The Best Chat Apps for Business and What You Need to Know

by | 27 Jul, 2022 | Digital

25 Minute Read

In today’s business world, staying in touch with your team and clients is more important than ever. While there are many ways to communicate with people using traditional mediums such as email and phone, chat apps are becoming more and more popular and are one of the most efficient, easy-to-use and effective tools in business today.  Chat apps allow businesses to communicate with customers and internal teams in real-time, or at least until the recipient responds.

There are many different chat apps and team chat software available on the market, so it can be difficult to decide which one may be the best for your business.

Whilst this article is aimed at business use it also applies to not-for-profit use and charities as they offer a great way of keeping communications secure from the office or remotely.  They are also one of the ways your website can save you money as some are free to use and can reduce your business communication fees.

Throughout this article, we will discuss how the best chat apps for business are being used today, the benefits of using chat apps and the risks associated with them as the lines blur between personal and professional communication.

whats app messaging in business privacy concerns.

TL;DR

  • Chat apps offer convenience:
    Chat apps offer a convenient and personable way to communicate for improved customer service and sales.
  • Be mindful of data compliance and privacy:
    Using chat apps for business raises compliance issues and blurs the boundaries between personal and professional communication.
  • WhatsApp isn’t that secure:
    WhatsApp is the most popular app but has questionable security and ethics relating to user privacy.
  • Remain anonymous with Threema:
    Threema offers complete anonymity without needing a phone number or email address to identify you.
  • Seamless chat at high cost:
    Intercom is the best-integrated chat app for support and sales but is very expensive and technical to implement.
  • Best team communication platform:
    Slack offers the smoothest team collaboration platform and brings a number of your apps together in one place.
  • Microsoft Teams remains clunky but it’ll get there:
    Microsoft Teams still remains clunky but integrates with Microsoft’s other tools to it’s own advantage.

How Do Organisations Use Chat Apps for Business?

business communication

There are fundamentally two ways that chat apps for business are used:

  • To communicate amongst team members and external suppliers with direct messages.
  • To communicate directly to customers and potential customers.

Chat apps come in all shapes and sizes. Some are better for business than others. Some offer voice calls, video calls and collaboration tools. Some are simply just best for sending plain text messages for RTC (real time communication). They all have their purpose and place depending on the needs of the business.

Here is a breakdown of the different types of chat apps and how they can be used in your business or organisation.

Instant Messaging (IM)

These are the most common type of chat apps and include apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Telegram. IM chat apps are best for one-on-one conversations or small groups. They’re perfect for quick questions or coordinating a meeting. Many offer unlimited message history too which means you can refer back on decisions made.

Group Chat

Group chat apps allow businesses to communicate with multiple people at once. This type of app is perfect for team projects or keeping everyone in the loop on a new announcement. Some popular group chat apps include Zoom, Slack, and Microsoft Teams.

Asynchronous Chat

These chat apps for business combine live chat and offline chat. This means that the conversation might start in a live chat scenario via a website, but then someone needs to leave and the conversation will then continue via email but still linked to the original conversation topic. This keeps everything connected and provides asynchronous communication. These work really well for support-based scenarios and are common with apps such as Intercom, Crisp and Help Scout.

What Are the Benefits of Using Chat Apps for Business?

chat app benefits with messaging

There are numerous benefits to using a chat app versus the usual email communication channels. Each has its own merit whether you are using the chat app for customer-facing purposes or internal team and supplier communications.

Some of the benefits of using chat apps for business include:

Increased Communication Efficiency

Chat apps allow employees to communicate quickly and easily with each other. This can help to improve productivity and collaboration. You can share work files easily and quickly jump in on breakout conversations.

Improved Customer Service

Chat apps provide a quick and easy way for customers to get in touch with your company. This can help you to provide better customer service and resolve issues more quickly.

Increased Sales Opportunities

Chat apps provide a way for you to connect with potential customers and promote your products or services. You can also use chat apps to collect feedback from customers and learn more about their needs and preferences.

Real-Time Communication

Not everyone has access to their emails all the time, but also an email can become convoluted and long depending on how many replies there are. Chat apps allow you to send short snippets of information back and forth without endless emailing. They provide bite-sized snippets of information and it all happens in real-time. There is no delay, once the message is sent it’s sent. This can speed up response times for both customers and team members.

