Real time communication (RTC) is not just used to communicate with friends and family anymore. Businesses are now using this responsive and direct technology to stay connected with their customers, manage employee communication and keep tabs on the latest developments.
Companies are moving away from standard emails and embracing chat apps such as What’s App (owned by Meta), Telegram and Instagram as a means of integrating into the fabric of their customers’ lives. With the advancements in technology, businesses are now using RTC to increase productivity and connect with customers. RTC can be used for a variety of purposes such as ordering food or getting updates on a product.
By using RTC, businesses can save time and make interactions more efficient. The less friction there is between communication, the smoother the customer experience which is why RTC technology is proving popular.
Real-time communication has both its advantages and disadvantages of course, whether it’s on a personal or professional level. However, in today’s workplace, we’re able to take advantage of these capabilities more and more which helps organisations communicate without geographical limitations, allowing easy access to co-workers as well as clients.
This article explores some of the ways in which businesses are using RTC to improve their operations.
Examples of Real Time Communication
Examples of RTC are all around us thanks to the Internet and the technology and connectivity available to us. Some of you will recognise, and no doubt use RTC daily yet not realise it. Examples of RTC include:
- Instant Messaging Services (e.g. What’s App, Telegram, Messenger, Slack, Signal)
- Video conferencing
- Phone calls (mobile and landline)
- Integrated web and Internet chat (e.g. Intercom, Live Chat, Help Scout)
- Support chatbots (answering common questions in a conversational style)
- Text messaging
- and of course, the traditional tried and tested face-to-face (F2F)
Why is Real Time Communication Important Today?
Customers want things done quickly these days. They don’t want to have to wait for a response or an update on their request. That’s true whether they are looking for information, seeking support or looking to buy something online. In a competitive marketplace, it’s important that customers feel like they’re getting the best experience possible when doing business. One way to do this is by ensuring that they can easily make contact, know that they have made contact and when to expect a response, or find the information they are looking for right there and then.
If you get real time communication wrong, then it can be detrimental to your business. Get it right, and you open up a whole new way of working, supporting your clients and reaching new markets. There is a fine balance between RTC becoming an asset and it becoming a liability.
RTC has enabled the rise of remote working (not to be confused with working from home). Remote working is when employers hire employees who work from their homes, while still getting paid the same salary and working towards the same goals as if they were still in an office with other colleagues.
The COVID-19 pandemic has seen a huge growth in RTC technology and even created a new form of technology now known as Unified Communication as a Service, (or UCaaS for short). You might have heard of some of these types of tools which include Microsoft Teams, Ring Central, Zoom and Google Hangouts. These types of RTC technology bring workflows and workplaces together to collaborate in real-time whilst at the same time being on a video call or webinar.
The Advantages of Real Time Communication
Just like a face-to-face conversation, real-time communication offers customers and clients a direct response and the potential for a more emotional connection over wider used digital channels.
Advantages for a business and the customer include:
- Receiving an almost immediate response to a query (which is most helpful if it’s a simple question).
- The ability to grow and build relationships via more personalised and informal forms of contact
- Team building and cohesion amongst co-workers
- The ability to work in a flow state if you’re all working in real-time at the same meeting
- Enhanced knowledge sharing and accessibility to key information
- The ability to collaborate in real-time and get issues resolved faster
- The option to retain and audit conversations via written transcripts. This can be helpful when minuting meetings or storing and retrieving information on why a decision was made at a given time.
The Disadvantages of Real-Time Communication
Despite numerous advantages of real time communication technology, there are also several drawbacks in using RTC in business which can put some people off using RTC altogether. However, it’s important to have an understanding of these disadvantages to better inform you about the RTC limitations so you can find the right “blend” for your organisation.
Here are some areas for consideration:
- Live chat systems tend to be text-based. This sometimes means you can misread the sentiment behind the message or not get to the root cause. The emotion of the person chatting can be lost. Equally, someone typing in capitals can sometimes look offhand, even if the customer is not meaning to sound rude. Everyone has their style of writing.
- You may not have enough staff to support a live chat system. This can leave customers waiting in a queue or left frustrated that they don’t feel important. It’s key to finding the right balance.
- Live chat can be disruptive. If you’re a small business, and you’re working on a project, keeping your live chat window open may disrupt workers in their flow when trying to perform deep work on projects.
- There is the potential for a customer to create numerous live chats and for key information to get lost in the moment or not get fully expressed. This can sometimes slow down response times as it leads to information being lost or not being made available. Some customers, may not like typing and prefer a phone call.
