Critical Business Communication Tools For Your Startup
Effective communication is at the heart of every business, from the greenest start-up to the most established corporation. In fact, how a company communicates – both internally and externally – can determine whether it thrives, survives or dies. Luckily, there are some critical business communication tools you can take advantage of today!
For a start-up, the best communication tools are those that increase productivity and efficiency while being affordable.
9 Critical Business Communication Tools
1. Intranet/Portal Software
Gone are the days when the company intranet was a bland ‘top down’ network used only for making profit announcements and circulating policy and procedure updates from HR. The intranet of 2017 is just as likely to allow individuals and groups within the company to work on documents together, use external resources such as Google and Wikipedia for research purposes and even log on remotely through BYOD integration.
For start-ups with onsite technology expertise, a bespoke intranet can be assembled using open source intranet software.
Examples of intranet software providers include Bloomfire, Jostle, and OnSemble.
2. Project Management Software
Whereas an intranet is mainly geared towards company-wide communication, project management software focuses on organizing specific projects. Rather than communicating with one another via laborious and disjointed emails, project management software enables colleagues to log in to a central hub, assign and take on tasks, upload documents, set up and schedule events and solve bugs. Smart sheet, Teamwork and Zoho are examples of this type of communication tool.
3. Google Docs
Google Docs bridges the gap between traditional office software (documents, spreadsheets, presentations, etc.) and full project management by enabling cloud collaboration and basic file and folder organization. As a free service, Google Docs is particularly attractive to cash-strapped start-ups.
4. Chatrooms and/or IM Platforms
Chatrooms have some similarities to both intranets and project management solutions but have their own special place within the company culture. They are open communication platforms based around a particular topic or common interest. Where businesses are split into separate silos, chatrooms can be used to enable effective, open and real-time communication between members. Since conversations are synchronous, chatrooms can be a hotbed of creativity but are difficult to moderate.
Chatrooms can sometimes incorporate chatbots for disseminating standardized information such as weather and news reports.
Instant messaging software is less useful for groups due to its closed format. But, it does provide an effective platform for private one-to-one communication between colleagues or from management to employees and vice versa.
5. Discussion Forums
Discussion forums may have gone slightly out of fashion in the social world but businesses can still use them to great effect as a method of sharing ideas, fostering togetherness and organizing company knowledge. Integrated with company mail clients and mobile apps, forums can become more accessible than ever.
Discussion forums can be used as an effective training hub by combining archived tuitional content with a search function. An induction guide and a list of frequently asked questions can be helpful for making new employees feel welcome. Gamification – the use of game mechanics and human behavioral insight outside of a gaming environment – can be incorporated into discussion forums by rewarding helpful employees with online badges or raising their status.
Established forum platforms include MyBB and phpBB with Discourse and Flarum providing a modern alternative.
6. VoIP and WebRTC
The advent of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and Web Real-Time Communication (WebRTC) has overhauled the traditional dual grip of landlines and cellphones over business communications. VoIP enables voice communications to be turned into packetized digital signals which are then encoded and transmitted along the public Internet rather than through a traditional circuit-switched network. WebRTC is a set of protocols and app interfaces which enable multimedia communication through peer-to-peer networks without the need for plug-ins; the W3C and the IETF are currently working together to standardize WebRTC. With VoIP services such as RingCentral, Vonage and, of course, Skype now incorporating everything from IM, voicemail, call routing, and softphones into their bundles and browsers becoming ever more like communication hubs through WebRTC integration, the appeal of plugging into the telephone network is waning year by year.
7. Internal Blog
Public blogs – run by companies and individuals – are now commonplace over the Internet but some businesses have found it beneficial to set up an internal company blog accessible only by company employees. The key to all effective blogs is powerful content and by investing time and resources into ensuring a steady stream of quality, businesses can increase employee engagement and boost morale. Some blogs incorporate video content which can be used for a variety of purposes including training, behind the scenes footage and company announcements. Just like discussion forums, blogs can provide the ideal platform for a searchable knowledge base.
Some business owners find that the humble podcasts is a powerful tool in their company communication toolkit. There are several advantages to creating company podcasts. They can be set up quickly, require little in the way of equipment and can be accessed while driving. Podcasts can also be downloaded to most mobile devices. In addition, industry experts will often be happy to come in and provide content for free.
Getting employees to download a regular podcast may require extra effort at first. But once they get into the habit, podcasting can be one of the most cost-effective communication tools a start-up could invest in.
9. Case Tracking Software for IT and/or Customer Support
Whether you’re based in New York or Los Angeles, IT support and customer service provision can be a particular challenge to start-ups who may not have the resources to consistently provide the level of IT consulting or product/service support required. Email or contact form support can be difficult to manage and customers will become frustrated if their queries are delayed or lost in the system. On the other hand, call centers and live chat platforms can only function if there are enough knowledgeable agents to run them. Case tracking software provides the best of both worlds. Customers are given an individual ticket number that reassures them that their issue has been received and is being dealt with in an organized manner. For the business, they have the time and space to delegate the issue properly.
By integrating these critical business communication tools that will best benefit your start-up, you can start experiencing the benefits of more efficient collaboration, improved morale and exemplary customer service.
This article on critical business communication tools was provided by Brent Whitfield. Brent is the CEO of DCG Technical Solutions Inc. DCG provides the specialist advice and IT consulting Los Angeles area businesses need to remain competitive and productive, while being sensitive to limited IT budgets. Brent has been featured in Fast Company, CNBC, Network Computing, Reuters, and Yahoo Business. DCG was recognized among the Top 10 Fastest Growing MSPs in North America by MSP mentor.