Every business requires internal and external communication in order to be successful, but it’s not always as easy as it sounds. The more companies invest and prioritize having strong connectivity with their teams and their customers, the more they’ll see an impact on their bottom line.
To accomplish this, it’s important to consider what versatile communication tools exist and what they can do for your business. When implemented correctly, such tools have the power to positively influence operations and the customer experience for the long haul.
What are business communication tools?
Business communication tools may work differently depending on how you utilize them, but they generally have the same goal: making communication easier.
Internally, businesses can use communication skills to help teams work together as efficiently as possible. With the right communication channels, businesses can make decisions faster and be more productive overall.
Externally, a communication tool is any tool that can be used to allow customers to get in touch with your company; whether this is to get help with an order, get support for a service, or make a transaction.
Some business communication tools are more dedicated to internal use than consumer-facing, and vice versa. But, there are some tools that can accomplish both.
Understand your business’ communication needs
Before even getting to the tools, you need to evaluate your current business communication needs and the needs of those you’re trying to serve.
Here’s what to take into consideration:
What goals are you trying to accomplish with this tool?
First and foremost, you’ll need to ask yourself what you need this communication tool to help you do.
This may require you to zoom out a bit before breaking things down. For instance, are you looking for something internal or external right now? Or, maybe you can evaluate your needs based on finding a tool that’s going to help you primarily with communication in marketing, sales, support, or a combination of these.
Next, you can ask yourself specific questions. Are you looking to make it easier for your customers to reach you, or are you in need of something that can help you increase your conversion rates? Or, maybe you’re trying to find a communication channel that helps your team save time corresponding to repetitive tasks?
How are you currently communicating with your users, and what is their expected behavior?
Before introducing new communication tools, it’s important to understand how your current communication system functions. What’s working for you now? What’s not working? This may require you to get some feedback from your team and customers to understand whether or not you need a new tool, expand on a current tool, or bring back something that worked previously.
This is also a good opportunity to understand if you need an omnichannel tool or a multichannel tool, depending on whether you want different channels to be integrated.
In addition to thinking about business goals, you’ll need to also think about what makes sense for your team or users long-term. Sure, Slack might be great for some teams, but for others, voice calling might make sense for employees who are out on the field all day and not able to constantly check their device for notifications.
So, once you’ve understood your current system and you’ve thought about natural next steps in regards to user behavior, you can create new goals by answering a few more questions. What are they doing and where are they? How would they be able to communicate most efficiently?
What is the cost benefit analysis?
Once you’ve created a list of communication tool types that will help you get to where you want to be, don’t pull the trigger until you’ve fully understood the cost benefit analysis.
It’s important to understand what the ROI will be both monetarily and time-wise. To do this, consider:
- How expensive will it be for your business to implement this tool?
- What will the workflow change look like?
- How will this disrupt your current communication channels, or will it be a smooth change?
- How will your teams and/or customers understand how to use it and what the benefit will be for them?
- How will you measure success, and how long will it take for you to see the key benefits take place?
Find the right communication tool(s) for your business
So, is there a match made in business communication heaven? Let’s find out what tools are out there and how they can fit in within a business; ideally, your business:
Customer engagement tools
What: Customer engagement tools give your customers the ability to engage with you at every step of their journey via a number of preferred communication tools that you can manage in one place, such as web chat, a help center, etc.
Why: Customer engagement tools can be used for conversational marketing, sales, and support, putting your customers in the driver’s seat, but also help businesses learn a lot from their audience. They also help keep customer-facing teams aligned/involved at each step of the process with clear organizational tools, automation tools, and the ability to collect data insights.
According to SuperOffice, 86 percent of buyers are willing to pay more for a great customer experience. And, GlobeNewswire reports, “49 percent of shoppers made impulse buys after receiving a personalized recommendation; 44 percent will become repeat buyers after personalized experiences.”
Who: Customer engagement tools can work for businesses of all sizes with the goal of learning more from customers, as well as understanding which touch points leads are opting in most, or customers are choosing to engage. These tools are not meant to be self-serving, but instead are utilized by sales and marketing teams who are working with a long customer journey.
How: These are generally full-service tools and can encompass dozens of both automated or personalized forms of communication which you’ll see further on this list, from live-chat and chatbots, to video tools, email, texting, etc., allowing businesses to manage it all in one place.
Some example tools are:
Live-chat communication tools
What: Live-chat tools can be part of a larger customer engagement tool, but they can also stand alone. Live-chat tools are business communication tools that allow you to interact with the customer in real-time.
There are different types of live-chat tools; for instance, live-chat tools that appear as a chat box on websites, an in-app chat where you message an agent directly in an app, as well as instant voice and video live-chat tools (more on that, later!) which can be integrated as part of a live-chat tool.
Why: Live-chat tools are ideal for companies who need to provide support solutions, but it can also be used as a sales tool if done right.
According to data from Forrester, “Site visitors who use web chat are 2.8x more likely to convert than those that don’t.”
Ultimately, live-chat tools are great because they let you know where on the site/app someone needs help. Additionally, if the customer is already in-app, that means you’ve already verified the user and user history.
Who: Live-chat tools are yet another way to make it easier for customers to chat with you when they need customer support, and a way for businesses to convert leads and close sales opportunities.
How: The most common example is when customers contact you via your live-chat tool, and you’re able to quickly respond with a link to an FAQ article that might answer their question. If that doesn’t work, you’re available to connect them to an agent right away, eliminating any risk that you’ll lose the customer and cause frustration with their experience.
Tools like LiveChat allow you to be available for live chat on numerous platforms, whereas a tool like LiveAgent SDK allows businesses to integrate live-chat software directly into their app.
Some example tools are:
Internal chat tools
What: Internal chat tools take the live-chat experience and bring it within, allowing employees and teams to engage with one another in real-time. These tools allow for direct messaging and group messaging, as well as provide organizational features to ensure only the right people have the right access to the right channels, allowing for quick and convenient conversation that’s also secure.
Why: Internal chat tools allow people to get answers quickly, thereby increasing overall productivity within the organization. They allow for communication in real-time, leading to fluid collaboration and preventing inboxes to otherwise get clogged up. You can also use the search function to find information quickly, and/or passively scan channels to search for updates.
Who: Internal chat tools are great for remote or hybrid teams, but they can also work in a physical setting; i.e. if field teams need to keep in touch with office teams via the internal chat tool’s mobile app. Some internal chat tools not only provide swift communication, but they’re able to be easily integrated as well as accessed from any device. Anyone who needs an answer fast will benefit from internal chat tools.
How: Anyone who is added to an organization and/or team can be invited to collaborate on one of these internal chat tools. Here, they can send instant messages to whomever, send files, schedule calls (and even do voice/video calls), and much more. Need your manager to approve something real quick so you can meet a deadline or answer a pressing customer support question? Internal chat tools help you get it done.
Some example tools are:
Voice communication tools
What: Voice tools can be used for making phone calls both internally and externally, whether it’s to collaborate/connect with your team or connect with your customers for sales or support.
Why: Internally, voice tools allow employees to connect over voice to talk through complex situations to get meaningful answers quickly (and, in a manner that just wouldn’t suit another form of communication). Externally, voice tools in business allow customers to speak to a human, which helps build relationships and rapport.
These tools typically have features that allow for conversation tracking with customers in a secure manner, in which you can also collect and store data from each conversation. This can help you to serve the customer better next time they call (or, contact support on another channel).
Who: Voice calling is still one of the fastest and easiest ways to get in touch with another person, as long as they have access to a phone. This is ideal for employees who work in the field (for instance, construction teams), customers who need a human’s help solving a problem, or any industry that has a lot of back and forth, coordination, or higher touch needs (i.e. high-ticket purchase items). According to Finances Online: 5 Key VoIP Statistics: 2022 Data Analysis & Market Share, the amount of local call savings made by small businesses that switched to VoIP phone service was 40 percent.
How: These tools can come in the form of having a phone number that leads directly to a call center (either direct or round-robin) or utilizing VoIP tools, which allows you or employees to make phone calls over the internet.
Voice tools can come in handy when you need to get in touch with IT immediately or as a way for customers to receive help.
Some example tools are:
Business texting communication tools
What: Texting tools are business communication tools that allow companies to communicate internally with teams or externally with customers via SMS. The tool allows one-on-one, group texts, or texting on a large scale.
