A few years ago, when we returned from maternity leave at the corporation where we worked, we found out that we had a new tool: an internal communicator. I looked with a dose of scepticism at first at this new tool that I didn’t find useful: we only worked in telecom, we had mobile and landline phones at our disposal and we could talk on them at any time, we had e-mail, we had a lot of applications that we had to open in the morning, to remember their passwords…why another headache?
I was soon to realize how wrong I was and how quickly this means of communication had become my favourite, with visible and rapid effects on the productivity of the team I was working with. I’ll tell you what I’m referring to in a moment, but first I’d like to explain a bit about it for those who are not familiar with it.
Instant messaging (IM) is a form of real-time text communication between two or more people in a digital network. The popular name is chat and most people who use a computer and more recently a smartphone have at least once used some form of communicator (chat), the most popular being Skype, Yahoo Messenger, WhatsApp and many others. According to factbrowser.com by 2016 almost 1.5 billion people will be using instant messaging on their mobiles.
When it comes to using the communicator in the workplace, there are dedicated solutions other than those mentioned above for two reasons:
1. being an INTERNAL communicator, it excludes discussions with friends, relatives, acquaintances…which are not related to the performance of the activity and which rather contribute to the decrease of the employees’ productivity.
2. it integrates with the company’s existing telephone system and comes with some additional features (it can also allow you to initiate/receive internal calls or transfer files quickly for example)
A better customer experience
Returning to my story now, let me tell you in what situations we use the communicator and how it has helped us as a team. Have I already told you that we work in a corporation, with several workplaces in the country and abroad, with several departments and therefore thousands of employees? I used to work in a shop, in constant contact with customers. The staff was often insufficient compared to the influx of customers, so the main concern as a team was to streamline the “downtime”: with going to the back to bring a product, to check if something is still in stock, to ask a question you don’t know the answer to or to call the head office to ask for help, etc…These situations were drastically reduced, all people had to do was to quickly write on the communicator and in a few seconds they had the answer. Not to mention how elegantly customer requests were handled.
It has proven very useful for new people, who at first contact with customers had more questions than answers and it would have been unpleasant to call the customer face to face to ask for help or to talk to the customer several times in the same conversation to find the right answer.
Better collaboration between employees
Being integrated with the employee database, the moment you needed to contact a colleague in another department or location and you didn’t know their exact name anymore, it was very easy to reach them.
The attendance indicator was the gold mine. We knew at any time the status of the person we were looking for: in the office, out, in a meeting/conference, free, etc. so we saved a lot of time with the phones: “I’m not in the office, call me later”, “I’m in a meeting, call my office mate”, etc…sometimes you had to make 2-3 calls before you managed to solve something, but with the presence indicator we were on target.
If I had something urgent to communicate to the team, the communicator was the only way my message could reach them quickly and be read by everyone.
If I was engaged in a phone call, conference or meeting and people urgently needed an approval or a response, the communicator was the lifesaver; they no longer had to travel to see if I was available and/or wait for me to clear.
Advantages over email:
The idea is that, by its very nature, the communicator encourages people to be brief and to the point, unlike email, where the conversation is usually more formal and sending the email and waiting for a reply is more time consuming. A big advantage over email is that you can have multiple windows open with different people or groups that you can address simultaneously.
Advantages over the phone:
There are studies that show that people are much more relaxed in a chat conversation than in a phone call and so the communicator can become a very good tool to improve collaboration between employees, especially if they are in different locations. Employees also reported better concentration on tasks, since they can better control interruptions; when you have something urgent to finish and you get 2-3 calls in a row you can either answer (and risk not finishing on time), answer and rush the caller (which can damage working relationships), or not answer at all (which increases the chances of the same person calling n times in a few minutes); with the communicator you can set your status to “busy” and thus make sure you get rid of unwanted interruptions. In addition, conversations are confidential and you don’t risk reaching the wrong “ears”.
Of course, email and telephone retain their usefulness in many other situations and employees need to choose the best method of communication for the particular situation they face. But being integrated with the PBX, you can easily change the communication method (message, send file, call inside, email) using one tool: an app on your computer or smartphone.
Bottom line: instant messaging is yet another component of unified communications and cloud PBXs that can fuel increased productivity and collaboration among employees and provide the customers of the company you run/work for with a much improved experience. Communicator is by far the fastest and easiest way to communicate, and a study conducted by Ohio State University and California State University confirms that companies that have adopted internal chat solutions have reported productivity gains.
Optivoice solutions incorporate internal chat with presence indicator, instant messaging, file transfer and internal dialling.