Communication trends have been evolving rapidly in the business world ever since technology started developing at a quick pace.
Few things, however, have shifted trends in communication as swiftly and significantly as the COVID-19 pandemic, which essentially forced approximately 51% of Americans to work from home (some for the first time ever).
Nothing changes communication patterns quite like having your entire standard operating procedures being pulled out from under you.
In this post, we’re going to look at the communication trends businesses can expect to see in 2021, both for internal team members and external clients.
Internal Communication Trends for 2021
With such a drastic shift and many users working remotely either completely or in part throughout the pandemic, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that communication patterns, tools, and behaviors have changed for internal teams. Many are expected to keep some form of remote work at least as an option, even after vaccines are widely available.
Let’s take a look at the new trends you can expect to see as we head into 2021.
1. Flexible, Remote Solutions Will Be Paramount
Is your team able to answer business calls while they’re home, away from their in-office desk phones? Can they access your primary communication channels with standard internet access and without being physically at a specific location?
Right now, adaptability is the name of the game.
Communication tools that offer live chat instead of just phone calls are important for people working from home while their neighbors build themselves a new roof or the dogs see a squirrel. Tools with mobile apps so that people can respond on the go (and receive alerts when needed) are even better.
Virtual business phone systems like Tresta are becoming the norm, allowing users to access business phone calls from an app on the mobile device they already have. Tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams allow users to work on-the-go from mobile and desktop alike as they’re able to.
2. Real-Time Chat & Text Will Dominate Over Email
Partially because it’s flexible and convenient while still having the option to be immediate, real-time chat and text are likely to be more popular for internal teams than email.
You can expect emails to still contain information like meeting invitations or evergreen memos for the office, but in many cases more businesses are shifting to text and chat platforms like Slack or Teams.
File sharing, appointment scheduling, project management, and collaboration are all happening with messaging options that allow you to have conversations with the entire team, certain individuals, or just one-on-one.
Texting will also play a part, so choosing virtual business phone systems that allow team members to not only make calls and answer voicemails remotely but also to text team members will be key.
3. Video-Optional Conference Calls Will Continue to Gain Popularity
Zoom group meetings and conference calls are happening en masse all over the globe. Users can choose to disable video if they want (especially if they’re still in their pajamas or have a not-quite-office-ready home in the background, no judgement), but many businesses are setting up conference calls with video automatically listed as an option.
For teams who are working entirely or largely remotely, this gives them the chance to have “face-to-face” time with team members, which can help to improve team relationships and collaboration.
External Communication Trends with Clients
While internal communication trends will vary heavily depending on how your business runs, communication trends with consumers are likely to be much more consistent regardless of your business size or even industry. This is because what customers expect is a baseline standard across all industries.
Let’s take a look at the new and most significant external communication trends that your customers will expect in 2021.
1. Increased Personalization
This has been an emerging trend for a few years, but it’s still one of the most significant. Customers want increasingly fast service from businesses, and they want it to be tailored just for them.
Equipping your customer service and sales teams with the resources and skills needed to think outside the box and deliver individualized customer service will be increasingly important.
Arming them with a strong CRM system that provides information on each individual customer is a good start, and finding experienced agents with strong problem-solving abilities will be essential.
2. Mobile App Usage Will Increase
Every year the number of businesses who have mobile apps grow, and mobile usage definitely isn’t going anywhere. Mobile traffic has been edging out desktop usage for some time now.
If your business has a mobile app, outstanding. If not, you should consider getting one to offer convenient functionality on-the-go.
At the very least, if you don’t have a mobile app, ensure that your mobile site is entirely accessible (including for individuals using screen readers) and functional.
3. A Renewed Focus on Privacy & Security
Consumer privacy has been an enormous concern for customers over the past few years, and people want to know what information businesses are collecting.
Are your live chat services secure? Is your checkout process safe, and protected from hackers? Can your customers trust that they’re calling you on a secure line, and that voicemails or emails with important, confidential information won’t just be doled out to anyone?
Stress that all communication channels are private and secure, and let them know if you’re collecting any information and how it’s stored. You should also include this information in the “privacy” section of your website.
4. The Use of Smart AI for Message Routing
If you’ve ever had an important phone call that was bounced from department to department to department with long hold times in between, you understand the frustration that customers have when they don’t get to the person they need within a minute or so.
AI has come a long way in recent years, and while it should never be used in place of human customer support, it’s an outstanding enhancement. Live chat is a great example. Message routing is another.
Advanced AI message routing will direct user calls or messages to the right person, either by asking what the customer needs or identifying key phrases in written messages. If your live chat option receives a message with the phrase “order missing,” they know to send it straight to your customer support team.
5. Transparency Is Everything
We understand that every business has their own “secret sauce” that helps them edge out the competition. You can keep your trade secrets, but transparency on just about everything else will be increasingly important.
Are you transparent to customers about what you’re doing to protect them from COVID? Or what you’re doing to increase diversity or inclusivity if you haven’t already?
Let users know that their orders will be delayed upfront due to carriers being overwhelmed. Be the first one to get in touch when your SaaS software has some downtime due to an update instead of having them find out on their own.
Be transparent about everything that matters, and your customers will respect you all the more.
As the business world changes and consumer behavior shifts, it’s only expected that communication standards and best practices will evolve, too. This year has been one of drastic changes for everyone involved, so take some time to review these communication trends so that you’ll be ready for 2021 and beyond.