Eighty-six percent of employees claim a lack of communication and collaboration is a major cause of workplace errors — and the subsequent $420,000 and $62.4 million lost annually from businesses’ bank accounts.
Communication should be a core focus for all businesses, particularly now, after what we knew the workplace to be so drastically shifted during the COVID-19 pandemic with the rise of remote work. Virtual workplaces demand communication and collaboration apps, but that’s not to say companies with physical offices can’t also benefit from these communication platforms for businesses — whether it’s a website chat to reach customers or project planning software.
Continue reading for our list of the best apps to consider when working to improve communication — and, consequently, business success — or skip below to the infographic for a quick review.
Communication is critical for a business’s success. Without solid communication strategies and procedures, projects fall apart, employees feel frustrated, and companies may lose clients.
Communication platforms are digital tools designed to solve those common issues. These solutions provide a space for employees to discuss and work on projects, hold meetings both internally and with clients, and archive documentation and resources.
Most types of communication technology for businesses fall under four categories: internal communication, client communication, collaboration, and project management. However, some tools may share some overlap, particularly those for internal and client communication.
Internal communication tools
Client communication tools
Project management tools
Today, internal teams can stay connected, despite geographical differences, with web-based communication solutions. Such tools vary in functionality — from instant messaging to intranet forums to video conferencing. With these systems in place, many companies may even see a reduced need for physical offices and on-site teams.
Nearly 80% of Fortune 100 companies use Slack daily. Slack is a messaging platform for the workplace. Although often used for internal communication, Slack can also work for client contact due to its guest feature.
Users can chat one-on-one, in small groups, or on public or private channels. Channels are groups users create around a topic, such as a client or specific role. Slack is also available via desktop or mobile application and website. The tool integrates with many popular apps, like Google Calendar and others on this list.
Cost: Slack’s plans range from free to $12.50 per month per team member.
While not precisely a messaging platform, Confluence is an Atlassian intranet system that centralizes a company's internal documents and allows collaborative editing on these pages. It falls under the internal communication category because although it boasts many components of other categories, its main focus is to enable users to communicate on specific projects and documents. It features templates for project planning, product management, marketing, sales, and more.
Cost: Free for up to 10 users. Paid plans range from $5.50 per month per user to $10.50 per month per user. Annual billing will save about $120 a year.
What was once Skype for Business became Microsoft Teams in 2021. Teams allows for internal communication within an organization, offering messaging among individuals and groups, audio and video conferencing, and document sharing. This is an excellent tool for large companies because it allows 300 participants in calls, so entire departments can share one call. Plus, when businesses purchase a Teams license or a Microsoft plan, they receive access to all Microsoft apps.
Cost: Microsoft Teams offers free plans for one-on-one calls for up to 30 hours and group meetings with up to 100 participants for 60 minutes. The paid version costs $4 per month per user and provides longer call times and higher participant limits. Both Microsoft's Business Basic ($6 per user per month) and Business Standard ($12.50 per user per month) packages feature Teams.
Loom is a video recording platform that prioritizes asynchronous videos, or non-live streamed videos, which viewers can watch at their convenience. Users can record themselves and their screens simultaneously, making it an excellent tool for creating training materials or company-wide updates. When watching, viewers can leave timestamped emoji reactions and comments.
Cost: Loom's plans range from free to $8 per month billed annually per user. They also offer free advanced plans for educators.
BlueJeans, a Verizon company, is a virtual meeting platform that boasts no time limits on calls, even for Standard plans. BlueJeans's breakout meeting feature works great for training sessions so users can interact in smaller discussions. It also allows users to annotate, timestamp important moments, assign actions, and more. BlueJeans can be used for client meetings, but due to its interactivity and lack of time limits, it's best for internal communication.
Cost: BlueJeans’s plans range from $12.49 to $19.99 per host, billed monthly. License holders can save by opting for annual billing.
Sixty-six percent of customers use at least three separate channels to communicate with businesses, meaning it's essential for companies to be reachable in many ways.
Thankfully, in today's digital world, businesses have easy access to clients through technology — from email to video conferencing to marketing outreach platforms.
The biggest perk of a Gmail account is that users automatically have their own Google Workspace with access to all of Google's apps, such as Calendar which can be used for setting up appointments with clients. Additionally, while personal accounts are stuck with the @gmail.com trailing their username, businesses can change this to their domain name for a professional look.
Cost: Business starter plans cost $6 per month per user and increase with upgrades like additional Google Drive storage and Google Meet call participant limits.
Rising to popularity during the pandemic for remote work and virtual events alike, Zoom is a video conferencing platform that offers chat, breakout sessions, interactive reactions, integration with digital calendars, and more. It outranks competitors with its maximum participant limit of 1,000.
