Throughout 2020 and 2021, the pandemic has fundamentally altered how businesses communicate, both internally and with their customers.
Some of the developments of the last two years have begun to reverse – with many meetings shifting back to in-person formats as social distancing measures are slowly being rolled back. However, other changes are here to stay.
Here are ten trends that will define business communication in 2022 and beyond.
Harnessing Collaborative Workspaces and Internal Communication Platforms
First, the collaborative workspaces and internal communication platforms many companies established for remote work will remain a fixture in 2022.
Team collaboration is crucial for business productivity. Collaboration platforms allow team members to share ideas, assign tasks, and track progress. In addition, during periods of remote work, they allowed people to centralize workflows and eliminate redundancies. Over the past two years, these platforms have become a pillar that many teams now can’t do without.
Similarly, intranet software has taken a turn towards becoming a central, people-centric hub of communication. Classic features like an enterprise wiki and internal blogs now work side by side with activity streams and notifications.
Relying on Cloud Platforms
When the shift to remote work first happened in spring 2020, many businesses struggled because many of their data and tools were available only through office devices and on-premises servers. A collective move toward cloud platforms solved this issue and quickly found solutions.
Now, few businesses will be going back.
By harnessing cloud-storage solutions, businesses can cut back on both hardware costs and maintenance fees. They also become more agile and adaptable regarding data access and sharing. In addition, cloud solutions ensure that they can efficiently integrate into company workflows and communications no matter where employees are based.
For instance, cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) software allows a remote team member to immediately pull relevant information on a caller. This lets them communicate with them more effectively.
Similarly, cloud-based virtual phone systems help employees maintain a coherent business identity. It simply doesn’t matter if they’re answering calls on their office desk phone, through an app on their personal smartphone, or at home on their laptop.
Going All-in on Unified Communications
One of the most persistent internal communication trends of the past few years has been the drift towards unified communications. As a result, many team members faced a significant challenge in 2020 and 2021: dealing with a flood of messages on different channels.
Emails. Texts. Voice calls. Video conferences. Messaging apps like WhatsApp, Telegram, and Signal. Team collaborations apps like Slack and Trello. Dealing with notifications from all of these can quickly become a time-consuming, anxiety-inducing chore.
Unified communication is a concept designed to overcome this challenge. Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) platforms centralize all these different communication channels.
The result is that team members don’t have to hop between apps and devices to stay on top of everything. As a result, workflows become much smoother, reducing friction and the likelihood of miscommunication.
Using AI to Boost Customer Service Efficiency and Personalization
On the customer-facing side, the use of artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the defining business communication trends of 2022. AI and machine learning (ML) applications can significantly accelerate customer service interactions and increase satisfaction on both ends.
As a basic example, AI can automatically route calls from customers. Instead of listening to an endless menu of choices (“Press one for …” in perpetuity), a caller can state their purpose. Then, AI will parse their meaning through natural language processing (NLP) and automatically connect them to the best available agent.
Another application for AI is personal assistance for your customer service agents. For example, AIs can integrate with CRM systems and pull relevant records when a customer reaches out. Similarly, they can analyze conversations with customers as they are happening and offer pointers to agents if they get stuck.
AI is also making documentation and analytics more efficient. For example, NLP AI automatically transcribes entire conversations and creates summaries. In addition, ML algorithms can process vast amounts of data and unearth patterns that human agents wouldn’t be able to pinpoint. Consequently, they offer valuable insights into customer service interactions – from overall sentiment analysis to the performance of individual agents.
Chatbots and Self-Service AI Customer Care
Another business communication trend and more direct application of AI in customer service is customer self-service. NLP AI can easily handle routine interactions such as scheduling appointments, giving information on the status of orders and accounts, and handling justified refunds.
One of the most common solutions in this category are chatbots. They can easily be integrated into your website. Many existing messengers – such as Facebook Messenger – include them as part of their business offers. However, NLP self-service AI also exists in virtual business phone systems.
Their meteoric rise is due to their several critical advantages for both customers and businesses. First, customer service agents are relieved from dealing with the most routine interactions. This gives them more time and energy to focus on challenging issues.
Thus, most customers can quickly and efficiently with their business via AI — 24/7. If they do need the help of a human agent, they’ll be taken care of faster and by less overworked team members.
Customer Communication Via Instant Messaging and Social Media
Social media swiftly took up an even more central spot in peoples’ lives during the pandemic than before. Consequently, their importance for business communication increased in tandem.
Fully 54% of customers browse social media looking for information on products they might buy. Many more use a company’s social media presence to assess its overall culture and values. Not to mention the immense potential that social media platforms – and their influencers – hold for businesses in terms of promotional value.
For businesses, this means that they need to harness social media in multiple ways for optimal communication with their target audience.
Using channels such as Facebook Messenger and Twitter’s DM feature to communicate with customers is a minimum standard. Furthermore, it’s necessary to monitor messages that mention or tag businesses.
