Endless email streams, to-do lists written on sticky notes, files buried deep in an email account…sound familiar? If so, you (and your business) could probably benefit from a few more tools in your communications toolbox. From client and project management to office brainstorming and chitchat, we’ll take a look at the 7 best, most reliable tools for communication in the office and with clients.
1. Employee Chat
Long considered to be a time-waster by stickler office environments, intra-company chat apps are increasingly being seen as a crucial part of employee-to-employee collaboration, and are especially useful in open-plan office environments, where finding a place to talk outloud might be greeted with angry glares. As part of their arsenal of business-friendly apps, 37 Signals came up with Campfire, a business chat app designed for companies with between 2 and 60 employees that effortlessly facilitates chatting, file sharing, and group decision making (from where to go to lunch to the name of your new campaign).
Different chat rooms can be set up for different purposes, and importantly, all Campfire chats are password protected, with SSL security. Campfire is most commonly used between colleagues, but is a great option for businesses with offices in diverse locations, and can also be a useful tool for frequent client chats. Campfire offers a 30-day free trial, with a basic plan (enough for 12 chatters), starting at $12/month.
2. CRM: Zoho
A CRM – or Client Relationship Management – helps businesses to keep track of their clients leads, track successes and sales data, and organize contact information. With the right system, business communication becomes automated, simplifying connections and leading to happier clients – and better conversions. Largescale CRMs like SalesForce are remarkably comprehensive but expensive, far out of the reach of most small businesses – which is where Zoho comes in.
Zoho is free at its most basic level (for three users), offering easy-to-use tools to track leads, organize contacts, and create web forms. For $12/month, Zoho offers heaps more, including email marketing, sales forecasting, and room for 100,000 records.
3. Project Management: Basecamp
It’s difficult to imagine how businesses got anything done before cloud-based project management software like 37 Signals’ Basecamp. As easy to use as it is robust, Basecamp allows collaborators to keep track of what they and those around them are doing using a series of to-do lists and message boards. Collaborators can upload files, make comments to lists and ideas, and even keep track of deadlines with a well-designed calendar app. Basecamp plans start at $20/month for 10 projects and 3GB of space after a generous 60-day free trial.
4. File sharing: Dropbox Apps
Most businesses already know Dropbox as an easy platform to share, store, and transfer documents, but few realize that its true breadth lies in the myriad apps that have popped up to support its burgeoning service. One such app is DropItToMe, which lets users set up a password-protected URL aligned directly to Dropbox so that friends, clients, and colleagues and upload files directly. InSync, meanwhile, is an app designed primarily for Google Drive, but works wonders to sync your Dropbox with your desktop and other cloud-based applications.
5. Increased Accessibility with VoIP solutions: Hottelecom
A recent study suggests that employees who work remotely are more likely to work extra hours and put extra effort into doing their jobs than their office-based colleagues. However, being out of the office can lead to many remote workers feeling isolated from the company, and, if they don’t have the right tools to work productively, this can lead to demotivation.
A business VoIP solution like HOTTELECOM can help bridge this gap, helping to ensure that remote workers have access to the information they need around the clock. With greater accessibility, a business VoIP solution allows for greater connectivity between employees and the company, boosting worker morale and, by extension, productivity.
6. Ultimate Synchronization: Otixo
With so many cloud-based apps on the market these days, interactions with new colleagues and clients are bound to run into a couple IT blindspots: In order to work together, everyone needs to adapt to a shared system. Easier said than done. Otixo attempts to solve this and innumerable other cloud-based synchronization problems with a powerful app that organizes all your cloud-based apps and files into one place.
You’ll never have to struggle to remember whether a file is swimming in Dropbox or hiding in Gmail again. A lifetime subscription to Otixo starts at $39.99/month, with a 14-day free trial to make sure it’s the right service for your business.
7. Group Editing: Google Drive
Google Drive has made leaps and bounds since it launched a couple years ago, with document, spreadsheet, and graphing tools on par with the ubiquitous Microsoft Word application. What really sets Google Drive apart, though, is its excellent editing applications. Collaborators can track changes, leave comments, and live chat within a document. Like all Google apps, Drive is totally free to use, and syncs effortlessly with all other Google accounts.