Though many businesses use Zoom internally, it's great for client communication because it is such a popular, easy-to-use tool.
Cost: Zoom’s free plan allows 40-minute calls with up to 100 attendees. Paid plans start at $14 per month per user and continue to increase with additional components, like cloud storage and higher attendee limits.
Google's video conferencing platform, Google Meet, offers similar features as Zoom but at a cost or with an additional Chrome Extension. The most significant difference between the two is Meet’s 14 GB of cloud storage for recordings compared to Zoom's 1 GB.
Since Google’s systems are so widely popular among clients, Meet works well for video calls with them.
Cost: The free version of Google Meet allows for 60-minute calls with up to 100 participants. For additional features like call recording and dial-in numbers, plans start at $7.99 per month.
Smith.ai’s answering services stand out from others on this list because instead of being a platform you use to contact clients, their agents do the work for you. Their service frees up your internal team’s day and leaves mundane client communication to outsourced professionals. Whatever you need extra help with — bilingual answering to overflow phone answering — Smith.ai is there to fill in.
Cost: Pricing depends on the selected service. Virtual receptionist services start at $285 per month for 30 calls with live agents. Live chat services start at $10 per individual chat session for a la carte plans, and $140 per month for subscription plans.
Zoho is a technology company that makes digital tools for businesses. Similar to Google and Microsoft suites, businesses can select specific apps within the Zoho Office Suite to purchase. Zoho Desk is one of the company’s customer service tools.
The Zoho Desk software connects customers with agents through a help desk and ticketing system. Agents from different departments can work together to solve customer tickets.
Cost: Free for up to three agents. Paid plans start at $20 per month and increase based on additional features. Annual subscriptions bill at a lower monthly rate.
Mailchimp by Intuit offers a few different products, but the product best fit for client communication is their email marketing platform. Businesses can send customized emails to specific target clients and leads, immediately or later. Users can create an automatic email after a specific customer action, such as abandoning their cart.
Cost: Free for businesses that send less than 10,000 emails each month. Paid plans start at $11 per month and come with additional features, like the ability to choose a monthly email send limit that fits best for the business.
Send clients and leads questionnaires to learn more about their personalities and consumer behaviors with SurveyMonkey. This tool allows businesses to gather and analyze feedback to make informed, data-driven decisions.
Cost: Team plans start at $25 per month, billed annually and at a per user rate. All team plans require at least three users.
Zendesk for customer service is another client communication software with many features, such as allowing agents to respond to customers' inquiries via chat boxes, phone, and email. It's built to help businesses work through customer support interactions by tracking, prioritizing, and solving issues.
Cost: Zendesk business plans start at $49 per month per agent. Enterprise plans range from $150 to $215 per month per agent billed annually.
There’s no better way to contact clients than by meeting them where they are — on their cell phones. Project Broadcast is a text messaging service that businesses can use to inform clients about sales, account information, education, and so on. It uses local phone numbers, so business owners' personal data stays private.
Cost: Plans range from $15 per month on the lowest business plan to $925 per month on the highest enterprise plan.
Most businesses can benefit from digital collaboration software and tools, especially those with remote employees and clients. These tools vary from cloud storage to editable documents, password keepers, and more. Those with access can work inside of documents together and share files among themselves without sending email attachments to download.
Users can access their Drive from the browser or desktop, and store files on personal drives or in shared locations for others to access. Google Drive works well on all devices, from desktops to mobile devices.
Cost: Free for up to 30 GB of storage per Google account. Additional storage can be purchased starting at $1.99 per month for 100 GB.
Dropbox is another file storage and sharing solution popular among businesses with several features. With the click of a single button, users can share files with others within or outside of the organization. Its advanced security features ensure that what's meant to stay within the organization or group is stored privately.
Cost: Standard team plans cost $18 per month per user, and the Advanced plan is $30 per month per user. Enterprise plans are available for specialized rates. Annual billing yields savings.
Over 85% of Fortune 500 companies rely on Microsoft’s cloud storage solution, OneDrive. The tool allows businesses to easily access, share, and edit files through co-authoring from anywhere, both online or offline. As part of Microsoft’s library of applications, OneDrive works seamlessly with its other systems, such as Teams or SharePoint.
Cost: Annual subscriptions start at $5 per month for Plan 1 and increase to $10 per month for Plan 2, which includes advanced security protection.
Airtable is a robust platform that combines the components of a database with a spreadsheet's functionality. Users can make tables as straightforward or complex as they wish and use the tool for anything from wedding planning to inventory tracking to customer relationship management.
Some features include premade templates, the ability to create relationships between tables and build custom applications, colorful tagging, and powerful formula integrations.
Cost: Free for up to five creators. Plans with additional seats and features start at $12 per month. Subscribers can save when opting for annual billing.
The goal of project management is to see a project through to completion and manage each step throughout the process.
