6 Communication Tools for Virtual Teams
June 21, 2016
The key to successfully supporting virtual teams is using the right communication tools, so there’s no disconnect.
With the web-based collaboration tools available today, distributed office locations don’t have to feel physically divided, and it doesn’t require a huge amount of effort to set up a communication platform for virtual teams.
Supporting remote teams enables you to:
- Expand your hiring horizons and attract talent from all over the world.
- Offer your employees more flexible work schedules.
- Avoid commuting issues.
- Broaden your coverage to other areas and time zones.
- Provide your employees with options and positive work-life quality.
At Telzio, we make sure our engineering and support teams have instant, seamless communication regardless of their location so we can continue innovating and resolving issues quickly.
These are some of the tools we’ve implemented.
An instant messaging platform is essential in any organization. We use Slack for communicating internally on an ongoing basis. If you’re at work, you’re on Slack.
Slack is incredibly efficient because we can have direct channels of communication constantly flowing between colleagues and among teams.
Anytime I have a question or comment, I can write to my colleagues on Slack instantly. They can respond as soon as they’re available, and we can have an ongoing conversation without interrupting whatever else we’re working on.
Team chatting is more instant than email, and more convenient than a telephone call, video conference, in-person meeting, or simply popping your head in someone’s office.
Chatting doesn’t require making appointments, coordinating schedules, or disrupting someone else’s workflow. It enables us to keep an open line of communication for both ends, which is what we need to support virtual teams.
Slack allows us to create separate channels for teams and for one-on-one direct messaging. Channels allow us to exchange ideas quickly between team members.
Team chat rooms don’t replace other forms of communication. While we continue to have regularly and non-regularly scheduled meetings, virtual and non-virtual, Slack is an ongoing meeting space where our collaboration is continuous.
One of the tools that keep our development team agile is the Kanban Tool. Like Scrum, Kanban is a method of project management, where teams can organize and merge their work.
In a visual overview, kanban enables us to view/edit/create projects, tasks, status, and ownership, which can all be customized.
It starts with a simple interface.
Kanban is frequently used by programmers working on different components of a larger project, but any team can use it to create, assign, edit, follow up, and finalize tasks.
Like all of the tools on this list, the Kanban Tool is a web-based product, so virtual teams can work on it collaboratively from anywhere.
For virtual meetings, Zoom enables us as a group to video conference, share content, and give presentations.
What makes Zoom better than your everyday video conferencing app, is all the cool features.
Zoom enables us to:
- take over other people’s screens,
- mute certain participants,
- start a meeting from Slack,
- send official invites to customers, and
- get reminders about meetings.
Similar to Slack, we can create rooms and instantly invite participants. During meetings, we can view and share content, screens, and conversations in real time. Best of all for our virtual teams, we can use Zoom to have meetings, without dealing with any travel.
Any customer service-oriented business needs a proper help desk solution. We use HelpScout to manage our tickets.
HelpScout collects and organizes customer cases in one place, so our team can virtually and collectively solve customer problems and respond to questions.
The most important and common features are right where we need them, and answer questions like:
- What’s the issue?
- Who’s the customer?
- When was it last updated?
- Does it need a follow-up?
Regardless of where our supporters are working, they can access customer tickets in real time.
As far as the most important customer service tools for today’s businesses, online customer chat service tops the list. For that, we use Olark.
With Olark, employees can be in any location, set up their laptops, update their away status, and be ready to handle incoming chats.
Some of the cool features Olark provides us with are:
- a live chat box on our website,
- customization to fit our brand,
- easy-to-access transcript records,
- ability to email transcripts from the chat, and
- customer feedback tools.
Following the end of each chat, customers can get an automatic message letting them know they can write again with other questions, and give them the opportunity to leave feedback.
We can customize our feedback survey with questions like:
- How knowledgable was your supporter?
- How would you rate this chat?
- Is there anything we can improve on?
Chat transcripts and customer feedback reports are available online so we can access them from anywhere.
Of course, we use own service for communicating internally and with customers.
Each of us has a unique extension, which we can use to make and receive calls/texts on our device of choice. I can reach other employees simply by dialing their extension, and if I want to go ahead and make a public announcement, I can intercom and page other team members.
Calling between extensions is included, which is invaluable for virtual teams and conferences. Extensions are also included, so you can add users to the system at no extra cost.
Create a call flow with a conference bridge, and give that call flow an extension. You can create conference bridges for different purposes, and teams can dial in for conference calls by simply dialing that extension.
Virtual Customer Support
Through our main line, customers call in for sales or support related questions, and here are some of the features we use to get them to the right place:
- Phone menu – A brief message greets our callers with options to speak to specific teams based on their needs.
- Call forwarding – Calls are directed to the right group according to the caller’s choice, and the first agent to pick up gets the call. Alternatively, we could send the call to agents in a sequence.
- Queue – When all agents are busy, callers are placed in a virtual line, where they are notified of their place and offered to receive a call back when it’s their turn.
- Business hours – During off hours, we can send urgent calls to our team in Copenhagen.
Calls are routed to departments and agents regardless of physical location. An agent needs only to be signed into their device and connected to the internet to be able to receive calls.
With virtual teams in local and international locations, we rely on various web communication tools to keep us in sync. These tools will change over time as we evolve and as new products become available, but we’re always on the lookout.