The coronavirus pandemic literally moved office workers home. That’s how it was in my company as well. When it all started, the first thing I thought about was communication. Having taken care of the communication channels, I was able to transfer the team to the remote work quickly and efficiently. By the way, it took me just a week.
Forced isolation led to an explosive increase in the use of various messengers and platforms for video communications. The number of users of the rapidly gaining popularity Zoom has grown from about 10 million a day to 200 million. Recommendations on the etiquette of business communication in instant messengers and tips on how to look better when calling on Skype have appeared in the network.
However, those who had never used instant messengers and other online communication channels before, faced with uncertainty, because the choice is large, and each program has different purposes. The first thing you need to understand when transferring an office to remote work, is that each messenger has its own specialization: after all, you are unlikely to think about conducting a conference call on Instagram, and for communicating with clients of a luxury clothing brand use a reanimated ICQ?
In business, instant messengers are most in-demand for everyday communication within the team, video conferencing, and integrated communication with customers. Due to frequent travels, working with a team in a remote format has become commonplace for me. That is why the coronavirus quarantine did not take me and my team by surprise. Over the years of running my company, I have tested most of these tools. I’ll tell you about the pros and cons of the most popular of them.
Employees daily communication – Slack
Slack is the first messenger on the market that was originally launched as a tool for business. The service entered the market in the summer of 2013, and last year more than 12 million people used it.
Pros: Slack supports integration with almost 100 third-party services such as Dropbox, Google Drive, GitHub, Google Docs, Google Hangouts, Twitter, Trello, and others. It has its own ready-made bot Slackbot, which allows you to automate routine operations when communicating between employees, for example, by writing a short command to chat, you can receive all messages related to a specific task. Slack also has an API that allows companies to write their own bots, including for automating communication with customers. Moreover, the number of users is not limited in any way. According to this indicator, Slack could be recommended to companies of any size and field of activity, but it is probably suitable only for those for whom the “history of the issue” is not critical. In my opinion, the perfect number would be 30-100 people.
Cons: Slack has a free version that allows you to search the archive for up to 10,000 messages. However, to get the full functionality, you will need to pay from $6.67 to $12.5 per user per month, and this, as they say, is another story. Also, Slack does not allow the company to use its own hosting, which can be a problem if the messenger is working with personal data or some critical information is being transmitted.
Video conferencing – Skype and Zoom
For many years, the undisputed leader in this segment was Skype. That’s why the company was acquired in 2011 by Microsoft for $8.5 billion. Nowadays, few people remember that Skype started as a cheaper analog of telephone communications, and was also actively used around the world as a messenger, but now it is mostly used for video calls. A serious competitor to Skype in the corporate segment may be a younger Zoom, but, as often happens, unexpected popularity turned into problems for it. Zoom found several serious vulnerabilities and it will be possible to talk about this service as the best solution for video conferencing only after these problems are resolved.
Pros: Skype is quite well protected from hacker attacks, at least there have been no major scandals with its “participation” in recent times. Since the service is owned by Microsoft, it is perfectly integrated with all the tools belonging to this company, primarily with MS Office. Also, users of the service are provided with cloud storage up to 1 terabyte in size. In most cases, using Skype allows you to fully meet the communication needs of small companies (up to 30 people), but still most often when it is a team of employees who almost don’t communicate with the outside world.
Cons: the main disadvantage of Skype is the high requirements for computer power and communication channels. When using budget laptops, Skype can significantly load the system and interrupted, and “slowing down” video has become almost the hallmark of the company, although the same problems often arise when using other services.
Integrated communication – Mango Talker
Now we will consider the option for a larger company when switching to remote work, it needs to ensure constant communication with both employees and customers. And what if each of them is used to communicating in his messenger? Try, for example, to release a new page on the site if your copywriters use WhatsApp and the designers “sit” in FB? What shall you do? Looking for their mobile? In the office, you would just dial the extension number. It turns out that it is also possible from home if the corporate messenger is part of the PBX, like Mango Talker “business communicator”.
Pros: after installing the corporate Mango Talker (there are mobile and desktop versions), all short internal office phone numbers will work on your smartphone or computer. The list of contacts will be loaded from the “cloud”, and all the employees will be on your “speed dial” again. There are chats – one-on-one and group and other functions of the virtual PBX (in this case, Mango Office), for example, conference calls, video conferencing. Customers can now call you on your work number. And not only call – Mango Talker works with messages in multi-channel mode, each client, as before, will communicate with you in his favorite messenger. And you, through Mango Talker, will be able to correspond with everyone at once, simultaneously controlling several instant messengers and social networks through which orders or requests are received.
Cons: Mango Talker is available only to customers of the Mango Telecom virtual PBX service (while the “Business Communicator” is even included in the basic, low-cost package of services), but no solutions with similar functionality have appeared on the market yet.
Summarizing the above, working remotely is not about hype, but about the convenience and effectiveness of the tools used. When building a team’s remote work, you need to think everything through to the smallest detail – what is the communication speed, what kind of PCs and smartphones do your employees have, and whether the services you have suggested suit them. You might be so good at communication that you don’t even want to go back to the pre-quarantine offline format.