LEARN MORE
Is Your Website Design Out of Touch?

Task Management

Chat apps for business can greatly assist with task management and tracking progress. If you’re working on a project then all the chat can be placed within the context of the project (or thread). This means you can see all the content and information you need relating to the chat in one place, helping you become faster and teamwork when managing lots of tasks across a business. Chat apps can provide quick project updates and help make collaboration much easier.

Reduce Meetings

Chat apps can reduce your meetings and even assist with them. Rather than hold a meeting to go over key information, you can talk to your project team on the fly to make sure everything is staying on track. This helps save time and keeps teams productive. Group chats mean that things only have to be said once and everyone in the group can see what was said. This reduces the frequency of meetings. If anyone is busy when information is sent, they can quickly catch up by reading the whole thread.

Easy File Sharing and Retrieval

With chat apps, you can quickly attach files and documents meaning you’re not wasting space in your email inbox. Chat apps will often let you send files larger than what your email provider will let you send. You can also replace older versions of files to keep the latest showing up in the project space or group chat. The last thing you would want is poor collaboration features which hold back a smooth operating experience for your employees or customers.

Increased Personalisation and Engagement

Chat apps are seen by some to be more informal than standard emails. This means that it helps reduce barriers and opens up more friendly chat environments where more information is captured and greater thoughts are shared.

From a customer perspective, chat apps link directly into their existing life so that they don’t have to download additional apps to communicate. With verified accounts they can also assist with the sense of chatting to the right person and that they are being treated by the right person for the right task.

Keep Connected on the Go

With chat apps, people can communicate on the go via their mobile devices. There are pros and cons to this but it means that people are more attainable on the move. They don’t need to be sat behind a computer or desk to check in to keep up to date with what’s going on. This means people can stay connected securely even when they are off-site.

Cost Reduction

Generally, it doesn’t cost anything (apart from a service subscription possibly) to send messages via chat apps even to other areas in the world. They work from internet technologies meaning you don’t need to pay phone call fees etc. Some services are completely free and even allow you to make phone calls securely from anywhere too.

The Risks Associated with Chat Apps for Business

chat app risks

Despite the numerous positives of using chat apps, there are some downsides which need to be considered especially if you are a business owner.  The very nature of how the technology works means your information and data is going to be moving between locations which brings with it higher risks than normal.

Compliance Problems

It makes sense that people are using chat technology more and more and especially those that integrate with platforms users are already familiar with.  They have been using it in their personal lives much longer than professionals so it makes sense and feels familiar.  This goes for employees and customers.  The problem is that the boundaries become a bit blurred. Where you had a boundary between work and play, they can be more difficult to differentiate, especially when you can be contacted directly to your device at any time of day. This can cause mistakes to happen but also means people are potentially using personal accounts unknowingly for work-related conversations. This can lead to maintaining or keeping data on insecure devices or sharing information unknowingly which can lead to an unintentional data breach.

LEARN MORE
Is Technology Stressing You Out? Research Says Yes

Communications may also be happening on insecure networks without the user knowing which can open them up to the risk of social engineering and providing information they thought was being sent to a genuine recipient.

Data Sharing and Privacy Issues

Chat apps for business help everyone communicate within the organisation more freely, but they can open up problems for a business too. Information can be made public quickly when using business chat apps. For example, conversations about product features, launches, sales figures and more could all end up in the wrong hands if the wrong person is contacted.  Information being discussed about an employee or client which may contain sensitive and personal information is also at risk.

You also have the issue of people having access to information on the move which makes them a target. If someone had their phone snatched before the device was locked then sensitive information could be being shared and the attacker would have everything they need. If you don’t think this could happen, then the next time you are out in public watch how many people are completely disconnected from the real world and totally engrossed in the world on their phones (likely a chat app or social media account of some kind). They likely would have no idea they are about to be targeted.

If communication is happening via services such as WhatsApp, then the third party company (in this case Meta), controls the data that they are communicating, not your business. You cannot guarantee that the information being exchanged is not being shared (or worse intercepted). Even deleting information from such services in the past has been shown to not be fully removed and the information was simply archived from view but still accessible at a server level.

