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Communication is the foundation of business. Without a healthy dialogue between departments, as well as between stakeholders and external contractors, manufacturers and clients, organizations would founder amid a disorganized babble. Planning, budgeting, development, management: these essential duties of business cannot happen without a joined-up approach. Productivity is, in every aspect, reliant upon sound communication.
Where once deals would have been concluded with a telephone call or humble handshake, in today’s digital age there are various platforms and apps which augment the tangible touch of ear to handset or palm to palm. Having solid personal communication skills remains important, but innovative software means there is no excuse for shortcomings due to a piece of information going awry.
In this blog post, I’m going to talk about five top-rated team communication tools that, if used correctly, will improve communication between both your team and your clients . Let’s talk.
Zoho Cliq is a team communication software pitched at small and medium-sized enterprises. Real-time messaging, task management and automation are all part of the package, and external guest users (vendors, freelancers, potential clients) can also get access to further centralize conversation.
As far as features are concerned, there’s really no shortage. Sure, you get all the usual ones – an inbuilt calendar, mobile apps on all major platforms, audio and video conferencing, group and private chats and simple drag-and-drop file sharing – but you’ll also benefit from SSL encryption, unlimited storage and the ability to make video calls.
Because Cliq can easily be integrated with the likes of Dropbox, Google Drive, Mailchimp, Zendesk, Twitter and Zoho CRM, there’s even the ability to view and trade information from all your favourite apps without leaving the chat window. Oh, and lest the inbuilt calendar conflict with your own scheduling protocol, you can integrate the likes of Google Calendar too.
With more than 30 million cloud users, Cliq is definitely one to ponder if boosting communication is your goal – not least since their plans start from $1 per person per month (and you can also get it for free).
Slack is one of the best-known modern communication and collaboration tools for teams – and for good reason. Project brainstorming sessions, vital spreadsheet and image files, event announcements: all can live under Slack’s appreciably vast umbrella.
Essentially a uniform hub for messaging, tools and files, Slack helps save time, specifically that which you’d otherwise spend trawling through endless emails.
All conversations can be organized as per team, project or client, you can join and leave channels as required and, as with Cliq, you can share projects with trusted companies and remote team members. Converse seamlessly across mobile, desktop and other apps and, rather than querying for information dispensed days or weeks ago, you can be more productive by searching instead – saving the whole team valuable time.
As far as security is concerned, Slack’s credentials are unimpeachable, with data encryption in transit and at rest, plus SAML-based SSO and granular app management. And did I mention there are over 1,500 apps you can integrate into the tool? The less time spent navigating endless tabs, the better! Slack is free for small teams, although you’ll unlock more features by opting for the Standard ($6.85 per active user per month, billed annually) or Plus ($12.75) packages.
Skype for Business
Everyone’s heard of Skype, Microsoft’s comprehensive, industry-leading communications software. Skype for Business is known primary for its HD videoconferencing functionality, but there’s much else besides.
Pulling your team together is just a matter of sharing a personalized link and scheduling important meetings couldn’t be easier. If you’d like to review a meeting at a later date, whether to refresh your memory of a talking point or to clarify some numbers, just make sure to record it in the first instance. You can also share screens, annotate PowerPoint to collaborate in real-time, take advantage of features like editable whiteboards and polls, and count on 24/7 phone support as needed.
With such a wide range of collaboration features at your disposal, there’s really no excuse for meetings to be anything other than super productive. Naturally, a whole range of devices can be used to jump on a call, and with Skype for Business as many as 250 suits can be part of the same online meeting. Cost wise, you’re looking at $2 per user per month. Given the level of access to a range of valuable collaborative tools, not to mention the enterprise-level security, it’s an unbeatable deal.
With its recognizable Windows-style visuals, Microsoft Teams has a welcome familiarity. But truth be known, the chat-based workspace in Office 365 can hold its own against any of the aforementioned tools, irrespective of the cachet conferred by its brand name. Group chat, online meetings, calling and web conferencing are the four pillars, although the option is there to integrate other Microsoft and non-Microsoft apps to bolster productivity even further.
Users have raved about the customizable nature of the chat window, to which you can integrate apps such as Freehand by InVision, an interactive drawing board which lets your team work jointly on design ideas. Another cool feature is the GIF icon, which is definitely best used for informal dialogue with colleagues!
But by far the best-reported benefit is Microsoft Teams’ formidable integrated search capabilities and built-in access to SharePoint, OneNote and Planner, thereby enabling staffers to find exactly what they’re looking for, exactly when they need it, right there in the cloud.
Since we’re talking about Microsoft, end-to-end security should come as no surprise – so don’t worry about sending sensitive contracts and other files in real time. You can sign up for free or choose between Business ($12.50 per user per month) or Enterprise E3 ($20) packages.
Flowdock is a chat-based communication and project management tool that brings all of your conversations, work items and tools into a single place. While it comes with considerably less bells and whistles than the other tools mentioned in this article, its multiple flows and threads of conversation, to which users are alerted VIA desktop and mobile notifications, enables a more coherent way of working.
The API also gives developers the freedom to create custom integrations, as required. Especially nifty is the advanced inbox that saves all topical and contextual discussions, extinguishing the risk of miscommunication or delayed delivery.
All in all, it’s a great replacement for email, with a simple interface that practically takes seconds to get used to; but if you need features like document indexing, personalized profiles and video support, a tool like Slack is much more preferable. Flowdock’s pricing is modest, at $3 per user per month, although a free 30-day trial is also available.
Hopefully this rundown of communication tools will help you come to a decision. Whichever one you go for, these options will help to bring your team together, set the stage for conversation and give staff the centralized tools they need to collaborate more efficiently. Remember, a business that prioritizes good communication is more likely to avoid the disruption caused by missed or mixed messages. Let the conversation flow.
April 8, 2019 at 03:57AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs