upon message, signature upon signature, legal statement after legal statement to find the information you’re looking for. It’s enough to give you vertigo.
In order to become more efficient at communicating, you need to set aside email as your main way for relaying information and start using business chat software. This isn’t a solution that will only apply to a technology company or a marketing agency. If your company is in the industrial sector, you can gain just as much by making the switch. Email still has its place in the workplace, but it can no longer be your primary form of communication if you want to be efficient.
The scenario mentioned above was a somewhat regular occurrence for us at Industrial Strength Marketing and we suffered from many of the pitfalls inherent to communicating the old way. Most of our internal communication now happens through chat and implementing business chat software agency-wide has increased our productivity and response time tremendously.
Business Chat Software 101
Before we take a look at some of the options that are out there, I think it’s important to give you a quick overview of business chat software in general.
The primary function of business chat software is to get you and your team communicating much more efficiently. The best platforms includes features such as:
- One-to-one messages
- Group (team) rooms or channels
- Powerful search functionality
- Integrations (with other online services)
- File sharing
- Mobile apps
This is pretty straightforward. If you need to ask someone on the shop floor a quick question, you simply open up a new chat window and ask away. The conversation between you and your co-worker will be private, meaning no other co-workers will see your conversation in the business chat software.
Group (Team) Rooms or Channels
Team communication is where you’ll be singing the praises of business chat software.
Different applications have different nomenclature for team forums. Whatever the terminology, though, a “room” or “channel” is a place where multiple people can gather to chat about a particular topic. For instance, whenever we get a new client, we start a new room for that client and invite the team members for that project to the room.
The potential for creating efficiencies here are endless. Rather than picking up the phone to call multiple people, sending an email and hoping all necessary team members will respond, or walking around the office to get your answers, you can send out a single message to everyone involved and get the answers to your questions in one central location.
Moreover, everyone on your team will be able to see what’s going on and there will be a record of those conversations saved that you refer to in the future — more on that later.
You can use rooms in many other ways as well. For example, create a room for each department at your company so department members can communicate about department-specific issues.
Powerful Search Functionality
With a business chat software platform, all chats are saved as you send them. The best systems feature powerful search technologies that allow you to search these archives using many different parameters and modifiers. If your conversation about TPS reports was conducted on chat, you’ll be able to find the information with relative ease.
While most of the available integrations may not fit into your workflows, I recommend checking them out to see if there aren’t some analytics, productivity, or file-management integrations that could be used by your company or team.
All the services mentioned below have the ability to share files. In particular, HipChat and Slack provide great user experiences when it comes to searching for those files. If you just remember the extension of a file sent to you (e.g., .zip), you can search for that and you’ll get a list of files that meet your criteria, along with any associated messages.
All of the platforms listed below have mobile apps that will notify you of any chat messages you receive when you are away from your computer, either via email or pinging you directly on your mobile device. That way, no chat messages will ever be missed.
Recommended Business Chat Software
Our list of recommended business chat software is very short, and there’s good reason for that. While there are a lot of options to choose from in the market, three have clearly risen to the top. These are the ones that we recommend you spend time researching and demoing if business chat software sounds like something that could help your organization.
This prevalent platform has a very simple and clean user interface designed to get you to your communications quickly. Once logged in, you’ll know exactly what to do.
Besides the key features mentioned above, HipChat also includes integrated video and audio calling. The quality for these is not as nice as Google Hangouts, however. If you don’t like the native call features, there are also some third-party integrations you can use to add Appear.in or Google Hangouts calling capabilities to your HipChat interface.
HipChat boasts over 80 integrations with other online services, which include everything from task management to scheduling apps. A list of their integrations can be found here.
This is the fastest growing and most popular of the standalone chat platforms. With many features in common with HipChat, Slack sets itself apart by offering over 160 integrations that can be used to extend its effectiveness.
However, Slack does not have integrated video or audio as of this article, but has stated they are in the works. In the meantime, tasks involving calls can be handled through integrations with several other services, including Appear.in and Google Hangouts.
Google Hangouts works best when it is used with a suite of other Google services, such as Google’s email, calendar, storage, and contacts products. Since you are essentially setting up Gmail when you sign up for Hangouts, the service works seamlessly in your Gmail inbox.
The video and audio calling functionality of Hangouts is superior to HipChat or any third-party integration for Slack or HipChat. However, Hangouts’s group chat features aren’t as strong since users cannot create rooms or channels.
Unlocking Business Chat Software’s Potential
If you’re serious about considering business chat software for your organization, spend a day researching which options could be best for managing your company’s internal communications.
Regardless of which platform you choose, I guarantee that adopting one will increase your company’s productivity. The change may be slow at first, but you’ll see immense benefits and plenty of opportunities for creating efficiencies as business chat software becomes more and more ingrained in your everyday work.