With the prevalence of virtual and hybrid office arrangements, and digital natives moving into the workforce, modern consumers and small business employees prefer diverse communication channels. As consumers demand more options to contact businesses through communication channels like chat, text, voice, and social media, they also expect faster response times. According to Forbes, nearly 1/5 of consumers will pay more to get immediate service and extended availability.
To remain competitive, small businesses must have multiple communication channels ready to serve customers, and these nine communication software features can help. Keeping up with voice and messaging demands as a small business can be tough, and you need all the help you can get. Here are the communication features you need to gain an edge against the competition with an enterprise-grade voice and messaging platform.
How Does Advanced Communication Software Give Modern Businesses a Competitive Edge?
In addition to offering multiple communication channels for employees to collaborate and customers to reach your company or client, advanced communication software can provide various productivity-enhancing benefits. You can help your business or client overcome demand challenges by integrating automation into the calling or messaging process with chatbots, automated answering, and automated messaging.
With many organizations, including small businesses, moving towards a more flexible work environment, traditional telephone communication cannot meet the need to collaborate and communicate in remote and hybrid office environments. Small businesses require advanced communication software to keep remote office arrangements in communication and to provide business continuity if employees cannot come to the office for some reason, such as a natural disaster or illness.
What Are Businesses Doing to Keep Up With Communication Demands?
While larger businesses are faster to adopt advanced communication software features to give themselves a competitive edge, businesses of every size are adopting communication software features to keep up with demands. Consumers demand a fast response when they contact a business and want flexible options to reach out.
Organizations are adopting a multi-channel approach with unified communication features to ensure they are available to consumers through their preferred means of communication. Businesses can also provide 24/7 communication using chatbots, virtual assistants, and automated answering systems, even when their local offices are closed.
Organizations are also taking advantage of the high open rates that a more personal text message offers. These organizations often allow consumers to contact them using SMS/MMS channels, and implement automated messaging for features like two-factor authentication, promotional offers, and feedback surveys. Small businesses with an app can integrate a click-to-call or message button, allowing users to contact the business directly.
Collaboration and communication in a distributed workforce is an important demand your business or client can address with communication software features. Microsoft Teams with voice calling and voice or video conferencing can help your employees and business partners remain in close communication while working in a remote office arrangement. Collaborative features can also provide necessary business continuity and features like remote call forwarding and direct inward dialing (DID) to ensure the intended recipient receives inbound calls.
The Top Communication Software Features for Small Businesses
Small businesses depend on communication software features to enhance the customer service experience and facilitate communication and collaboration within distributed workforce environments. The following nine communication software features are some of the best for small businesses.
1. Unified Communication Solutions
Modern consumers demand flexibility when it comes to communicating with small businesses. You can provide your business or client with an omnichannel solution through Unified Communication as a Service (UCaaS), allowing customers to reach out to the organization using their preferred method of communication.
An omnichannel approach is critical to a successful business, as consumers may want to send an SMS or talk to a chatbot for simple questions and transactions, but may want to speak with a live representative over the phone for more complicated or personalized assistance. According to a survey in Forbes, companies using an omnichannel approach saw up to 50% more loyalty from consumers in online conversations than those using a single channel to reach consumers.
2. Mobile App Integration
In addition to providing multiple channels to communicate with customers, automation can also improve communication. Integrating voice or text messaging into a company’s mobile app can be a convenient way to keep in touch with users. While using the app, a user can press a click-to-call or text button to contact the business for support.
For instance, an e-commerce company can integrate SMS/MMS into their app to confirm receipt of the product with a photo or video. Integrating communication into a mobile app also makes sense for ride-sharing and delivery apps, allowing users to contact their driver in the app without sharing their personal phone number by using a number masking or proxy feature.
3. Automated Messaging
Automated messaging is another critical communication feature for small businesses. While most small businesses do not have the resources to send clients individual appointment reminders or feedback surveys, automating SMS/MMS can ensure recipients receive their messages promptly. Automated messaging can also be used for promotional campaigns and two-factor authentication, allowing your client or company to send messages in bulk and authenticate users 24/7 to log in to an app or website.
Messages are sent from the app using an SMS/MMS API from a reliable provider using application-to-person (A2P) routes. It is critical to use an A2P route for high volumes of messages sent from an automated system. Typical mobile phones use person-to-person (P2P) routes, which may result in bulk messages being flagged as spam.
4. Interactive Voice Response
Voice automation can assist the business along with automated messaging. Interactive voice response (IVR) is an automated answering system that prompts callers to complete a transaction or dial a recipient from a central phone number. For instance, if a caller dials a bank, they may reach an IVR, allowing them to quickly check their balance over the phone, get simple information like branch hours, or contact a specialist for immediate personalized assistance. An IVR can help businesses struggling with repetitive calls to ensure live representatives are available for more complex matters.
5. Direct Inward Dialing
Direct Inward Dialing (DID) is another critical feature for small businesses that can improve the inbound calling experience. When an incoming call reaches a DID, it can automatically be routed to the intended recipient without a receptionist or IVR. Choosing a provider that offers DID on a resilient network with built-in failover can improve business continuity, allowing calls to be routed to the correct recipient even if the network is interrupted by failing over to another physical network.
6. Remote Call Forwarding
Similar to DID, remote call forwarding can improve business continuity and the overall inbound call experience. A company’s disaster preparedness is crucial, regardless of size. According to a study in Pingdom, small businesses can lose up to $427 per minute during an outage.
When remote call forwarding is configured, calls will be automatically routed to another phone, on-site or remote. It also works with mobile phones and softphones, ensuring callers can reach the recipient even if they are not on-site.
7. Chatbots and Virtual Assistants
Applications and websites can feature integrated chatbots and virtual assistants to assist users with simple or repetitive questions and transactions like an IVR, ensuring live representatives are available to handle complex issues. For instance, a chatbot can provide a menu to a restaurant without the user needing to call or message restaurant personnel, saving time and money. A virtual assistant allows users to ask a question through voice recognition and will provide a suitable answer, or direct the caller to a live representative for further assistance.
8. Voice and Video Conferencing
Communication between employees is as important as communicating with inbound customers. The rise of the remote and hybrid office environment has made voice and video conferencing essential to many small businesses.
Related: What is remote call forwarding? How it works and best practices for effective implementation
In a virtual office environment, users can collaborate and communicate as a team using voice and video conferencing. During 2020, many organizations shifted to a virtual office environment in response to the pandemic, using applications like Zoom to continue meeting and collaborating. A significant number of companies still maintain full or partial remote office arrangements, requiring voice and video conferencing to meet with employees and partners.
9. Zoom and Microsoft Teams Voice Calling
In addition to voice and video conferencing, small business communication can be improved for distributed workforces with the collaboration features of platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams. While Zoom and Microsoft Teams have limited calling capabilities, voice-enabled versions of the applications can enhance business collaboration and customer experience.
When you combine Microsoft Teams with voice calling, your client or business can use Teams to connect to users within and outside of the organization, sending and receiving outbound and inbound calls through the platform. Microsoft Teams provides collaboration features like video conferencing, file sharing, and voice service is provided using a carrier’s PSTN or VoIP networks.
Partner With a Reputable Communications Provider for Your Communications Software Features
Choosing the right cloud-based communications partner will ensure your client or business has the communication software features to remain competitive. Flowroute offers voice and messaging services on a reliable, scalable, and flexible network with APIs for easy integration into software or systems. Get started with Flowroute for your cloud-based messaging and voice solutions.