Business communication is quite possibly the most crucial element of your day-to-day operations. It is made better one day at a time, one conversation at a time.
As we’re subjected to more and more information every day, clear and effective communication has never been more important in running a successful business. Business communication of all sorts — be it written communication like email or Slack messages or verbal communication over phone calls-plays a vital role in strengthening the business’s relationship with internal and external stakeholders and with customers and clients.
Well-thought communication processes ensure that the right people are getting the correct information at the right time without any hassle. And that it isn’t getting lost under an avalanche of emails, voicemails, or lower priority messages.
It’s no surprise that time spent on calls, emails, and meetings has increased by 25-50% in the last two decades. As a result, we have more communication channels and forms of communication than ever before in the history of humanity. From DMs to emojis, many other nonverbal communication methods have found their way into our daily lifestyle.
However, has it led to a drastic improvement in business communications? Or are we still struggling to keep up? Poor communication is still a common organizational challenge at the individual employee level as the corporate level. Fixing this one issue can positively influence customer loyalty, brand image, and a host of other benefits for the organization.
McKinsey Global Institute even found that enhancing internal communication processes and collaboration with the help of social technologies could increase the productivity of high-skill knowledge workers, including managers and professionals, by 20-25%. That’s a tremendous resource potential for businesses to tap into, especially when face-to-face communication is dwindling due to the pandemic-induced WFH scenario.
So we’re going to explore:
- The undeniable importance of business communication
- The types of business communication that are commonplace
- Tips to improve teamwork through better communication
- Must-have communication skills for customer-facing professionals
- Communication tools your business needs in modern times
What is business communication, and why is it important?
Business communication is the sharing of information within your organization and with customers or clients outside your company. Professional communication not only improves employee engagement, ownership, and agency but also increases your conversion, retention, and customer satisfaction rates.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, Gallup found that 43% of US employees worked at least some of the time remotely, and that figure has increased dramatically in recent times. With a dispersed workforce, keeping clear lines of lateral communication and downward communication is key to maintaining productivity and employee engagement. It also helps in aligning employees with your company’s values, mission, and strategic objectives. Hence, it’s well worth your while ensuring that your communication channels are tuned to support effective business communication.
Externally, marketplaces are becoming ever more crowded, and with customer loyalty being fickle like never before, the risk of losing customers looms large across all organizations. This makes clear, persuasive, and professional communication crucial for retaining customers and maintaining a healthy relationship with them.
Effective business communication can help you with:
- Staff loyalty, engagement, and retention
- Operational effectiveness and staff productivity
- Sales and conversion rates
- Customer satisfaction and retention rates
- Your business’s profitability
Understanding the various methods of communications businesses use
Your business communications can be classified as internal, external, and client-facing messaging. These are equally important for a profitable business.
Internally, that might include:
- Day-to-day project management updates, processing assignments, and passing critical information between colleagues when working through tasks
- Collaboration between staff members, either on short-term or long-term projects
- Inter-departmental communication, when solving a customer’s problem, or when sharing findings between parts of your organization
- Virtual meetings to share updates and information
- Lateral communication between peers as well as downward communication from management to staff on trends, strategic drives, or company news
- Urgent problem-solving and decision-making in crisis mode or to address a sudden event or issue
Externally, you might interact for:
- Marketing-focused messaging to attract and engage leads, familiarising prospects with your business
- Sales-focused communications to convert those leads into customers
- Operational communications as part of setting up those customers, as well as the day-to-day operation of the service you provide, depending on your industry
- Customer service requests to address issues
- Working with any suppliers you use for your operations
- Up-selling or retention calls to keep hold of your customers’ business
With so many purposes to your organization’s communications, it’s worth considering the numerous different methods at your disposal. Each channel of communication and tool is best fitted for specific purposes. Choosing the right channel and tool can make a world of difference to professional communications.
Telephone conversations and conference calling
For years the gold standard of business communications, the phone system, has continued to be an essential means of maintaining contact, both within an organization and when connecting to customers. A far richer platform than the written word, speaking to a natural person on the telephone remains the method of choice for most customers and a quick and effective way to collaborate with colleagues.
Thanks to mobile technology, it’s never been easier or cheaper to jump on a phone call with one or several others, so it’s no surprise to see businesses turn to cloud-based systems which untether employees from a fixed desk phone.
Increasingly popular in recent years, video conferencing is becoming the go-to communication method for internal meetings. With the flexibility it creates for remote working and the ability to read a lot of the non-verbal signals you get from a face-to-face meeting, video conferencing is here to stay.
Email remains a crucial component of business communications, with an incredible 320 billion expected to be sent worldwide in 2021.
Regular mail and fax
Regular mail remains an essential element of any business’s communications arsenal. These days, fax has all but disappeared, except in exceptional circumstances.
Web-based productivity systems
Increasingly popular for operating day-to-day, project management, and team collaboration software allow organizations to operate effectively and efficiently. These tools split work into project focuses, allowing for flexible internal collaboration built around your business.
Used by many as a step-up on email, instant messaging encourages regular and highly engaged collaboration, especially for teams working remotely.
