Not every business is global. Many mid-size businesses are instead focused on fostering better communications between their own offices. Whether you have multiple offices in one region or locations throughout the country, there are a number of applications that can improve communication across your entire business. The right technology and communications strategy lets employees at different locations work together seamlessly, moving projects through the pipeline and delivering excellent customer service.
More remote workers, geographically disbursed teams and multiple offices have led to a growing introduction of collaboration tools. Securely sharing information between locations — including customer data, payment information and project files — is a top concern. Here’s a closer look at how growing businesses are leveraging different types of apps to stay better connected, and how they can help your team get more done.
1. Chat and Communications Apps
A new generation of tools is making it easier to get to “Inbox Zero.” Companies are increasingly looking for creative ways to move away from email, which often piles up while employees are traveling, in meetings or tackling other tasks. Chat applications can keep quick requests and brief conversations focused on what needs to be resolved. It’s easy to discuss issues one on one or create project- or team-specific groups for ongoing threads. Chats can be quickly addressed from a mobile phone while on the go, or monitored while other things are happening — like meetings — without disrupting the flow.
Chat applications also reduce the volume of email and respond immediately to customer needs or continue larger discussions quickly on follow-up action items.
Chat applications have also been increasing in popularity with customers. Inc reported that 42% of customers prefer live chat to phone support, since it eliminates the need to wait on hold. Adding additional chat support functionality provides more flexibility to customers, streamlines your internal support process, and keeps your service delivery evolving with today’s changing workflows. Mid-size organizations will appreciate the agility chat applications bring to discussions, making it feel like remote workers are in the same office and streamlining basic discussions.
2. Group Video Conferencing Applications
If you’ve ever sat through the dreaded group conference call, you’ll know why group video conferencing applications are growing in popularity. There are no awkward pauses as someone repeatedly asks “Bill, are you on?” and “Who just joined?” Whether you’re updating your team on project status or going through a presentation of this quarter’s results, group video conferencing applications offer several advantages. First, it’s easy to see who is in attendance, gauge whether they’re paying attention, and gather more context on conversations by following people’s body language and facial expressions. Video conferencing also helps remote workers associate faces with names, creating a sense of immediacy and helping foster relationships between team members in multiple locations.
3. VoIP Platforms
VoIP calling applications play an important role in today’s communication landscape. According to one study conducted by SpiceWorks and CenturyLink, 54% of respondents noted that VoIP solutions will play an important role in their long-term business enablement technologies, and for good reason. VoIP platforms integrate with a host of other solutions, such as chat applications and collaborative tools, and they make it possible to use one phone number for all your locations. All your offices, including remote employees, can be part of the same phone system — making it easier to set up conference calls, transfer callers to any employee in any location and have a unified brand experience.
4. Project Management Applications
When your teams work remotely, both managers and collaborators need to keep an eye on the status of projects that are in progress. The right tools can help eliminate awkward conversations. Project management systems improve communication, accountability and the ability to productively collaborate. They make it easy for managers to assign tasks, for workers to track what’s on their plates, and for anyone to get a full project update from a single dashboard. Whether you’re waiting on a colleague for key input or you’re a manager checking in on a disbursed team, a project management system can unite and keep everyone up to date.
5. File Sharing Systems
How much time have you spent looking for an email attachment or the latest version of a sales presentation? When workers are involved in conversations with customers, marketing campaigns, partner enablement and more, effective file sharing is critical. With a file sharing platform, it’s easy to upload documents and share access within teams or across locations. Many platforms even have capabilities that automatically update documents to the latest version or add input such as a logo. They help ensure everyone is using the most current files for their work, instead of outdated files with old information and graphics. Advanced permissions and digital management features simplify the process of creating location-specific file systems, company-wide repositories or project-specific folders.
6. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Systems
Would your clients welcome a birthday card with a personalized note or discount offer? A CRM system can make that a no-brainer. One in three small to mid-size businesses use a CRM system to deliver consistent customer service across all their locations. A CRM system allows you to organize everything you know about a customer — from buying histories to notes from customer service calls — into a single platform, and employees in any location can quickly access that information with just a few clicks. Many organizations use CRM systems to centralize contact information, personalized notes on clients (to remember their birthday or their kids’ names, for example), and future upselling and cross-selling opportunities.
Does your HR department need to spread the word about an upcoming open enrollment event or volunteer opportunities? Do you need a central location for archived files? An intranet serves as a website that’s targeted toward internal audiences, and it helps you broadcast announcements, archive files and provide communications to your employees. Many organizations focus on the operational improvements that are key to managing your teams and workforce across locations. A dedicated intranet helps foster a sense of deeper cohesiveness and builds on the idea that individual locations are an important part of the larger organization.
Growth-focused mid-size organizations have to contend with the communications needs of multiple locations. Whether you’re connecting local health care offices or retail stores, investing in collaboration and communications technology can help. With the right tools, your dispersed team will be able to chat, hold more formal meetings, share files and work on projects as if they all worked together in the same office.