Many project management tools present a similar structure — users build out a project and create smaller tasks within the said project. However, each offers unique features that stand out against competitors and may be more desirable for particular industries.
One downside to some project management tools is that getting the projects set up can become time-consuming. Some tools offer templates and spreadsheet-uploading capabilities to ease this burden, whereas others keep their product simple and easy to use.
Asana's system allows a simple project management structure with an overall project, tasks, and subtasks. For example, if a business is writing an e-book, the book would be the project, the chapters are the tasks, and each phase of creating the chapters — like writing and editing — are subtasks. Each task has an owner, and each subtask can be individually assigned. Users can also set up rule automation and dependencies to notify specific team members.
Asana features multiple views for managers and team members, including a comprehensive list of tasks, Kanban boards, timelines, calendars, and more. Individuals can also easily view their specific task lists.
Unlike competitors, Asana doesn't offer time-tracking capabilities.
Cost: Free for up to 15 users. Premium plans are $10.99 per month, and business plans are $24.99 per month each when billed annually.
A more complex project management system, Monday.com allows users to create views and workflows that fit their needs. Monday.com offers specialized tools and template databases for specific teams and goals, such as Monday Sales CRM and Monday Dev. However, users can also stick to simple task management with this tool.
Monday.com presents both Kanban and Gantt views and dashboards complete with timelines, status overviews, completion percentages, and more. The tool's automation feature allows users to create virtually any trigger imaginable to ensure seamless project advancement — from updating a project phase once a task status changes to notifying the assignee in the next stage that the previous step is complete.
Additionally, Monday.com offers a guest feature so businesses can invite clients or contractors to collaborate and complete tasks. Both guests and employees can use Monday.com's time-tracking capabilities.
Cost: Free for up to two users. Additional monthly plans begin at $8 per seat and increase with extra features. Users can save when opting for annual billing.
Basecamp’s goals are to reduce company time spent in daily status meetings and prioritize a work-life balance. Their platform lets managers see project statuses without requiring a filter view and individuals see everything on their plate in one spot. Users can also set their work hours to ensure they do not receive notifications after clocking out.
Each project has an organized hub of everything a team would need to complete their work — to-do lists, schedules, automatic check-ins, important files, and messaging.
Basecamp does not have a time-tracking function.
Cost: $99 per month for businesses regardless of the number of employees or projects.
Shortcut, formerly Clubhouse, supports project planning and development. Users can plan out big-picture projects in Kanban boards, roadmaps, milestones, and more. Teams can also use the new Doc feature for real-time collaboration. This tool works particularly well for engineering projects and product development.
Cost: Free for individual users. Additional plans start at a monthly rate of $8.50 per user when billed annually and increase based on extra features and the number of seats.
Project Manager boasts a wide range of capabilities to ensure successful project management. It offers dashboarding, project planning, task management, and Agile board views, but also goes beyond the status quo.
Users can also manage their time with project timesheets and workload management, and managers can keep their teams and resources organized.
This platform integrates with many other tools on this list — such as Google Drive, Slack, and Jira — and offers templates built for dozens of industries and departments.
Cost: Free for up to three users. Team and business plans begin at $14 per user. Users can save with annual subscriptions.
Hive is a project management software prioritizing centralized workflows. It enables teams to collaborate among themselves and understand the various processes integral to the company. There are two messaging functions, a project planning and organization system, individual task lists, and more.
Users can view projects in a way that makes sense to them, whether that’s a Gantt chart or the listed table view. For managers, Hive's multi-project overview, team, and calendar views help ensure proper resource allocation and project advancement.
Cost: Free for individual users. Professional plans begin at $16 per month or $12 per month billed annually. Custom enterprise plans are available.
Teamwork is a project and team management solution that aims to be a one-stop shop for everything that anyone in a business — from CEO to junior team members — needs to get their job done. Users can easily view every project’s milestone status, budget, time tracked, and more.
The Teamwork platform allows client and freelancer views with real-time collaboration so everyone is on the same page. It also offers hundreds of app integrations and templates for anything a business may need.
Cost: Free for up to five users per plan. Advanced plans begin at $12.50 per month per seat for a minimum of three users. Customers can save 20% with annual billing.
At Smith.ai, we use several of the tools listed above, as well as others:
With the right communication platform, your business and team can work efficiently and see tremendous growth. However, selecting what tools work best for your team may take some trial and error. You may find that your business requires multiple platforms or services within these categories.
For a summary of the communication platforms above and some additional statistics and tips on workplace communication, read our infographic below.
If you're a small business owner, what your team relies on for internal messaging and meetings might not always work for your client communication. So, book a call with Smith.ai and let us help you manage your inbound client correspondence. Our professional agents are there to assist with extra hands-on after-hours answering or SMS text answering.