The other problem relating to privacy is that you can’t necessarily store video chats or video calls indefinitely because they take up large amounts of space. This means you might lose key information with remote teams if they use video conferencing a lot. Using video calls (and especially if the employee is at home), also opens up privacy issues in terms of what the customer or team member can see. The business does not have any control over the home environment of the individual or what they say or display.

Issues Over Intellectual Property

People arrive and leave businesses all the time. If they are communicating via their own phones then the moment they leave so do all their conversations because they are linked to their own personal phones. This could include your entire customer list which they then might take to the next company with them. If they’re within your own organisation, you can simply remove access to sensitive information.  It’s a bit more difficult via personal phone or device use.

Reduced Knowledge Sharing

Unless you implement your chat app environment properly, information sharing could be reduced, mainly if you use services such as WhatsApp. This is because all the communication is held within that one app and inaccessible to anyone who either does not have access to the account or group. This means it is easy to set up groups which do not include key players in the business. This can lead to “group think” and less productive outcomes for the business long term or leave people out of the loop entirely which can lead to all sorts of problems.

They Can Be Distracting

For all the efficiency the popular tools bring to business, they can be distracting. If you are deep in work and then a teamwork chat pops up your attention is immediately taken away from the task you were working on. A long chat session which is not focused on a particular topic can cause delays and issues with staff productivity. It’s also possible that employees engage in workplace chat and look like they are busy when they are actually getting very little done.

What is the Criteria for a Great Chat App for Business?

chat app requirements

There are all sorts of chat apps out there on the market. But, not all of them are suited for business use and some carry hidden security risks. To help you, here are the sort of chat features you should look out for when reviewing a chat platform and team communication tools for business.

The Ability to Organise Conversations

Not everyone needs to see all information at all times. This means the chat app needs the ability to organise what you see to your liking and personal requirement. For example, you may be overseeing a project and not need to be notified at every response. However, you might be attending a key meeting tomorrow and need to be informed of the latest figures at the business, thus be prompted immediately. You, therefore, need the ability to be able to decide how and who can see the information in the chat group.

Global Search and Filtering

This is the ability to organise and search information within communication quickly and efficiently. You don’t want to be wasting lots of time looking for a key piece of information, you want to be able to retrieve it quickly.

Offer Different Mediums of Communication

Chat apps have moved on just from plain text messaging. Many like using multiple features such as voice messaging and video messaging. Being able to offer more than one mode of communication is of great benefit to any business looking to use chat apps.

Simple to Use

The chat app needs to be easy to use without the need for lots of training and explanations. The user interface should be intuitive and fit seamlessly into the design of the device being used. The layout needs to be clear to read and the end user needs to understand quickly the status of a chat. If the chat app is too complicated to use people won’t use it and it won’t get the buy-in to make using chat apps successful in your business.

Allow Collaboration

If you’re looking to use a chat app in business then it needs to allow for collaboration. This means the ability to share files and information swiftly. You don’t want to be waiting for ages for files to download or for the interface to be so cluttered that you lose access to files you need or miss seeing them completely.

Often a platform will also offer screen sharing, especially if you look to use it for video conferencing meetings too such as Google Hangout or WebEx which have expanded their offerings. This can help provide proactive chat experiences without having to learn additional platforms and far exceeds in some scenarios audio chat and can be more helpful than using direct messaging alone.

You should also check whether the app offers private channels as well as public channels. Channels are a way of collecting information together and setting the channel access is a way of setting who can access what information and when. They work a little like an email thread only they provide effective communication because all users who have access to the channel can see what’s going on. This can greatly improve business communication.

User Access

You need to take a close look at how many users can use the platform. For example, is it a team messaging app with unlimited users, or is it a pay-per-go model where you have to pay for each user via a license fee? If you don’t get enough licenses then this can hamper internal communication. If it comes with unlimited message history then this makes it much easier to keep a log of what has been happening. You should also check the storage per user too as you don’t want costs to scale up if you have to add additional storage. Often a basic plan will be what’s on offer, but to get the real team benefits you have to pay additional fees.

Enterprise-Grade Security

You should always look to see if the chat app you are investigating has this level of security. This means that data must be protected at rest and in transit while not impacting the user experience. They also provide audits to ensure security measures align with the business requirements.

