Businesses depend on good, clear, consistent communication. Whether this means creating better communication policies or adding tools that help to facilitate communication, the success of your business is deeply connected to your ability to communicate effectively with both employees and customers. That’s why departments like HR and marketing can end up taking a lot of your businesses budget.
One way to improve communication is by using chat rooms or chat applications to create a more streamlined experience. Whether this is to improve your employee experience or your customer experience, online chat rooms and chat functionality can be very helpful for your business?
What exactly is a chat room?
The history of chat rooms is interesting. The How Stuff Works website explains the beginnings of chat room technology and growth by saying, “the CompuServe CB simulator is widely regarded as the first real-time chat room. Launched to the public in 1980, the CB simulator capitalized on the explosive (if short-lived) popularity of citizen’s band radio culture in American country music and movies [source: PC Magazine]. Users could exchange real-time messages…which later evolved into the concept of rooms. In the mid-1980s, a company called PlayNet began tinkering with the combination of real-time chat and online games.”
Overall, chat rooms consist of at least two people in an online environment that enables people to communicate in real-time. This can be a quick instant message on a program like Skype or a larger group chat with more participants including vendors and other outside staff.
The difference between forums and chat rooms
Those who are wondering “What is a chat room?” or “What’s the purpose or need for my business?” might find themselves trying to distinguish between chat rooms and online forums. Here are the major differences in the technology and formats of forums vs. chat rooms.
1. Synchronous vs Asynchronous
Small Business Chronicle does an excellent job of pointing out the basic differences between chat rooms and forums, saying, “Chat rooms are the synchronous method of online communication, meaning that conversations occur in real-time with all the participants logged in and present. Forums tend to be asynchronous, as not all participants are always online, and discussions occur at a much slower pace. Visitors to a forum can log in hours or even days after a discussion has started and still catch up by reading previous posts…This also means that forums tend to stick to a specific topic, while conversations in chat rooms can rapidly change, depending on the mood of the participants.” This is why most businesses tend to have chat programs like Skype or Slack that allow them to message within the organization and have quick, direct conversations, though many businesses do have an intranet that allows conversation features that function similarly to online forums with text threads and searchability.
Many forums are monitored by real people, usually, members of the forum community, to prevent abusive language, spam, bots, and topics which may derail the conversation happening within the thread. Sometimes this looks like moderators checking the posts before they are posted to the forum, while other times moderators go back through posts and make sure that there is nothing offensive. Moderators have the power to ban specific users if their behavior doesn’t match the rules of forum usage, but overall the moderation usually depends on the specific rules of that particular forum.
Small Business Chronicle notes that the actual technology that supports and enables chat rooms and forums is different. “forums are displayed as ordinary websites in your browser, chat rooms often require the installation of a browser extension, plugin or third-party software such as Java or Flash. This also means that some chat rooms support the use of microphones or webcams for chatting with other users, which is not possible on forums.”
How do you know if your business needs a chat room?
If you’re trying to decide if your business needs a customer-facing chat application or should add an internal messaging system, here are some questions to consider:
- Do you need a competitive advantage over other business in your industry? Having customer-facing chat apps might help set you apart.
- Do you find that projects are getting held up due to lack of communication? Having an internal chat app can help speed things along or streamline project management altogether.
- Do you want to improve relationships with your business and your customer, as well as your company and employees? Chat rooms and chat applications can help you grow both.
Chat rooms have a lot of features and benefits that can boost your communication capabilities with both employees and customers. This can lead to everything from better revenue, improved productivity, and better employee and customer retention. Investing in chat room technology can be a huge payoff for your business.