30 things you need to know about instant messaging for business

Instant messaging has been around for many years now, but what's it all about? Here's a list of things you need to know about IM for business.

With many providers still attempting to convince the world that instant messaging (IM) is a revolutionary idea, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a brand-new concept. It’s actually been around for over forty years! We’ve been in the business for more than twenty of those, so based on our experience, and on sources we recognize as authorities on the matter, here’s what we think you need to know.  But first, the basics…

1. What is business instant messaging?

Business instant messaging (IM) software is a messaging program that businesses use to communicate quickly and efficiently. Business IM is primarily used as a means of easy, day-to-day communication within an organization.

It’s not quite the same as the more commonly-known public instant messaging that people use to chat with friends. Most business IM services provide restrictions on access (and other security measures like authentication) to ensure the safety of the company's network.

2. IM is extremely popular

If you combine both personal and business use, people are sending over 41 million instant messages every minute. That’s a lot of notifications in one day.

3. It’s used worldwide

In 2019, the number of worldwide IM accounts (not including mobile messaging) totaled over 7 billion.

4. Its users are constantly growing

That last figure is expected to grow at an average annual rate of about 6% over the next four years, reaching 8.9 billion by the end of 2023.

5. Using IM is a universal skill

80 percent of adults say they use messaging daily. Most employees likely already use some sort of IM tool, making it easier to adapt to in the workplace. Even the least techy of people will be on board.

6. Internal communication needs attention

60 percent of companies don’t have a long-term internal communications strategy. This can have a detrimental effect on collaboration and productivity.

7. IM helps to keep employees up-to-date

74 percent of employees feel they are missing out on company news and regular updates. With the right instant messaging service, you can keep your employees in the loop at all times.

8. It allows for instant feedback

80 percent of millennials would prefer real-time feedback over traditional performance reviews. Having a business instant messenger gives you a way to send a short message like "Great job today, Sam!" to an employee. Presto: real-time feedback provided!

9. It can be used for customer service

53 percent of consumers said that they’d prefer to use electronic media such as IM instead of the phone for customer support. Offering both options means you’re covering your customer service bases.

10. Public IM services can lack security

Not all IM services have sufficient security for your business needs. It’s another major distinction between social IM and business IM.

11. Unprotected IM means a lack of confidentiality

When information is exchanged over an unprotected public IM network it can leak to anyone. It goes without saying that this can end up causing pretty serious problems. In regulated industries, this can go as far as unwanted lawsuits and hefty fines. Business messaging deployments mean more security and less risk.

12. Regulated industries need secure IM

If you’re part of a regulated industry or a healthcare organization, you have a lot more research to do when it comes to choosing the right IM service. For example, in healthcare, you probably need a HIPAA-compliant service. In most industries, you’ll at least need guaranteed data protection.

13. Employee security matters

Employees care about their security too. A survey of over two thousand US adults revealed that 57 percent of all smartphone app users have either deleted an app or refused to install an app for security and privacy reasons.

14. A company-wide solution is best

Your employees’ personal privacy is important. Some will want to keep their work and personal life separate. With IM for business, employees no longer have to use personal phone numbers or social messaging accounts to interact with colleagues.

15. IM reduces email volume

Messaging reduces overthinking and time spent replying to internal emails. That’s time that can be better spent on customer service or client work.

16. It gets employees off the phones

Whether you’re in a call center or have employees on the shop floor, IM can be used to reduce customer hold times and get employees communicating with fewer delays.

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17. It improves efficiency for remote team members

Remote teams can interact quickly and efficiently without having to pick up the phone or wait hours for an email response.

18. Less inbox clutter is worth pursuing

Inbox clutter has been reported to increase stress levels. 81 percent of employees are more stressed when they have to reply to emails on the weekend. 75 percent of employees saw a decrease in call and email volume after IM was implemented at work.

19. IM can increase efficiency

66 percent of employees noticed that IM adoption led to faster resolutions for simple questions and problems.

20. It can also increase productivity

21 percent of employees noted either a moderate or significant increase in productivity with the use of IM. That’s a good chunk of the workforce that could benefit from an efficiency boost.  

21. It creates fewer distractions

75 percent of people believe IM is a useful tool for avoiding the greater distractions caused by more traditional forms of communication, like voicemail or email. Fewer ringtones, tidier inboxes.

22. IM will not totally replace email

As we’ve mentioned, IM will reduce the number of emails you receive. With that said, it doesn’t completely replace email.

Some employees prefer email for different tasks or briefs. If you’re only using your IM internally, customers can communicate via email, too. It’s not a matter of choosing between one or the other, it’s about using them for what they’re best at.

23. It can boost employee wellbeing

Employee wellbeing and resilience are vital ingredients for any business – especially at the time of writing this, when so many teams are working remotely. What are you doing to keep your employees motivated? Business IM can help support a daily structure and provide a little bit of normality. It encourages those virtual watercooler moments and gives you the opportunity to check in with employees instantly.

24. It’ll save time and money

The ability to share images, documents, and files via IM has cut print and distribution costs. It also allows people to interact without having to travel to the office or further afield.

25. You can create a knowledge base

Conversations can be archived and referenced at a later stage. They’re often searchable, too, making them a useful resource for new hires.

26. It allows for group interaction

Group messaging means you can reach people where they are, all at once, and fast. No need to call over an intercom, beep a pager, or message people individually to find out who’s available to swap a shift or work late.

27. It’s not about being always on

It’s important that you and your employees know that adapting instant messaging doesn’t mean you have to be ‘always on’. This mentality increases stress levels and has a negative impact on a person's mental health.

It’s important to promote a positive work-life balance. Use and respect others’ availability status, especially when it’s clearly ‘out-of-office’.

28. Setting standards is important

It’s OK for employees to feel comfortable and socialize with one another using your IM. GIFs and emojis can add a layer of casual fun. Having a set of rules and best practices at the beginning is important, though. It ensures that your business IM is a safe space, and there isn’t anything unexpected happening behind the scenes.

Keep your employees up to date from the beginning. Add the best practices to the company handbook or intranet. That way, they’ll be in the know and won’t share or do anything that could get them in trouble.

29. IM is used widely in healthcare

88 percent of nurses admitted to using their smartphone apps in their daily nursing work to stay in touch with hospital colleagues. They found it quicker and easier to use a smartphone when accessing information on potential diagnoses than to wait for a doctor or second medical opinion to become available.

30. Now’s the time to adapt

Daniel Giannotti, head of capital markets and investment management at Capital Consulting, has written about how wealth management firms are still shunning instant messaging:

“...most wealth management businesses remain on the sidelines, grappling with the challenge of how to engage their clients using instant messaging in a secure, compliant, efficient and effective way.”

Don’t watch the game from the sidelines! Regulated industries should be able to find a secure and reliable platform that allows them to adapt to life today, both during and post-pandemic.

Now that you’ve got the lowdown about instant messaging for business, you might be wondering how it’ll fit into your existing technology stack, and rightly so! IM adoption shouldn’t cause delays or confusion for the business, it should slot in and ‘just work’ as quickly as possible. Making that happen means finding an option that best suits your business needs. We hope the above information will make it a little easier to find a platform that your business can adopt without a hitch.

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