- Whilst phone calls are a helpful and best use of real-time communication (beyond a face-to-face meeting), phone calls can be time-consuming and without a proper scheduling system in place disrupt a day as you can receive calls when you might be busy or unavailable such as in a meeting. This can lead customers to become frustrated and feel like you are ignoring them, even if you’re not.
- Real-Time Communication opens up several touchpoints at your organisation. This means you can accommodate different ways that your customers can get in touch with you or in a way that is more to their liking. This is a good thing, however, if you have too many RTC entry points, messages can get lost or forgotten, simply because you have communications coming in from everywhere. This can lead to sporadic responses, especially if staff members are assigned only to specific communication channels.
Measuring RTC Effectiveness
Technology moves quickly, and what’s hot one month might be out the next. That’s why you need clear boundaries and a strategy in place to support your way of doing RTC at your organisation. You need to have clear goals and key performance indicators in place to get the most out of it.
Whilst this supports the implementation of an RTC workflow, system or platform, it also ensures you can measure performance against your overall strategy and ensure standards are being met. For example, these might be how soon you reply, how long a customer was left waiting for a resolution, whether your website or support centre provided adequate information and so on.
There might be some in your organisation who are more used to using “newer” forms of communication technology beyond email. This might lead to a more casual approach to business correspondence. Whilst this may be fine for some organisations, other business owners may frown on more informal communication standards. It’s important to make RTC fit the culture as well as the people. Training may be a solution to ensuring company-wide standards get met.
How to Implement RTC Effectively
The first thing to do is to look at all the ways your customers are currently communicating with you. Look at how well this works for your business. Assess how quickly you respond, whether customer expectations are being met, and whether you can meet the volume of requests coming into the business.
Then, look at what you currently do well and also candidly, at the areas you need to improve. Then you can look at what is out there in terms of real-time communication. It’s also ok not to have too many mediums as an option. It’s better to do one or two things well than offer seven or eight methods and not reply to any!
Why is this important? Let’s say you’re currently struggling to reply to all your emails quickly and efficiently. Putting in a real-time chat system is not going to necessarily help you much as you are likely to get worse at replying to emails. Your team might find live chat fun initially as it’s different, but eventually, they might get bad at replying on both channels and find it a chore.
Equally, the volume of emails might not be the problem in the first place. With a more collaborative email and e-mail sharing inbox system, you might then be able to bundle personalised replies together and respond quicker, thus improving your email response times and making customers much happier in return. This is why it’s important to look at what you currently have in place and how you use it. Solutions can often be found in the smaller details.
Asynchronous Real-Time Communication Offers the Best of Both Worlds
We have found in our experience, that the best form of RTC is asynchronous.
What this means is that if a customer or prospect starts a conversation with you in real-time, you can capture the information, their needs and requirements, and then respond via email or follow up via phone keeping the conversation moving. You don’t have to start again and have someone fill in all their information again. You can take control of your RTC environment.
Once you have the contact information captured, you can communicate freely allowing you to choose to communicate in real-time, set a schedule or during a time when you can do so. This reduces the time that the customer is left waiting initially and provides space to resolve issues or follow up thoroughly to better serve the customer. It’s best to get questions and issues resolved as quickly as possible, not keep going back and forth with minor updates.
This works well for large organisations too, as unless you are operating 24/7, you can be offline yet still capture all relevant information overnight, then respond faster first thing in the morning. You can also learn common questions customers ask and respond to via an auto bot or article suggestion improving your customer service response.
Closing Thoughts on Real-Time Communication
Real-Time Communication is here to stay. It’s convenient, works across multiple platforms and brings benefits for business as well as the customer. How you implement RTC at your organisation will dictate whether it works well or falls over. With the right guidance and blend from engaging with technology consulting, you can reap the benefits of a real-time world whilst at the same time increasing efficiency within the business.
Not only is RTC changing the way we work, but it is also changing the way we communicate. We are becoming more text-centric and self-serving than ever before whilst allowing data to determine how our customers are responding to our services.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, workers embraced real-time communication technology like never before and this created a seismic shift towards a hybrid means of working – be it at home or the office (or sometimes even on the same day!). This offers greater flexibility and a better work-life balance for many.
It’s important, however, that RTC is controlled. It’s very easy for the boundaries to become blurred, especially when using an RTC tool such as What’s App for both personal and business communication. The key is to choose what channels work for you and your customers best, then communicate clearly how you will be responding. For more information had a read of the best chat apps for business which highlights some of the tools used to great effect today.
We have a great deal of experience in RTC technology and platforms and have implemented numerous solutions for clients all with their unique requirements. If you would like to know more about what tools would work well for your organisation, then please don’t hesitate to contact us.