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Hybrid business communications: A 360-degree guide

Grace Lau

Director of Growth Content

Hybrid business communications header

I don’t think anyone would argue that effective communication is important to a team’s, or on a larger scale, a business’s success.

Having worked in advertising agencies, then at a B2C fintech company, then a CRM company, and now at, well, Dialpad, I’ve seen firsthand how the many roles that business communications can play in a company’s success.

You’ve got to consider internal communication strategies, external communication strategies, the communication skills of your team... and we haven’t even gotten to how remote and hybrid work has transformed literally of this.

So, in this guide, I’ll be taking you through a 360-degree view of the business communication essentials today—and how to adjust your communication processes to make sure everyone’s connected when your team is, like mine, fully distributed.

We’ll also look at some case studies of how real companies in different industries and their unique business communication strategies. How do these successful businesses manage their communications? What communication methods and tools do they use?

Let’s get one crucial thing out of the way first.

What is business communication?

Just to make sure we’re all on the same page to start, business communications today generally refers to all the different types of communications a company uses—both internally (between company employees) and externally (with customers, investors, prospects, and so on).

Traditionally, business communication was very much synonymous with “corporate communication”—and just from that name, you can imagine what the tone and style of this type of business communication looked like. (Lots of memos and "business writing," probably.)

Today, there’s definitely more of a focus on the human side—interpersonal communication that’s typically less formal in tone, unless we’re talking about press releases. But you’ve got social media channels like LinkedIn, live chat messages with customers, and many more communication channels where it’s acceptable to be, well, sound a little more friendly and a lot less stuffy.

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Key types of business communication channels to consider

One of the biggest differences between corporate communications programs today versus a decade or two ago?

It’s probably that effective business communication looks very different depending on which channel you’re using. Specifically, there are six types of communication channels to be aware of. (You may not be using them all, but you should at the very least know about them.)

I’ll break them down into internal and external business communications.

Internal business communications

Your internal business communication strategy includes any communication that takes place entirely within your business or organization. Generally, you can categorize your approach here as either vertical or horizontal communication.

Vertical, or “downward communication,” refers to one-way communication from your C-Suite and senior executives to everyone else in the company. Businesses typically use this form of communication to disseminate important company-wide information (like new product announcements and updated HR policies).

On a related note, you’ve got "upward communication,” where employees can easily talk to their senior leadership teams.

Horizontal, or “lateral communication,” refers to sharing information across an organization in a more conversational, multidirectional way. It’s not so much about disseminating information as it is about two-way communication. You’d use this if you want to invite conversation, and yes, it’s usually better for employee engagement.

Now, let’s look at a few key channels for internal business communications.

Team messaging

Some people call this instant messaging, and it’s probably the most popular way that team members tend to talk to each other.

The most familiar form of team messaging is probably your team group chat, where people can have one-on-one conversations and also project or team-specific channels.

For example, at Dialpad, we use our own app to message each other:

Dialpad talk chat channels

And the best thing? We can send each other messages, text each other, have phone calls, and have video meetings from the same app.

(And our contact center team can even handle customer calls right inside this same app too.)

Of course, having just one channel is a pretty poor communication strategy...

Video meetings

Be honest. Do you get stuck in too many virtual meetings? Yeah. I feel you. Next to instant messaging, I’d say video meetings and conference calls are probably the most common type of internal business communications most of us use.

Again, it helps if you have a unified communications platform that lets you use different channels in one place instead of having to open a separate app for each thing. I remember how in past companies I used to have Slack open all day, then have to open Zoom for video conferencing, then use my cell phone to call teammates. It was a lot.

Oh and fun fact: Dialpad’s video meeting feature has screen sharing built-in and great hold music (you can upload whatever you like) along with all the security must-haves like the ability to mute or remove participants, block screen sharing, virtual waiting rooms, and more:

Virtual waiting rooms in dialpad meetings

Phone calls

And finally, phone calls. Yes, we still use them. Actually, I like them because being on video can be exhausting and maybe I just don’t want to do non-verbal communication after my third back-to-back. So it’s nice that I can make a phone call from the Dialpad app too!

