In 2020, having the right communication tools has become more important than ever for businesses.
For one, customers have ever-higher expectations for channels to contact sales and service departments. For another, since the switch to distributed teams that came with the pandemic, many teams have been struggling to find the right platforms for internal use.
Some of the tools out there aim to excel in doing one thing – whether it’s video calling or team messaging. They use integrations to fit into a larger network of business applications. Others, more ambitiously, provide all-in-one business communication solutions.
As 2020 draws to a close, it’s a great time to review your subscriptions to various business platforms and eliminate redundancies and incompatibilities. That way, you can move forward into the new year with increased efficiency and smoother workflows.
To help you, here is an overview of the best communication tools available for businesses in 2021.
1 – All-In-One Communications: NextOS
First off, a one-stop-shop for communication excellence – NextOS. This business platform by the cloud communications provider Nextiva combines multi-channel communication with productivity tools, customer relationship management (CRM) functionalities, and analytics.
In terms of communication, NextOS comprises voice and video calling and conferencing, various chat options, SMS, email, and social. It also offers a set of team collaboration features that cater to the needs of distributed teams.
Its analytics and CRM features help you take your customer experience to the next level. Powered by artificial intelligence, these features yield actionable real-time insights on anything from the success of your recent marketing campaigns to your sales team performance. Plus: You can automate a range of tasks to streamline workflows.
If your business is looking for an all-encompassing solution for internal and external communication, NextOS is an excellent choice.
Paid plans begin at $19.95/user/month, but there is also a free tier of team collaboration and communication tools.
2 – Team Messaging: Slack
Slack is one of the platforms that proliferated most during the pandemic. It offers a solid solution for team messaging.
Every Slack team has a general channel to communicate with everyone at once. More importantly, you can also message individual people or select sub-groups, like focus groups for a particular project, or different departments.
Larger teams will find it handy to break conversations down into threads, share files, fine-tune notification settings, and tag individual users. Another upside is that Slack integrates well with other productivity platforms such as Trello and Google Docs.
If you’re looking for a robust, comprehensive chat tool to eliminate massive email chains, Slack is a good option. The platform offers a limited free plan. Paid plans start at $8/user/month.
3 – For Office Users: Microsoft Teams
A relatively new player in the business communication market is Microsoft Teams. This option includes multichannel communication and integrates seamlessly with Microsoft’s Office suite.
Communication in Teams is neatly tiered. Every account is linked to an “org” representing your entire organization. Individual users are then invited to teams within the org. Every team can then further be divided into channels – and conversations in channels can be subdivided into threads.
Teams offer messaging, file sharing, as well as video and voice calls. You can easily schedule meetings and add and modify agendas. Extensive collaboration features include the possibility to collaborate on Microsoft Office documents, modify calendar appointments, and work with wikis and meeting notes.
A basic version of Teams is available for free. The full version is part of Office 365 Business, which starts at $5/user/month. There’s one main downside to Teams – because it was designed for large businesses, it can be pretty complicated to set up and maintain.
4 – Always-On Audio: Discord
Discord is a dark horse when it comes to business communication. The reason for this is probably that it was designed for the gaming community. However, it does everything a small team needs for communication purposes – voice and video calling, team chats, and file sharing.
Its stand-out feature, though, is always-on audio. This can be the clinch for businesses during lockdowns.
Discord offers outstanding audio and video quality. Its always-on audio allows you to create voice channels that can be used by anyone on your team. You can keep the mic on silent and then jump in when you want to join a conversation. This is incredibly handy when you are collaborating on a project with someone you’d normally be sharing an office with.
The best bit? All major features on Discord are entirely free. There is a $9.99/month plan – but most businesses will be able to do without the extra custom emojis and animated avatars this plan unlocks.
5 – Video calling Simplicity: Zoom
Zoom is one of the best video conferencing solutions currently available. The reason is simple: It just works well. Reliable and intuitive to handle, Zoom allows you to voice and video call anyone – the recipient of the call doesn’t even need an account.
You can either schedule calls in advance, or open Zoom spaces that anyone invited can hop onto. If you’re having team calls, it’s possible to set up break-out rooms to discuss an issue in smaller groups.
Zoom’s free plan allows for unlimited 1:1 meetings and calls with up to 100 participants with a time limit of 40 minutes. Paid plans start at $14.99/month per host – and let you call as many as 1,000 people at once.