The communication tools for SMBs cited in this list were trendy in 2014-2015, and hence are must-haves for 2016. Needless to say, they are all software-as-a-service, cloud-based products.
1. VoIP Lines
If you’re still using a local cable operator (i.e. Comcast, Verizon) and/or have physical hardware for your phone lines, it’s time to switch to a cloud based phone system like Telzio. Next to fax machines, physical phone systems and landlines are obsolete. They’re limited, expensive, and high maintenance. By now, common VoIP myths are no longer common and smart companies are all using VoIP.
Phone system technology has evolved from the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), but from a user standpoint, phones are phones and they are still used the same way with calling, voicemail, transferring, etc. What’s different is the method of sending voice data so you can hear it on the other end, and the setup and management of the system itself. With VoIP, there’s no need for hardware beyond the phones you want to use and the internet connection you already have.
If you’re unfamiliar with the benefits of VoIP versus traditional phone service, check out the Top 5 FAQs about VoIP Phone Systems for Newbies.
2. Team Messaging
Team chat rooms are incredibly efficient and open up communication that otherwise would not exist. With more remote teams and workers floating about, team chat is a critical substitute for not being able to walk down the hall and talk to a coworker. Even in the same office, team chatting adds a much faster and convenient platform for communication, increasing productivity and the exchange of ideas. Team chat rooms cut down on lengthy meeting times and promote a continuous flow of conversation and action.
The most popular team chat service out there is Slack. A software service that works for desktop and mobile, so you can take it anywhere and still be connected to your team. On the same note, it also recognizes your away status so people know when your door is “closed”.
3. Customer Chat
Chatting doesn’t replace a phone call or face-to-face contact, but it certainly helps. It could mean cutting down a substantial amount of your sales/support time on the phone and increasing the total number of customers you service overall. You can help one customer at a time on the phone, but you can easily double or triple the amount of customers served over IM. Oftentimes, doing sales/support over chat is more effective and compelling than over the phone because you can send links, pictures, etc.
My favorite customer chat service that I’ve seen and used so far is Olark. It integrates with a number of help desk systems, and I like the way it looks. As a customer, I’ve chatted with outdated-looking chat windows before, and Olark just has a better design. The chat is the entryway to your sales office – make it welcoming!