Don’t delete small business email accounts just yet, but it seems that a new generation of business chat software increasingly is finding its way into the workplace to aid communication.  With the trend toward more flexible and remote work options to attract and retain employees; the adoption of chat apps boosts collaboration among small business team members wherever they are, even in the office. In addition to real time chat, the new tools make it easier to collaborate efficiently because they enable sending and receiving documents and even video conferencing, which should be aided by a noise-canceling headset to eliminate background noise.

Spiceworks, the IT pro community, recently surveyed 450 IT professionals in North America, Europe, the Middle East and Africa to determine just how widespread is the use of collaborative chat apps and what are plans for adoption.  Survey findings indicate that chat apps such as Google Hangouts, Slack, and Skype for Business are on the rise with 42% of companies of all sizes taking advantage of them and more planning to adopt them in the future.

Asked about the value of the chat apps, the majority of IT pros (51%) said they are critical to their organization’s success. Most IT pros think these tools make the workforce more productive, Spiceworks reported.  In fact, only 22% of IT pros believe they distract users from getting their job done.

IT pros did not discount the security risks posed by chat apps but the majority were not “hugely” concerned, according to Spiceworks.  Among respondents, 32% said the messaging apps put corporate data at greater risk from hacking. Nearly 60% do not recommend sharing files/information via group chat apps. The bottom line is to be smart about using chat app services.

Engage with customers

Chat apps also are having an impact on customer relationships. A study by Nielsen, commissioned by Facebook last year, found that among people who message businesses:

  • 63% say they message more with businesses than they did two years ago
  • 67% expect to message more with businesses over the next two years
  • 53% say they are more likely to shop with a business they can contact via a chat app

Facebook advises businesses that are considering adding messaging for customer communication to:

  • Determine where messaging can strategically support business goals and enhance customer brand interaction before implementation.
  • Regional differences matter. In some areas of the world, messaging may be more pervasive than in others. Customers may already be engaging with businesses via chat apps while others may only be using the apps for chatting.
  • There are many opportunities to explore using chat apps from raising brand awareness to driving sales. Set goals, experiment and learn from other company successes.

Messaging is changing the way teams communicate in the workplace and businesses communicate with customers. It’s worth chatting about.