What Are the Best Chat Apps for Business?

Here we go through a list of instant messaging apps which you might have heard of and their pros and cons in terms of being used as a business chat tool. Team chat apps now provide advanced features which go beyond simple direct messaging functionality and offer, voice chat, video calls and deep third-party integration.

WhatsApp

whats app messenger

Almost everyone has heard of WhatsApp and that’s because it is one of the world’s most popular messaging apps. WhatsApp was acquired by Facebook (now Meta) in 2014 for $22billion.

With a simple clean interface, group chat features and end-to-end encryption it quickly caught on and gained greater popularity through the video calling functionality.

WhatsApp though has been criticised (and rightly) for the way it was collecting much more data than they initially let on.  They were also sharing it with the parent company (at the time Facebook), Meta. Whilst the sharing of the information was bad enough, it was the decision to collect the amount of data in the first place which caused the most concern for users, meaning personal information was being obtained without consent and being used to target individuals.

For example, by using WhatsApp they were able to collect:

  • Your device ID.
  • Your contact and contacts information.
  • Your user ID.
  • Your location details.

The information was then used for advertising and marketing purposes and “other” purposes were never explicitly explained. The problem is that all this information is linked to your identity and your day-to-day activities. They have since cleaned up their act, though the European Commission fined Facebook €110 million for providing incorrect or misleading information during the Commission’s 2014 investigation into the acquisition of WhatsApp.

Pros

  • It’s free to use.
  • Easy to use file sharing.
  • User-friendly and easy to use.
  • The ability to share your live location with others.
  • Audio and video calls.
  • End-to-end encryption (WhatsApp say they can’t read any of your communications).
  • Group chat capability.
  • Works across multiple devices (no iPad app though the web app works).
  • It’s stable and fast to use.
  • You can now delete messages and have them disappear after a time period.
  • You can quickly invite WhatsApp users into groups for business (if they use WhatsApp).
  • Has a wide user base.

Cons

  • No iPad app (yet).
  • Doesn’t offer much in the way of working collaboratively.
  • Profile images are visible to anyone (even if not a contact).
  • Your contact number is shared.
  • People may think you have read a message when you haven’t (and think they’re being ignored).
  • Only the group admin can manage a group (adding and removing people).
  • There is now a restriction on how many people you can forward messages to.
  • Questionable security ethics and motives.

Learn more about WhatsApp

Telegram

telegram messenger

Telegram is a free-to-use (though they now offer a premium service too), instant messaging service. The chat app provides end-to-end encryption, instant messaging, voice calls and video calling. You can also share files seamlessly and even have your own private channel to drop thoughts and files into. The broadcast function means you can create your own channel and have followers keeping up with information. This is used for news and announcements a and general interest topics.

Telegram is a cloud-based software with seamless data syncing. They argue that their multi-data centre infrastructure and encryption are faster and more secure than standard end-to-end encryption and therefore offers a better user experience.

LEARN MORE
How to Sleep Better

Telegram prides itself on its security focus. With messages that self-destruct and privacy features which will keep anyone happy, it’s been a platform of choice for many who were not happy about WhatsApp’s handling of personal data.

Telegram was founded by Russian brothers Pavel Durov and Nikolai Durov in August 2013. They started Telegram as their previously built social network had been taken over by Putin’s allies. Pavel Durov left Russia when he refused to cooperate with the Russian secret service in providing them with encrypted data on the platform. He became a French citizen in 2021 and Telegram has been operating out of Dubai since 2017. He is a crusader for security and it’s why Telegram has a security-centric focus and why many companies use it when operating overseas. Unless Telegram were to hand over your data, then no one outside the message would be able to read your messages or see your data.

Pros

  • Free to use with premium options (not really needed to date for standard messaging functionality).
  • Simple and easy to use.
  • They use the MTProto protocol.
  • Information is encrypted via server-client encryption for private and group chats.
  • Messages deleted leave no trace on their server, can self-destruct and can’t be forwarded from the server.
  • You can create group chats and channels.
  • Fast and secure messaging service.
  • You can share multiple files.
  • Ad-free experience.
  • Works across all platforms in full (Desktop, Mobile, Tablet and Web).
  • You can create secret chats where no data is stored anywhere.
  • Messages are held on a secure telegram server.
  • They remain transparent in how they operate.
  • You can quickly invite Telegram users into groups.
  • They have good options for integrating Telegram into a business fabric.
  • You can see all your message history.

