What to Look For in a Small Business Communication System
Small companies can fall victim to a dangerous mindset of thinking they are too small for a modern emergency communication system. But operating without one can limit productivity and put your people at risk–no matter how big your company is.
Implementing a small business communication system helps keep your employees safe and connected.
Keeping Your Employees Safe
Too many companies, though, focus too much on the second half of that equation. While a standard phone system or VoIP setup can help keep your employees connected, they are nearly useless in an emergency situation. Small businesses cannot afford to have one solution for everyday communication and a separate emergency communication system, as many larger ones do. Instead, a small business communication system has to be flexible enough to meet both those needs.
You might be tempted to think: emergencies happen, but they won’t happen to my company. We are too small. Too young. But the truth is, emergencies can happen anywhere, anytime, to anyone. All we have to do is look at the last several months. Hurricane Florence paid no attention to whether or not the buildings it destroyed were owned by a large or small company. The wildfires wreaking havoc on California didn’t care if four employees were displaced or 4,000.
In fact, disasters are likely to be even more devastating to small businesses. According to FEMA, 40% of small businesses never recover from a disaster.
Communications Isn’t Just for Emergencies
Investing in a communication system solely for emergencies may feel out of reach for a small business. But the beauty of modern mass notification systems is their versatility. Small businesses can use them for emergencies like those discussed above, as well as internal events that require employees to be on the same page.
Companies can extend the value of their employee notification system to include non-emergency messages, such as payroll delays or company-wide bonuses, changes in hours of operations, shift changes, upcoming corporate events, volunteer opportunities, directions or changes in directions to a venue, weather-related or traffic information, and so on.
The system does not have to be used solely for emergencies. Think of it as a streamlined, simple communications tool that can make communicating with employees and even people outside of your organization much easier and faster. Companies can not only pre-build messages, customize messages per audience, time messages to be delivered on a schedule, and send messages across multiple communication channels per audience or simultaneously, but each message can be tracked to monitor open rates and engagement.
5 Features You Need From Your Small Business Communication System
So what makes an effective small business communication system?
1. Stores your data in the cloud
When seconds count, saving lives is more critical than saving data. But long-term, retrieving customer and company data is crucial to company survival. By keeping the most important data in the cloud, companies can be sure that all of their information is safe, despite environmental circumstances. Small companies often don’t have the luxury of a full-service HRIS, so having a communication system that can do this for you kills two birds with one stone.
2. Supports location-based alerts
Small businesses often have a dispersed workforce. Some people work from home, and those who don’t are not usually located in a central office location. Small businesses need a communication system that can send messages to anyone in a particular area, using real-time GPS location data. This lets you send messages to everyone affected by hyper-local events–like an office closure or fire drill–without having to notify every employee in the company.
3. Built for mobile devices
The modern workforce is increasingly mobile, and so is communication. Relying on a system that is not built for mobile devices just doesn’t cut it anymore, especially for small businesses. Your small business communication system should have a mobile app with every key capability of the web platform. It should also, of course, be able to send text messages to mobile devices. Your workforce is mobile. Your communication system should be too.
4. Equipped with multi-channel delivery
Small businesses rely on multiple methods of communication. Emails for formal issues. Text messages for quick questions. Slack for day-to-day communication. You need your small business communication system to support that versatility. Sending an email over a distribution list will likely be seen by most of the recipients, eventually. But in an emergency, that’s not good enough. You need a way to get to every one of your employees, immediately. This requires a versatile communication platform, which supports multi-channel delivery.
5. Easy-to-use interface
This one is the key to making all the others work. Small businesses often don’t have a large IT team, who can handle the operation of clunky enterprise software. In a small business, it very well might be the CEO who has to send out a message to his/her employees. This means the platform needs to be simple and intuitive. In an emergency, especially, there is no time for playing around with the system, and people are unlikely to be thinking clearly anyways. In these situations, it is crucial that the platform be easy to navigate and use effectively.
Find a Communication System That Fits Your Small Business
No two small businesses are the same. As a fast-growing tech startup in Austin, we know that as well as anyone. What that means, though, is that you need to find a communication system that fits your business. How will you be using the system? Which capabilities are important for your company?
Whatever your answers to those questions, though, you will likely need to keep in mind the five features listed above. Think of them as the building blocks of a modern small business communication system.
Make sure you find a versatile mass communication system that works for you: one that can keep the people at your small business safe, informed, and connected.