Benefits of Using IM in Business Communication
Maybe you think Instant Messaging is just a secret teenage domain, perhaps you think it’s unprofessional for business use, just maybe you simply see it as a form of social media. You are wrong!
Instant Messaging has moved on from being part of a social media explosion, with social messaging apps now having more users than Social Media. All the reasons that Instant Messaging grew in the first place, make Instant Messaging a great tool for business communication. The advantages and benefits of Instant Messaging are clear and obvious.
1. What is Instant Messaging or IM?
Instant messaging or IM is the exchange of text messages in real time, although some services also provide video connectivity. You can send and receive messages to or from individuals or groups using an Instant Messaging network that all parties are connected to. Messages are sent and received instantly on any internet-connected device. It really is that simple. Similar to email but more conversational, no inbox required, and instant notifications. Different services provide different extras but essentially this is a direct messaging service from point to point at the touch of a send button.
There are services that you will have heard of; Viber, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Google Hangouts, Skype, Snapchat, etc. There are some that you might not have heard of iMessage, Discord, and eBuddy. Some services are open to everybody (Facebook), some are business-specific (Cisco, Jabber), some work better in certain business fields (Bloomberg Messaging), and some let you combine other features. Some are free, some are paid. One thing you do have is a choice, an overwhelming choice but options that will best suit your specific purposes.
2. Should Your Business Use Instant Messaging?
The use of Instant Messaging in business started as a kind of organic push. Colleagues and employees used services such as Whatsapp groups to communicate in an informal system of messaging, but it worked. There was a need but an element of openness that had its risks. Companies saw the potential and devised platforms of instant messaging more suitable for specific business purposes. The use of Instant Messaging in the business environment is now commonplace, it serves several purposes and has enormous benefits and a few potential problems. It hasn’t replaced email, it hasn’t totally replaced face-to-face dialogue but it is an additional resource, an extra in the box of essential communication tools that means that work can flow, more effectively and efficiently. And last but not least in these times of rapid and often mandatory growth in remote or virtual work it has become an absolute must.
3. Benefits of IM in Business
The ability and possibility of workers, teammates, and colleagues chatting quickly, easily and if needs be in private with one another regardless of physical proximity is a massive plus for businesses for many, many reasons. Add to this the fact that you can also contact clients and customers and it seems like IM is the obvious choice for businesses.
3.1. Saves time
One of the biggest advantages of instant messaging is in the name, it’s instant. You don’t have to go through the structure and addressing of an email, and all that entails. No phone call chit chat. You don’t have to walk to an office or another workspace (if indeed that were even possible) It’s a much less formal, quick, chatty, conversational system where communication is usually very, short, and very direct. You ask a question, you get an answer. In short, it is short. And you are not checking your email every few minutes.
3.2. Saves Money
Save time, therefore save money – true. If communication quicker and more effective, you have the chance to be much more productive. You get the answers that allow you to move on, you can spread information at the click of an icon. You can get everything done without leaving your desk. In addition, you can save money by cutting travel costs and expenses, fewer meetings, less paperwork, less need for physical office space -meeting rooms, etc. IM is a money saver.
3.3. Better Communication between Employees
IM allows workers to be connected to one another whenever and from wherever. If you have a request or question – ask it. If you need help, there is someone there. With IM it’s no big deal, people are more communicative. You can ask specific individuals or groups without the effort of trawling around offices or emailing. and you don’t have to ask the same question again and again. He who knows will be he who answers.
3.4. Better Communication between Different Levels of Staff
Also, the more informal nature of instant messaging means that employees are far more likely to receive answers from line managers or bosses. Workers feel more comfortable asking without having to disturb or make an appointment. The communication channels are more open.
3.5. More Efficient Communication
As well as saving time finding the answers or information you need from your colleagues, IM is excellent when dealing with clients or customer inquiries. If you don’t know the answer to the query, someone will. And hopefully, someone will quickly.
3.6. Increases Connectivity of workers
When your workers or team are in a closer physical environment (the office, canteen, lift) there is an organic flow towards communication that in many cases creates the camaraderie and connections that make a pleasurable working environment. This may not happen if you are forced, or have chosen to work remotely. It may not even happen in many office settings but it is important for job satisfaction, engagement, and feeling part of something bigger than the work you do. Happy workers are better, more productive workers and they stick with you. Instant Messaging goes some way to combatting this feeling of loneliness and even social isolation. There is someone to talk to, it doesn’t have to be task-centric, or work-related all the time. Even group chats make workers feel included, they know what’s going on, they are not alone!
3.7. Reduces Distractions
Almost counter-intuitively Instant Messaging actually reduces work distractions in many cases or at least lessens the interruptions. With Instant Messaging everything is in one place, you don’t have to be checking emails, answering the phone, or dealing with visitors. everything in one place on your one device. Answer the question, then back to the task.
3.8. Better Customer Service
Firstly Instant Messaging with clients and customers allows you a direct way of communicating and a useful quick way of answering questions and getting answers for them. It provides a “presence” so customers feel they have an instant point of contact and more personal service
3.9. Quicker Yes/No
Instant Messaging, at least in theory, gives you access to the answers you need from the business hierarchy. If you need a decision or feedback quickly then instant messaging gives you access to the decision-maker. This works for the staff and also for clients and customers.
3.10. No Spam
Instant Messaging is focused on the information you want and need. It is not like email that can be awash with messages that you really don’t need or want for the work tasks.
3.11. Always Connected
For better or worse you are always connected with instant messaging. Available on any device with internal access, wherever you are, even on the move. And instant messaging is usually a quicker answer or read than long-winded messages.
4. Disadvantages of IM in Business
As with anything there have to be some negatives to run alongside the positives and IM is no exception.
With any informal communications platform, there is a risk that the messaging can become more personal and less work-based, thus lading to distractions and non-productive behavior. However, it should be noted that this type of distraction is very much around anyway, in the office or at home, and can be helpful in order to make the employee more comfortable and improve team cohesiveness, trust, and relationships. As with anything, there are limits but personal responsibility is important.
It is certainly true that instant messaging is more impersonal than face-to-face communication. However, the nature of instant messaging is more personal than many other forms of remote communication and is definitely better than nothing at all. Some employees actually prefer it. And given the circumstances in many work situations at present face-to-face is not an option.
4.3. Security Concerns
Security concerns around hacking, viruses and phishing mean that your personal computers may be at risk of attack. This could also put at risk your confidentiality. End-to-end security, firewalls, and encryption will help.
4.4. Interconnectivity of Systems
Most IM platforms are single services so you can’t swap messages between them. tom use them all parties must be signed up to the platform.
4.5. Archiving, Compliance, and Legal Issues
Whilst email can be used as evidence in court proceedings, typically firms do not archive IM. Some software does now enable archiving but by no means all. You should also check the laws on Compliance use of electronic communications and make sure you are up-to-date in your own country.
Many of the advantages of IM are the fact that it is instant. However, there are no guarantees. A message may be instantly delivered but not necessarily answered.
5. Is IM for you?
Instant Messaging is a great business tool when used appropriately. The time savings and improvement in effective, efficient communications all help to wad the smooth running of any business. It can be used purely internally, or externally too. It helps create the community and collaborative spirit between workers that is so important today. Spend some time researching the right platform and the extras that are on offer. It’s a busy market and a competitive one and the choice of platform is important. It’s also worth thinking about putting some usage guidelines in place to avoid potential issues.