Cons

  • You still need to hand over a telephone number.
  • A breach of Telegram’s servers may leave your messaging exposed.
  • You need to enable secret chats for additional end-to-end encryption security.
  • Telegram logs IP addresses and user data.

Learn more about Telegram

Signal

signal messenger

Signal has been around for many years and like Telegram saw a huge jump in users following a greater focus on user privacy. It is known for its end-to-end encryption and not-for-profit foundation and has often been the communication choice for activists and others concerned about messaging privacy.

Signal is free to use and lets you send instant messages, voice and video. You can send personal private chats, and group chats and like other messaging apps in this list, it is simple and easy to use. Due to its security, it has grown in popularity in recent years and neither Signal, your phone company or Governments can read your messages.

Pros

  • Free to use.
  • From day one it was designed to be nothing more than a secure messaging app.
  • It is easy to use and intuitive.
  • Allows audio and video chat.
  • Allows for file sharing.
  • Used by activists and more and comes recommended.
  • Generally considered one of the more secure messaging apps in the industry.
  • It does not log IP addresses.
  • Messages can disappear on requirement.
  • User profiles are encrypted.

Cons

  • It can on occasion be a little buggy to use (mainly on Apple devices).
  • Requires you to hand over your phone number.
  • Has in the past had issues with sending and receiving messages.
  • It’s not as widely used as other messaging apps though it is on the rise.
  • Operates slower than other apps and is not as smooth.
  • Servers are located in the USA.
  • Your phone number could be passed on.

Learn more about Signal

Threema

threema messenger

Threema is a very secure and easy-to-use messaging service for any company or organisation. It is a great solution for corporate and not-for-profit organisations. It guarantees a confidential exchange of information when working within work teams. It also prides itself on being fully compliant with the GDPR to meet all compliance requirements for a business.

Threema offers state-of-the-art encryption so that no one other than the intended recipient can read transmitted messages. One of the benefits of Threema is that it can be used completely anonymously even without handing over a phone number or email address. It has servers in Switzerland and is as they put it “100% Swiss made”. They offer guaranteed privacy with no collection of user data and no ads. It is designed to leave as little data as possible on any server being used to communicate the information.

With Threema, users can communicate quickly and efficiently without the risk of data being shared anywhere else. Integration with Microsoft Teams also means you can communicate securely without compromising compliance. They promote themselves as “the messenger for companies”.

Threema is not new either. It was founded in 2012 by Manuel Kasper and has a growing user base in the personal and professional lives of its users.

If you want high levels of security and a secure messaging platform for your business, then Threema would be a great choice.

Pros

  • Doesn’t collect a personal phone number or email address.
  • High-level end-to-end encryption.
  • Text, voice and video messaging.
  • Group chat and distribution lists.
  • Mobile, desktop and tablet secure apps.
  • File sharing.
  • Polling.
  • Logs no IP address or metadata on the user.
  • Control their own server environment.
  • Different versions for multiple uses.
  • Data is stored in Switzerland.
  • You can choose whether data is stored just on the device, on the server or both.
  • They are audited independently.
  • They offer Threema for work, a centrally managed secure messaging service for your business.
  • Enables team collaboration.

Cons

  • A small fee to use.
  • No 2FA.
  • Not a large user base meaning many might not wish to switch.
  • You can’t sync conversations between devices (apart from using their web app).

Learn more about Threema

Slack

slack

Slack was founded in 2009 and has gone on to become the business communication operating system for many. Whilst not a dedicated direct messaging service (it goes beyond this), the popularity of Slack stems from the ability to bring multiple apps you use into one interface. For example, you might have news feeds, messaging, calendar updates and more all in the same app by utilising the core feature of channels. Slack essentially connects information in specific contexts which is why it’s proved to be so popular. It brings teams together whether you are in the office or working remotely.

Slack facilitates communication in context, helps teams communicate across remote locations and enables and supports the simple ability to share files, documents images and more across the business. You can also easily retrieve information too from the global search.

It is very simple and intuitive to use and is very popular.

Pros

  • Very simple to use once you have your head around it.
  • You can create customised channels to bring context to the work being discussed e.g. announcements, hr, sales and marketing, project x and so on to break up communications.
  • You can create public or private channels.
  • Enhanced security and end-to-end encryption including enterprise-level security.
  • Apps across mobile, desktop and tablet.
  • Very easy to set up.
  • Slack integrates with lots and lots of third-party apps to bring everything together in one place.
  • In the premium version, you keep all history which works as a great repository.
  • You can set working hours to avoid disruptions.
  • It works for both large and small businesses.
  • It is great for team collaboration.
  • Easy to integrate external users (though they would need a Slack account).

Cons

  • There can be an initial learning experience required.
  • There is a maximum file storage per user.
  • It’s only as good as the channels you define.
  • Things can get hectic and there can be a lot of notifications to follow up on which might not be relevant.
  • You should use it in conjunction with email.
  • Conversations can sometimes be lacking in depth or something important may look trivial.
  • Things can become disorganised quickly if channels are not managed properly.
  • To get the most benefit from Slack you need a premium account.
  • It’s an additional monthly cost which could be used elsewhere.

Learn more about Slack

Microsoft Teams

microsoft teams

Microsoft Teams was officially launched in 2017. It is a platform now available on Microsoft 365 to bring work together. It is also being built into the fabric of Microsoft’s operating system moving forwards too. At its heart, it is a collaboration platform to enable teams to work together no matter where they are located in the world.

As Teams integrates with the apps you already know and use from Microsoft 365, it’s the missing piece that brings everything together.

Microsoft is so similar to Slack that Slack has taken Microsoft to court on several occasions given the similarity between the two platforms and their feature set. They argue that Microsoft has copied many of its core features and bundled them with Office 365 to enhance market share crushing rivals in the process.

Pros

  • You can create channels for communication context.
  • Documents link to SharePoint and OneDrive streamlining file sharing.
  • You can handle video conferencing with Teams and live chat.
  • You can integrate Teams into the full fabric of your business communications and use it as a landline too.
  • Comes with Microsoft 365 (so no additional license is required if you already use 365).
  • Offers instant messaging, video and audio chats.
  • Automatically integrates into data compliance and GDPR with the Microsoft eco-system.
  • It can improve team productivity.
  • Integrates with other Microsoft products streamlining compliance.
  • Works on desktop, mobile and tablet devices.
  • Seamless file search across the Microsoft Eco-System.

Cons

  • It can be difficult to allow external users into your business environment for remote meetings.
  • It’s a bit clunky and not as smooth as competitors like Slack (but this may improve).
  • It almost tries to do too much and is reactionary in requirement vs a solid standalone team collaboration platform.
  • It’s not the most intuitively designed software and not the most user-friendly to use but it does the job.
  • Building a simple file structure can be tiresome as it works from SharePoint.
  • It doesn’t offer as good a video conferencing experience as Zoom or Slack as it’s not as intuitive when sharing screens and the video and audio quality is not as good.
  • It requires a lot of manual work to set up and is not as smooth as Slack.
  • Each user needs a 365 license.
  • You likely require IT, staff, to get it all set up properly and securely.

Learn more about Teams

Help Scout

help scout

Help Scout is an affordable chat system which offers live chat, email support and help centres. The great thing about Help Scout is that you may even have used it and not even realised you were using it as a customer. With Help Scout you can effectively manage all of your customer communications from one place. It is very simple to use and can be deployed on your website and within any apps you have. It can also integrate with third-party providers.

Like Intercom, it was founded in 2011 and has gone on to power many of the internet’s email communications. The co-founders became increasingly frustrated with how email was being used to offer customer support and they transformed the end-user experience to make it seamless, more organised and faster to respond. It is a great tool for customer support and leads but not necessarily a full-on chat app for your business for complete team collaboration (unless it’s customer support or a sales team at work).

Pros

  • Affordable.
  • Simple to use and set up.
  • Offers live chat for customers, email support and knowledge base.
  • Allows for team collaboration.
  • You can maintain a knowledge base and share knowledge.
  • You can build canned responses.
  • You can tag and organise your inbox much easier than in Outlook.
  • You can build teams/channels to segment customer requests.
  • Secure with optional 2FA.
  • You can build workflows to automate your work and keep on the pulse.
  • People won’t know you’re using Help Scout.

Cons

  • Requires pay per user.
  • Doesn’t have lots of third-party integrations.
  • They charge for email messaging if you go over a high threshold.
  • Scheduling messaging within apps is a little clunky.

Learn more about Help Scout

Intercom

intercom messenger

Intercom is not a direct chat app for business but an ecosystem to handle client and sales communications. It brings instant messaging and chatbot technology into a personalised environment where you can intuitively handle client support and requirements. In effect, it can replace your email and support aspects of team collaboration within the sales and support departments.

Founded in 2011, its concept was to provide a better customer experience all around. It’s a very clever piece of software offering conversational styled support. Rather than have customers email you, then can immediately start a conversation from your website or within any app you have. You can also push messages out to customers too based on their usage.  Based on login information or information they provide on first use, you can then keep in touch and provide contextual, personalised information for the customer built to their requirements. The bot technology can also serve as a triage to do a lot of the leg work for you before you even begin a conversation. They also provide a help centre too with suggested articles based on what is initially discussed.

Pros

  • Provides a seamless experience for clients and customers.
  • Integrated feedback is available.
  • Can help generate leads.
  • You can automate communication through email sequences.
  • Really modern slick chat widget that’s easy to brand.
  • Offers a great onboarding experience for new customers to digital products.
  • Can provide a positive experience to the end user with fun added in.
  • It has a number of integrations to being data together such as providing status updates, or conducting polls and gathering feedback.
  • Simple interface and easy to use to chat with customers.
  • The well-designed messaging platform for improved customer experience.
  • You can provide a faster response time from shared team inboxes.
  • Team members can collaborate together to solve problems.
  • Details about the user can easily be seen without having to ask the same questions each time.
  • The platform is very secure.
  • Communication is asynchronous which means if they start a chat and you’re not available customers are informed that you will be in touch and expectations can be set.
  • Detailed reporting on how to improve your customer support.

Cons

  • It’s expensive and has a confusing pricing model.
  • To get the most benefit it’s difficult to set up.
  • Support from Intercom can be slow and dare I say it, sometimes annoying.

Learn more about Intercom

Live Chat

live chat

Live chat is software founded in 2002, which integrates with your website and allows customers to direct message you in real time. They also provide a support desk with analytics. People can even see when someone is typing.

Live chat replaces the need to have someone manning the phones and makes it convenient for customers to get in touch. It enables an immediate response to customers and your support staff can work from any device either in the office or remotely.

Pros

  • The software is easy to use.
  • You can receive instant customer feedback.
  • You can use it on mobile, desktop and tablet devices.
  • Team members can jump in and handle anyone waiting with ease.
  • Customer support can build a knowledge base.
  • Provides a support centre for customers.
  • Easy for customers to initiate a chat.
  • Detailed analytics on team performance and customer engagement.
  • Allows for easy file transfers.
  • Chatbots can do some of the initial heavy lifting in seeking support.
  • The experience feels real and friendly.
  • Data can integrate with third parties such as into CRM systems.
  • It can increase efficiency.
  • High levels of security and GDPR compliance.
  • Works well on mobile devices when browsing mobile websites.

Cons

  • Team members need to be available for it to work.
  • Doesn’t offer a smooth transition into email communication.
  • Can put pressure on your team to deliver a fast first response time.
  • With high usage, customers could be waiting in virtual queues.
  • Unless your job is customer support, it can be distracting as customers expect an answer now.
  • Everything happens quickly which is not always a good thing.

Learn more about Live Chat

The Best Chat Apps for Business Closing Thoughts

When it comes to communicating in your business, it sometimes will come down to preference. The reason why chat apps are expanding is that the way we communicate is changing. Everything is becoming more informal which can be a blessing or a curse. Chat apps are mostly free (though we pay with our personal data) and easy to use for the most part and for this reason it makes them accessible given that most of us now have mobile devices with us at all times.

Security is becoming an ever-growing concern for users too. We all need that confidence that our data is not being read by anyone but the intended recipient.

Any business needs to be able to communicate efficiently. Email is the usual go-to form, but some chat apps now offer greater security than email and are more informal and personable in their use. Support software has now integrated live chat into their platforms making more people familiar with using chat apps too.

