Manage Business Phone Service and Instant Messaging Together with 8x8
Instant messaging, also known as IM, or chat, is coming into its own as a useful, legitimate business communications tool, despite its checkered past as the preferred tool for the e-version of what used to be known as “shootin’ the breeze” with one’s coworkers or flirting on company time.
But despite its immediacy, versatility, and ability to help workers multitask to get things done quickly, it’s seldom given its due, and often exists off in its own isolated corner of many companies’ communications systems. Frequently, there’s little standardization, so workers use whichever IM software they use at home, creating an inconvenient jumble of systems that don’t usually integrate well with other IM systems, let alone other channels of business communication such as phone, web and videoconferencing, and voicemail.
IM Can Increase Productivity and Decrease Coworker Resentment
It’s time that business learns to manage, integrate, and leverage this valuable tool, not just tolerate it or even worse, ignore it. Chat wouldn’t be so popular if it didn’t fulfill so many different needs.
For example, in many workplaces, offices are a thing of the past, with cubicles shrinking and open floor plans growing. Many workers resent having to listen to phone conversations carried out even in normal speaking voices, much less an “animated discussion.” IM saves them from distraction and seething over what they would otherwise come to think of as “the loudmouth three cubicles down on the left.”
IM-based Multitasking—Wisely Done—Helps Boost Output
And of course, sometimes people have to handle two channels at once, such as taking a very valuable customer call and using IM to ask someone else for quick input or more info to support the phone call.
“Being able to chat with my office while I’m with a client is great,” says Cheryl Schneider Trujillo, owner of a Farmers Insurance business. Other great business reasons for relying on IM include:
- Wanting a written record of an exchange, particularly when complicated directions are involved.
- Frequently needing to cut and paste critical, timely input into documents.
- Not wanting—or even being able—to walk a few steps to see if someone is available for a face-to-face meeting or phone call. IM lets people check for availability first, and with mobile workers, and even lets people reach out across continents to establish availability and then interact.
Learn to Manage IM, Not Just Tolerate It
At 8x8, we think that it’s time for businesses to exploit and manage IM for the productivity gains it can create, not just tolerate it as something employees inevitably drag in from outside if IM is ignored at work. We believe it’s an important element of a small business phone system. To that end, 8x8 IM is included with 8x8 business phone service, and offers many important strategic and tactical advantages over public IM services (such as Google chat, AIM, and Yahoo! IM) including:
- A company directory integrated with your 8x8 system. You automatically have all co-workers in your contact or ‘buddy list’ and can see their status/presence. No need to look for IM user names and import all your co-workers.
- You can import personal Google & Facebook contacts into 8x8 contact lists to see their presence and IM them.
- Indications when other 8x8 contacts are on the phone or a web conference, not just “busy.” This helps with follow-up.
- An archive of all IM conversations for two years, helping employees access important communications and also helping with compliance.
- A compact tabbed view to manage all your 8x8, Google, and Facebook IM conversations in a single window.
- Encryption of all IM conversations—even with Google and Facebook contacts—for secure business chat interaction.
- 8x8 integrates business phone service, presence and IM into Windows and Mac browsers, as well as with standalone apps and iPhone, iPad, and Android apps.
- One-button touch to escalate an IM session into a web conference to share documents, initiate audio/video conversations, and invite others. (Web conference feature requires Virtual Office Pro).
Managed correctly, IM can be a powerful productivity tool. But it must be integrated with companies’ regular business phone service, web tools, business phones and logging/monitoring capabilities to power profitable business communications.
Check out this example below, showing how you can chat with colleagues and see them on video at the same time for the body language. If your phone system isn’t fully integrated with instant messaging, take a look at an 8x8 Virtual Office business phone system.