Most business owners have high hopes when they file for their business licenses and set up shop, with ambitious aspirations to grow their seedling startup into something incredible.
Whether that “something incredible” is simply profitable enough to live on comfortably or the creation of a small (or not-so-small) business empire, most business owners are able to build up their client base and grow their business.
However, there are challenges that come with scaling. You may find that you’re unable to organize your time well as you begin running out of bandwidth, or you may find it difficult to maintain the same close-knit company culture as your business expands. More people (employees, vendors, customers, etc.) means more chaos.
Having a strong foundation for your communication platform in place is key to preventing and mitigating most growth-related chaos, and because it’s something that can take a significant amount of time, money, and energy, it’s important to get it right the first time. You want to create a platform that scales with you as opposed to simply being another obstacle that holds you back.
In this post, we’ll take a close look at how you can build a communication platform to grow alongside your new business, helping you stay in touch with both your team internally and your clients externally.
Why You Need Established Communication Platforms & Processes
Let’s say that one of your remote employees needs immediate help from another remote employee to complete a project on time. How do they get in touch effectively? Email may not get noticed quick enough, and if they don’t know the other person’s personal phone number, that’s also not ideal.
And what about your customers and vendors? Maybe someone needs to speak with a specific account manager they’ve worked with before, but they call the main business number which goes to your first available support agent who is unfamiliar with the account.
Establishing a defined communication platform will prevent these issues, providing smoother and more efficient exchanges for employees, vendors, and customers alike. And while it may seem complicated, communication platforms are really just about choosing the right tools and setting them up in a way that is easy to use and navigate.
Let’s go step by step through the process of setting up a communication platform that can scale with your business.
1. Choose Your Communication Channels
First, decide which channels of communication you want to use. Most businesses, after all, don’t use just one; even a transaction with a single customer can include a contact form, live chat and a phone interaction.
We recommend including the following communication channels:
- A virtual phone number. Virtual business phone numbers allow you to use an app on your phone to add a second phone line to it, which can make and receive calls, set up call forwarding and auto attendants based on schedules, and more. Phone lines with texting will benefit you most. You can even use one main business phone number and establish virtual extensions for each member of your team.
- Email. An email platform to communicate internally and externally is essential, for obvious reasons. Sometimes a text just doesn’t cut it when you need to send longer messages or transmit large files.
- Internal Messaging System. Some companies are opting for tools like Slack, and this is an excellent choice for quick internal communication. With Slack, you can even integrate with many of the tools you use every day, like Google Docs and Trustpilot reviews.
- Live Chat Software. Live chat is a phenomenal communication channel for your site visitors who just need a quick answer. It does, however, require a live agent to operate which is why many small businesses start with increasingly popular chatbots.
2. Set Up Your Communication Channels for Scalability
It’s not enough to just have a virtual business phone line or have a single email address for your business; you need to have everything set up to scale once you’re ready. While you may only have three people on your staff to start, that could quickly grow to 30 and then 300, and by that time, you’re going to need your communication platform to be ready.
For virtual phone lines, make sure that you have navigation menus or auto attendants set up. You want people to be able to reach whoever they’re trying to call the first time around. Set up each employee with their own extension instead of only doling out unique phone numbers that customers and vendors will have difficulty keeping up with.
When it comes to virtual phone numbers, you’ll also want to make sure you choose a provider that offers two things: The ability to have custom greetings, and the ability to use text messages. Custom greetings create a better experience for your customers and work to solidify your brand identity, and a massive increase in texts from both internal team members and external customers and vendors make the latter an essential addition. You’ll be able to communicate faster, making the process instant and more personalized.
For email, make sure that each individual user has their own secure email address through the company and that they’re using it instead of their personal email address. Even if you have a generic “[email protected]” address, make sure that it’s being forwarded to the relevant departments and that individuals are taking over after that. Gmail also makes it simple to set up email addresses using your own web address.
And for internal messaging software, have policies in place. You want to set up distinct teams so that people are able to communicate with relevant team members without too many distractions. Be sure to set up processes to determine when you’ll use text, and when you’ll use a tool like Slack.
3. Monitor Your Platform Closely
As you’re getting your communication platform set up and as it grows, watch it carefully. Sometimes you’ll be able to find kinks in the system, whether or not you’ve grown since you first implemented it. This is key to ensuring that the platform works for you to increase productivity, especially as you move forward.
See how your staff is using each platform, and whether any channel seems to be causing any hiccups. If email, for example, is used more frequently but seems to be causing delays in communication, put a bigger emphasis on phone or text as an internal policy.
To help with this, Tresta offers call analytics. You can see how your phone numbers are being used by team or individual user. You can also review your internal messaging channels and your email analytics to see how many messages are being received and responded to, in order to identify cracks in communication for both internal and external usage.
As you’re setting up your communication channels, it’s important to consider what you need right now, but you must also consider what you’ll need as you move forward. Most businesses that successfully scale, inevitably require a shift in how you communicate with both internal and external clients.
You know your business best, so make sure to choose the right channels and tools that will help you scale, upfront. You’ll thank yourself later.