We have used a number of messaging apps within the business over the years and found the following:

  • Telegram works really well for team communication, is free, simple to use and ticks all the security requirements that we need. The fact it works seamlessly across devices is another bonus.  Their security doesn’t come at the cost of free, unlike WhatsApp.
  • WhatsApp is fine for personal use, just you never know what they are up to with their data. Because most people have WhatsApp it’s still a must-have but there are much better more secure chat apps out there that we wish more people would use to break away from Meta. The lack of iPad support is a real letdown too.
  • Threema is a really good choice for corporate communications and the fact that it integrates with Microsoft teams is a bonus too. This keeps all your communications in one place. If you travel and are worried about business or personal security then this is a good choice.  The only downside is the level of security prevents you syncing conversations between devices.  You can create multiple IDs but fundamentally, Threema to remain fully secure is setup to use from one device e.g. your mobile, but conversations remain fully secured in the process.
  • Signal was good, but it just wasn’t as slick or smooth as Telegram, which is why Telegram remained the app of choice for us for non-essential yet secure communication between team members.  Signal didn’t have the delivery speeds on occasion that Telegram had either and more people we know have adopted Telegram too.  We liked the security features and I am sure since we tried it the app is more stable now especially given the recent surge in users.
  • Microsoft Teams is clunky. It’s getting there but does so much and seems to have been patched together to fit an already vast ecosystem at Microsoft. It’s cumbersome to use as a sole chat system. We only ever use it for third-party Teams calls and would choose Zoom for video conferencing every time as it’s much easier to use when file sharing and the quality of calls is much higher including the video.
  • Live Chat was where we started.  It was great to get insights into who was on our website at any time and be able to reach out to them.  The only problem with Live Chat was that you had to respond so quickly and if you didn’t people were just waiting around on your website.  To then have to mess about a bit sending an email response just become a bit clunky and expectations weren’t easy to show such as we reply within x time etc. It’s a good place to start, but the instant response can be a pain unless you have a large support team working for you.  It could easily replace phone support.
  • Intercom is a fantastic chat tool and is really, really powerful. The way it seamlessly moves between chat and email is brilliant.  Also, being able to see when you last spoke to a client in an app was equally helpful as was being able to send personalised email messages to them based on their usage of a product.  The downside – it’s just too expensive for any SME to use. They hook you in but the costs can add up.  It fails in some ways to deliver on supporting your business as you scale.  It does offer a really good experience for both internal teams and customers, but it just has too many issues with its pricing model. This would be the app of choice for website and app integrated support if they had a better pricing model. You can get really hit hard by spam users and multiple accounts for the same user coming through your website.
  • Help Scout works really well for focused customer support. It’s slick and just does the job. Nothing too fancy and the chat widget is simple and just works. It’s easy for customers to find common questions and ask questions directly and enables you to organise and coordinate email support with ease. Their pricing model also works well for any sized business.
  • Slack is an interesting tool. In theory, you have no use for it until you actually use it within the business or an organisation. It’s much better than Microsoft teams as it’s much smoother and just easier to navigate mainly because it’s the interface is much better. It’s more of a communication operating system and the ability to set up channels to either store contextual conversation or send emails for reference is really helpful. If you have teams that work remotely then this is a great tool. It just works and keeps everything organised for work. It’s what Microsoft Teams wishes it was.

Whilst there are more chat apps out there, these are the best messaging apps for business that we have used to date.  The reality is, that there is yet to be developed an all-encompassing messaging system for any business that covers complete internal communication and customer-facing communication from the same platform.  The best chat apps for business are actually a carefully considered collection of more than one solution.

At the end of the day, it will be the customer that dictates what chat app you use along with how frictionless you can make the communication with them.  The easier you make it, the less hassle you are giving to the customer, it’s up to you however as to what risk you are willing to accept regarding user privacy and maintaining intellectual property rights within the business communication channels.  Both Telegram and Threema provide a great solution for secure business communication.  If we had our way, we’d be much happier if as many people used Threema, Signal or Telegram as they do WhatsApp as it’s only the user base which keeps us on it, but we wonder at what privacy cost for everyone further down the line?

If you need any further information about the best chat apps to use in your business then please don’t hesitate to contact us.