Many businesses waste masses of time just in the way their workers communicate with each other. They all too-often wait hours, days or even weeks for a response to a simple query. Instant messaging (IM), and the concept of Unified Communication, (UC) can help you to eliminate this time wasting. Presence is particularly helpful – it can quickly and efficiently inform you whether the person that you want to contact is available.
How long does it take to ring someone up and ask them a question? If they are on voicemail, or away, the process can drag on. How many times have you walked down the hall to find if someone is in their office and then had to leave a post-it note on their desk? Imagine it’s 8pm and you’re still in the office, and your colleague who works from home has the answer to a question. Do you ring them?
This is where you can really benefit from IM and UC such as Presence. Presence is a status indicator that can tell you what a person’s location is, whether or not they are in a meeting, travelling or on the phone. It’s even sophisticated enough to tell you which communication channel they’d like to be contacted on at any point in time, such as mobile or IM.
Most business people are open to receiving a text message, even in a meeting, but by using Presence, you can also find out whether they have time to talk over the phone, or on in impromptu video conference, or even meet face-to-face at short notice.
IM and Presence can be used within your business as a key tool for finding information quickly, without unduly intruding, or wasting your colleagues’ timeUltra efficient.
The main advantage of using Presence in a business context is you can type a quick, short message to a colleague and get an immediate response. The response might be to tell you they are available, but it can equally usefully facilitate speedy decisions.
This process can eliminate the time lag of email response times, offering more immediate replies. IM can reduce the sometimes necessary, but inefficient, chit-chat of a phone call. It also allows workers to avoid the tedious game of voicemail tag.
Used judiciously, IM can help to initiate conference calls quickly and easily, and enable collaboration. For example, IM can help distributed teams to work together more closely, particularly if they are in different departments, buildings or even companies.
It can even help to find the right expert at short notice, bringing them into the decision quickly when required.
IM can also be useful when a business is working across time zones with external businesses, and there are cost and time savings to be made here too. One UK fashion retailer uses IM and Presence to communicate between its UK and European offices. It can quickly contact supply chain partners, manufacturers and distributors who are located across the globe in places as diverse as India, China and Italy. Presence means the company can make quick decisions on materials, stock and logistics, saving a significant amount of time and money, not to mention reducing call costs.
IT managers who are concerned employees may abuse IM, or that usage may become unmanageable should produce an IM policy. The policy should include guidelines on acceptable usage, for example, it could state that the technology should be used for business purposes only.
IM enables companies to offer their customers a better service because it connects directly with buyers in a non-threatening way and on their terms.
Your policy can help to encourage professional IM usage as IM can actually decrease productivity if it’s used improperly.
Two employees swapping crude jokes over an IM could subject the business to a sexual harassment suit from an offended employee, so there are legal risks associated with using unmonitored IM and a policy can spell this out.
Guidelines can also address security issues, which is key as IM hackers and criminals are getting more widespread. IM attackers can steal confidential information from the user’s PC via viruses, worms and phishing scams. You need to tell your employees that they should exercise the same care that they do when using email and the web and always be careful with transmitting confidential or personal information.
Many banks, insurers and telecoms firms are already fully engaged with this communication method.The technology is quick, effective and can allow for tremendous flexibility for both your business and your customers.
Your business could incorporate IM into your website to answer quick questions from potential customers and offer immediate information and advice. It also enables you to sell directly to the customer, cross-sell and up-sell to them, and even encourage a ‘call-back’ where one of your sales advisors can call and assist them by phone, thereby clinching a sale.