Why: Using text as a business communication tool has loads of benefits in support, sales, and marketing. First off, SMS is a preferred communication channel, even in a business setting and even among older audiences. Texting as a communication tool helps increase the time and frequency of response rates, with a high response rate of 45 percent. It also increases cost-effectiveness over the phone (ability to scale), offers more personalization options over email, and allows for much quicker communication overall.
Who: SMS for business communication is ideal for any company who wants to make communication easier, ultimately with the desire to increase response rate (on both sides), scale communication, and improve conversion rates. This is because SMS can work as a sales tool, a support tool, and an organizational tool for logistics/operations teams.
Though it does work similarly to email or call tools in terms of communication in terms of workflow, this is a different platform that most people today are comfortable using. Textline also can be used as a HIPAA-compliant tool.
How: Whether they are 1-on-1, team texts, or mass texts, Textline allows you to keep all the conversations in one place in an SMS thread. Similar to a phone, you have a team managing inbound communication (i.e., support/operations) or team outbound communication (i.e., sales/operations), using one or multiple phone numbers. For marketing, you can send mass texts and have your teams just handle responses.
Best of all, you can also send images and other files via SMS, and companies can conduct messaging from a web app dashboard. It can also be integrated into plenty of other software communication tools. To execute this and understand how texting communication works, put a number on your site to text, and give consent to have others text you.
Some example tools are:
1-on-1 email communication tools
What: These tools allow you to open up customer dialogues in matters of sales and support, giving ample opportunity to customers to contact you at specific emails depending on the relevant departments. It’s still a highly used tool in businesses, ideal for less immediate things but also longer form communications (writing and sending documents), and as a way to have a more permanent record of data.
Why: Email is generally the most preferred method of communication both for businesses (internally) to increase productivity amongst teams, and for users who need support from the brands they’re interacting with. According to Statista, “Despite the growth and prominence of mobile messengers and chat apps, e-mail is an integral part of daily online life. In 2020, the number of global e-mail users amounted to four billion and is set to grow to 4.6 billion users in 2025.”
And, even though email is scalable, it may not be as personal. However, the caveat of this is that generally, email is much more passive, allowing the customer to have control over when they want to reply to you.
Who: Ideal for sales or support teams who need to connect directly with customers and vice versa. Also, some companies may not want to post a phone number because it might be preferable to conduct support via email (otherwise, lines might be overloaded), so this would be a good way to conduct support tickets.
How: Customers should be able to find your email contact information easily on your website, if that’s one way you’re providing communication. They should get an automated response that you’ve received their email and an expected time frame that you’ll get in touch with, and teams should have a shared customer support inbox to manage (which you can get with these tools).
Some example tools are:
Email marketing tools
What: Email marketing tools are one of the best ways to get in touch with a large consumer base via email blasts, email drips, etc., typically used by marketing teams as one of the most convenient methods to “spread the word” to as many people at once.
Why: In their Marketer Email Tracker 2019, DMA.org.uk reported that for every £1 spent on email marketing, you can expect a return of £42. The scalable efficacy of mass marketing along with the ability to create automated and consistent touch points is one of the primary reasons email marketing communication tools are worth the investment. These touchpoints hit the customer just at the right time, leading to closing more sales and an increased ROI.
Who: Businesses of any size in virtually any industry where you’re selling a product or service would benefit from mass marketing email tools, as they serve so many purposes. Abandoned cart reminders? Sign-up/welcome emails? Newsletters?
How: Mass marketing email tools allow you to do so much more than create a contact list to blast to. They come with tools and features to take your marketing to the next level, where you can actually see (and track results). You can experiment with different templates and automation tools, and see how much one email can do in terms of bringing in business.
The list of what you can do with mass marketing email tools is a long one, and both sales and marketing can take advantage of these communication tools to accomplish goals.
Some example tools are:
Team ticketing tools
What: Team ticketing tools allow both customers and employees to submit support tickets for help, though they are generally used more for customer support. These tools make your teams more efficient by organizing communication in one queue to make sure you don’t miss anything.
Why: Having a communication tool in place to assist in managing all your customers’ support questions can ensure both employees and customers get their problem solved in a timely manner. And, because these tools help your team have insights and data on common questions, you can get ahead of your customers’ needs, saving time. You can also automate common support services:
According to BMC, “One organization estimated that password resets accounted for 22% of their total service desk ticket volume. Specially, that was 46,000 calls per year that had been handled manually — at a cost of $22 per contact! Automating resets avoided around $1 million in costs for the service desk.”