Many dissatisfied customers might vent their frustration on Twitter and @ the company that is the source of their ire. However, they might never be noticed unless a business keeps an eye out for these messages – even as they do untold reputational damage. Partly, this is because few users actually follow the brands that they talk about -96% don’t.
Similarly, businesses need to maintain a minimal social media presence to balance that of their competitors. Furthermore, customers increasingly expect companies to weigh in on significant controversies and conversations and may even withdraw their business if they fail to do so. From #MeToo and Black Lives Matter to Ukraine-related activities, various movements have illustrated this.
Finally, businesses can establish channels of communication with customers via creators native to various social media platforms. In the thriving creator economy, brand sponsorships and ambassadorships are a fantastic way to access a new audience and expand a business’ reach.
Relying on High-Quality Visual Short-Form Content
Another avenue of communication between businesses and customers that cannot be ignored in 2022 is high-quality visual short-form content. This especially goes for infographics and short videos.
While traditional methods of customer information – such as blogging and email marketing – remain important, the trend is towards brevity and visually captivating forms of content.
Short video is particularly engaging, as the rapid growth of TikTok has demonstrated. Rival platforms have scrambled to catch up with features such as Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts, and on the whole, successfully.
Statistics show that the brief, 60-second format is ideal for capturing – and holding – audience attention. Consequently, you can harness this format and pack as much essential and eye-catching information into it as possible.
Customers are not only more likely to pay attention to short-form content. They are also much more likely to share it on their own profiles and across different platforms.
Integrating Communication Into Business Apps and Websites via CPaaS
Consumers are increasingly expecting business communication to be practically instant. So rather than switching between apps – or even devices – they prefer to reach out directly.
In response, more and more businesses are harnessing cloud-based Communication Platforms as a Service (CPaaS) solutions to integrate communication channels directly into their own, custom solutions.
CPaaS solutions are not stand-alone apps. Instead, they offer developers everything that’s “under the hood” of a UCaaS solution. For example, using CPaaS, businesses can provide communication channels such as voice and video calls directly in their apps.
A pretty common manifestation of this business communication trend is the simple “Contact us” button directly in an app or website. So, for example, when a customer uses a business app to shop in their store and suddenly faces problems or questions about a product, they can use it to reach out to a customer service rep directly.
Offering Secure Communications to Build Trust
With the general shift to life online during the pandemic, cybercrime skyrocketed throughout 2020 and 2021. From identity fraud to ransomware, cybercriminals have been trying to get at customers’ personal data and use it to their own advantage.
Businesses, too, have been targets. The consequences can be devastating. For example, 60% of small to mid-size businesses that fall victim to successful cyberattacks go out of business within six months. The financial, legal, and reputational fallout is too significant for them to cope with.
As a result, one of the most prominent trends in business communication in 2022 is security — both internal and external communication.
Internally, businesses are increasingly securing their collaboration tools and intranet applications. This includes both stepping up their cybersecurity defenses and increasing the cybersecurity competencies of their team members. However, the best cybersecurity measures become useless when a single well-placed employee can be duped into handing over their login credentials.
Externally, businesses need to demonstrate their cybersecurity measures to their customers. Especially when it comes to personal data and financial details, customers are increasingly wary in 2022. Advertising that all channels of communication with a business are encrypted and that high-level security systems are in place to protect customer data creates a basis of trust.
Augmented and Virtual Reality
Finally, one of the newest trends in business communication in 2022 is augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).
As the highly publicized launch of the Metaverse by Meta (formerly Facebook) has demonstrated, AR and VR are no longer figments of imagination straight out of a 70s sci-fi novel. Instead, they’re tangible – or at least visible – reality, with a significant projected impact on all aspects of the business sphere, from financial dealings to communication.
AR can provide consumers with an immersive 3D experience. People can get a real feel of a business’s products and services from the comfort of their own home – or at their convenience during a commute or a break at the office.
Furthermore, leveraging AR can help businesses stand out as cutting-edge and tech-savvy. Younger customers especially appreciate both attributes.
VR offers even further-reaching opportunities, both for internal and external communication.
For example, companies like General Electric and Walmart have already pioneered VR-based training programs.
Customers can benefit from an immersive experience, getting a first-hand idea of existing products and services – and business’ visions for future offers.
In 2022, business communication will see even further changes. As companies begin to navigate a post-pandemic world and face new market challenges, communication remains a cornerstone of customer satisfaction and business success.
Businesses are increasingly harnessing cutting-edge technologies like AI, ML, VR, and AR to provide customers with an immersive and effective experience. In addition, they prioritize unified, omnichannel communication, rely on flexible cloud platforms, and integrate various channels into their in-house solutions. Overall, this reduces friction losses and improves customers’ communication experience.
At the same time, businesses need to take advantage of fresh opportunities, such as short-form content. Finally, there is the ever-growing importance of social media and the burgeoning creator economy in the longer term.
Finally, a stronger emphasis on secure communications builds trust both within businesses and between businesses and their customers.
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