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Enhance Your Business with Instant Messaging

By Gary Onks

 More and more businesses are realizing that significant benefits can be achieved by making instant messaging one of the tools that is readily available to prospects and clients. Instant messaging allows your personnel to communicate with prospects and clients one on one directly, quickly, easily and in a precise manner.

It’s all about helping your customers do what they want to do. It’s a powerful tool that builds customer loyalty very quickly.  People are searching for people that they can communicate with that have similar interests and needs. When they find a match, they become intensely interested. Instant messaging delivers access and answers so quickly that it helps people feel that they’ve come to the right place.

The essence of IM is simple:  a question is asked and an answer is provided. Instant messaging is quiet – there’s no need to talk. So you can do it when you are places that aren’t conducive to people speaking out loud, but where it is still OK to type, like in the lobby of a building, or a meeting room or a library.

You can keep the answers simple and focus like a laser on what the person is seeking. You eliminate the chitchat. When used properly, the “real time presence” significantly enhances user satisfaction as businesses can serve client needs more efficiently. It’s an excellent way to just cut to the chase and allow people to communicate with personnel, employees, colleagues, management, team members, collaborators, vendors, or teaming partners.

The rules for etiquette are the same as with any other email or Internet use in the business setting. Keep it short, provide clear answers and information, and don’t reveal personal information. It’s not private. As with email, businesses have to guard against confidential data being divested. Even with these manageable risks, there are significant advantages that companies can provide if they deploy IM processes and procedures wisely, particularly in the arena of customer service.

If you have a company web site you can enhance the value of a users experience in real time. This controlled access to company personnel and expertise can be a decided competitive advantage. Instant messaging can enhance business services and employee productivity in lots of areas where prospects and clients and employees have questions. Here’s a quick list of ways businesses are making use of instant messaging:

1.      Contact a sales person – two way conversations that save on long distance and no receptionist is needed.

2.      Contact a technical representative – two way conversations to address technical issues, like troubleshooting, repairs, or FAQ’s.

3.      Ask an expert – create and maintain a site where people can always send a question to an expert to get a reply and advice.

4.      Host chats and conferences – can set up for public, or identified work groups or teams.

5.      Public chat rooms dedicated to special topics – establish their own character and personality.

6.      Private chat rooms dedicated to special topics.

7.      Create customized buddy lists with pre-qualified types of people, and hold team meetings for specific purposes, on a predetermined schedule.

8.      Solicit feedback and questions actively to ascertain what people really want and how they feel about certain issues in real time.

9.      Providing answers to marketing questions with people and the technology can enhance user satisfaction.

10. People can IM from anywhere with portable devices such as laptops, Palm Pilots, and Blackberry’s, and in a wireless world, this allows you interact on the fly in airports, restaurants, and other locations where voice intrusiveness of a phone call isn’t appropriate.

11. IM is evolving fast and Instant Video messaging and conferencing is coming to a computer near you soon.

Technology has advanced so that you can now save your IM conversations. This makes it easy to maintain a record of your all your exchanges. You can then refer to them later or utilize the conversations to create additional marketing materials. You can then build a library of IM FAQ’s which can be readily used in IM conversations in the future to save time and repeat typing.

Take control and get with it. Instant messaging is a new way to enhance business productivity and effectiveness.

There are many new IM services out there that are all easy to use and relatively inexpensive. AOL, Yahoo, MSN, Google all have popular consumer IM services available. Enterprise business IM technology, with more business related features, is also available from many companies, such as Jabber Now.

The field is also getting more sophisticated. There are new specialized and ever evolving software programs, such as ActiveBuddy, or SmarterChild, that will help you dish out advertising information to create unique branding programs. These programs, are called ‘buddy agents’ and use the IM environment to deliver prewritten messages in response to natural language queries. These programs are more than a little interesting for marketing execs who want to leverage automated technologies to enhance the one on one interactivity between the customer or prospect and their brand.

Gary Onks has written a special report titled “Is Your Business Ready for Instant Messaging?”

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