Technology has provided incredible flexibility, but there’s still nothing as rich as a face-to-face meeting. With space for so much nuance and subtlety and also an indication of liking or disdain through facial expressions, it’s often a preferred method for salespeople, especially in high-end industries.
Customers increasingly look to social media to contact companies with questions, issues, and complaints. So it’s not uncommon to see contact center employees working across social platforms and via the phone, email, mail, and webchat.
Tips to improve your business communication
Here are just a few ways to improve your business communications, keep your employees onside, and your customers delighted with your service.
Tip #1: Research
Before you can improve something, you need to work out where you are now. So first, assess your current plan before you can draw up a goal and build a new one.
What communication tools are your teams using? Does this differ depending on the purpose of their work?
For example, are they using phone calls to talk to customers for detailed discussions and instant messaging to share information within the team quickly?
Externally, are there any trends in how customers are reaching out to you? For example, do they resort to social media, chat, email, or phone calls?
Researching and understanding these communication patterns are vital to sketching a fail-proof business communication process.
Tip #2: Draw Up Clear Groupings
Identify key groups within your staff body who need to communicate regularly and note the purpose of those contacts. Of course, the first calling point here will be departmental teams, but it will also pay to look a little deeper to identify less apparent groups.
Tip #3: Ask Your Employees!
Not only are they your best resource to identify issues and generate ideas, but asking your employees will also lift their engagement and loyalty. Find out who they speak to most regularly and how and where they see opportunities for improvement. What communication channels and tools would make their workday more accessible, and therefore more efficient?
Tip #4: Identify Methods
Identify the communication methods that most teams prefer using. What makes these methods work, their pros and cons, and how can they be made better. Are there efficiency savings you can make? Are staff wasting time juggling eleven communication tools when three or four would suffice?
Tip #5: Address Your Tools
Now it’s time to research the tools that can help improve your business communications. With a clear idea of who needs to talk to who, and how that can be most effective, you’ve got everything you need to find the most appropriate tool to use.
Most employees respond well to having a variety of communication channels to choose from, allowing them to communicate in the most effective way depending on their needs. But also keep in mind how effectively these integrate, to save time switching between different platforms or systems.
Tip #6: Look At Your Senior Leadership
A Holmes Report found that companies with highly effective communicators generated 47% higher total returns than those with the least effective communicators. That’s an incredible revenue difference to be seen by making even minor improvements in leaders’ communication skills. The expertise with which downward communication is carried out can also positively impact employee engagement, employee turnover, and ownership of work.
Business communication skills that call center agents must develop.
When looking at your call center staff, a few critical communication skills are essential to any good customer service provision. You’ll find that these skills are necessary across most of the workforce, but they come into particular use for call center agents who have to deal with customers and clients over phone calls. Here are just a few of the most important ones:
Any good call center agent must clearly explain complex technical information in a way that is easy to understand and a manner that isn’t patronizing. Technical communication could be typically challenging when there are too much jargon and workflows involved. A call center agent must set the context before starting to use them seamlessly in the conversation.
There’s nothing more annoying than an agent working on assumptions that don’t understand—or seem to care—about your problem. By employing active listening, call center agents will get it right the first time and be on the lookout for providing an even better service to the customer, solving a problem they might not even know they had. By going above and beyond, you’re sure to lift customer loyalty and retention rates. Internally, listening actively rather than multi-task ensures colleagues feel respected and cuts downtime lost to misunderstandings.
Efficiency and quick thinking
Finally, effective call center agents will be masters of their environments, pull up information, and take actions quickly and efficiently. If they need to bring in colleagues or refer a problem to a later conversation, they will do so smartly and speedily. Treating customers’ time with respect can sometimes be the best service you can offer. Do your systems help agents do this?
For more advice on how to get your customer service provision just right, read our blog post.
Business communication tools businesses need
To help your employees out, you need to make sure you have a suitable array of tools to facilitate their work.
And as customers make contact on an ever-increasing number of platforms, it can feel like you need to add more and more tools to your arsenal. Here are the most important ones:
- A phone system can tolerate your call volumes, flex with your scaling needs, and work effectively when staff is working remotely. Find out how to choose the right telephone system for your business.
- An internal communication system can send and receive instant messages and several file formats like documents, images, audio, videos, etc.
- A way of dealing with customer requests in one place, across social media, webchat/instant messaging, and email. Explore why Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) might just be the answer.
- A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software for keeping accurate customers with the help of through, etc.
It’s time to get talking
Effective business communication is an essential part of a profitable business, so you need to make sure you are set up with everything your employees need to communicate better, internally and externally.
By asking the right questions and finding out exactly how things are working today, you can generate significant improvements that reflect in your staff and customer retention rates, loyalty, and happiness.
And with the cost savings and increased revenues that this can bring, there’s no time to waste.
Illustrations by Mahalakshmi Anantharaman
Freshcaller is a modern-day cloud phone system that can be used to set up a phone system or fully-fledged call center for customer support and sales or even remote work. With its cloud-based architecture, Freshcaller brings together the best of legacy features like IVR and advanced call routing capabilities like Smart Escalations, Customizable Performance Reporting to help you set up state-of-the-art call center operations. Freshcaller offers phone numbers in 90+ countries, requires zero phone hardware, and is extremely easy to use.