Who: Team ticketing tools can work for businesses of any size and any industry, and can serve the business’ needs both internally and externally. These tools typically help support teams who collaborate on solving problems.
How: Once team ticketing tools are set up in the back end, you can make all of your communication channels publicly accessible for customers to submit their tickets, providing a unified support experience for clients that won’t frustrate them.
Some example tools are:
Video communication tools
What: Video chat tools can be integrated into businesses to be used both internally and externally. Internally, they can be used to, of course, hold team meetings or 1-on-1 calls, or record videos to be used for training purposes. Externally, they can be used to send recorded demos or hold live demos with customers, or hop on video to help solve a problem right then and there.
Why: Just like texting and live-chat, people who are able to see each other face-to-face on their devices will take the opportunity if it improves their overall experience. Microsoft says, “Because up to 93 percent of communication uses nonverbal cues, face-to-face meetings can help improve understanding and allow everyone to communicate more clearly.” Externally, video can be used to build trust and relationships with customers, and internally, help teams feel more connected to the company.
Who: Any business who has support agents or customers needing or wanting to talk face-to-face, either because it’s more convenient or they need to show/demonstrate something on live video that wouldn’t be possible over phone, SMS, email, etc. This works well in the healthcare industry, with the growth of telehealth technologies having been accelerated by COVID-19.
How: There are many ways to integrate video calling. Internally, companies can utilize video tools like Zoom for every scheduled meeting, making it easy to transition right from email to video chat (for instance, when you get a Zoom invite in your email). You can also use tools like Loom to record yourself explaining how to do something asynchronously, avoiding time spent in unnecessary live meetings.
And, externally, simply letting your audience know that they can schedule a video consult or sending a link to set up a video call is a great way to easily incorporate video into your company’s standard of communication. But, it’s also becoming more sophisticated; tools like Bambuser are bringing the live experience of being in a store right to the customer’s device.
Some example tools are:
Social communication tools/DM
What: These are conversational tools that allow customers to interact with companies via social media messaging platforms. These platforms are often sophisticated in that they have messaging support but also provide the ability to schedule meetings, send files, do live video, send payments, etc.
Why: Social media is huge and one of the primary forms of communication for many different audiences. Meet them where they’re at! Customers will likely be pleased that they can get in touch with a brand without having to even open another tab or app on their device. Hootsuite mentions, “70 percent of people expect to message businesses more in the future for customer service questions.”
Who: Any business who is active on a social media platform as part of the business model (or, just in general), then you should be available to communicate there, too. It could be used for support but also for sales; many companies utilize strategies like direct response copy (DRC) to initiate marketing techniques as well.
How: These tools do work similarly to live-chat, but may be more accessible for certain customers. Not only should customers be able to get in touch with you on these platforms, but you could actually invite them to connect with you there. Social media management platforms also help you manage communication on multiple social media sites.
Some example tools are:
What: Physical mail is another business communication tool that shouldn’t be left in the past, especially as there are digital platforms that can help you get it done. Physical mail communication tools cover a wide-range of different tool types, including mail-on-demand tools, apps, mass mailers, as well as corporate gifts on-demand where you can send customers welcome gifts.
Why: Physical mail tools are the standard in some industries, but even for companies that are completely digital, they can give you a fun edge-up on competitors by increasing brand awareness. According to Fundera, “70 percent of consumers say direct mail is more personal than online interactions.”
Who: Anyone can try physical mail, whether it’s sending out coupons (even if those coupons are meant for online use), sending swag t-shirts to your team, or sending door knockers as a real estate agent to people in the neighborhood.
How: To start, you’ll need to gather emails from leads and customers (which, these tools can help you achieve via opt-ins on your website and other inbound marketing features). Once you have your mailing list, you can create any type of physical mailer or package you want.
Some example tools are:
The bottom line
Though the speed of communication in the workplace has its pros and cons, there’s no denying the wonders that the right communication tools can do for businesses. Whether you go with an all-encompassing tool or pick and choose a handful of single-purpose tools to serve the needs of your business internally or externally.
Communication tools are important because not only do they allow us to be more productive and efficient, but they also help us initiate and provide more opportunities to market to customers, increase sales, and help audiences and individuals get the support and information they need.