Email

What can I say about email that hasn’t already been said? Like it or not, we still use email for internal business communications. If you’ve got a burning interest in email, I wrote about email overload (and how I hit inbox zero).

Face-to-face meetings

I guess I can’t get away from mentioning this one. Some companies are gradually getting back to the office, and even though I’ve been fully remote for years, I do still miss being able to pick up on body language cues and there are just some things about non-verbal communication that you can’t fully replicate no matter how awesome a company’s remote business communication process is.

(At least, until holograms become a thing.)

External business communications

Okay. Now let’s look at channels that businesses use to talk to people outside the company.

When it comes to external business communications, this will most likely be with your customers, prospects, and other folks depending on your industry. For example, nonprofits will have to talk to donors and fundraising partners outside the organization.

Social media

A prerequisite for pretty much any type of company these days, social media is a must-have. Fact is, if your customers are trying to talk to you on Facebook, or Instagram, or LinkedIn, or whatever it is... Your company will probably have to be there in order to provide a good customer experience.

Otherwise, if you’re not responsive on those channels (even if you’re great when people call or email you), it just looks bad because most of those social media channels are fully public. Which means people can see when you don’t respond to basic FAQs or product issue questions.

Think of it as Public Relations 2.0.

Live chat

Customers (or potential customers) are increasingly using live chat when they can because they may not want to talk to someone on the phone or wait on hold and all that jazz.

And even though chatbots have gotten a not-so-great reputation for being overly rigid and not very helpful, the technology has actually evolved incredibly over the past year or two—to the point where they’re a viable customer communication method.

Virtual meetings

Whether you’re an ad agency presenting ideas to a client or a sales rep doing a product demo for a prospect, virtual meetings are becoming more and more important for remote and distributed teams.

And even though there are a ton of video conferencing tools out there, the one thing to keep in mind here is that if you’re using video for external business communications, you should make sure your app is easy to use.

What that means: Clients or prospects outside your company should be able to easily join your virtual meeting without downloading any software packages or apps. Ideally, they should be able to just click a link. For example, Dialpad is fully browser-based, meaning you get all the same video conferencing features in a web browser as if you were joining from the app:

Web browser based meeting in dialpad

SMS/MMS messaging

Did you know that texting is another communication channel that more and more companies are using?

And people actually like it! My dentist started texting me appointment confirmations lately, which I kind of like. Oh, and I bought something online and got a text update when the order got shipped out. Quick and easy.

In fact, even law firms are finding that clients prefer texting!

(Oh, and one neat thing about Dialpad is it lets you send an SMS message with a screen share link to someone so they can join that from a web browser too.)

Yeah. I’d say the business world has changed.

Phone calls

Yep, people probably still call your business. Even with live chat and email and all those other channels, most companies still get inbound calls on a daily basis.

Email

Making a repeat appearance, because everyone loves email.

Face-to-face meetings

Again, many customers and sales team still do this.

Need a business communication solution that covers all these channels? What to look for

If you’re like most businesses, you may be using a smattering of different apps to “Frankenstein” all those channels together.

Or, you may be neglecting one or a few of those channels right now because you’re not ready to invest in it yet. But if you’re thinking about it, here are a few things to consider.

Will you need this for external or internal communications (or both?)

I’ve chatted with our CIO extensively on this, and one thing that keeps coming up is that a good business communication program should be efficient. Meaning: If you can have one robust and versatile platform that can handle all (or most) of your communication channels—and do it well—that is almost always preferable.

Why? Because the alternative is to buy and manage a bunch of disparate tools that can each only handle one aspect of your communication needs. Not only does it often end up costing you more money, it’s also a huge time-suck for your IT team because they have to admin and manage a bunch of different tools instead of just one.

For example, Dialpad, as a unified communications platform that also has a fully integrated contact center product, lets businesses handle pretty much all their communication channels in one place—and with one simple monthly bill.

Sentiment analysis for a list of calls in real time Single Item Card

Integration with other tools

Today, a typical business uses a whole range of different business software.

From Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems to ticketing systems to sales outreach tools to your everyday tools like Google Workspace and Microsoft 365, most companies have some type of tech stack.

Sure, it might be a small one (maybe five or six apps), but a small stack is still a stack.

Because of this, it’s best to make sure all your tools integrate with each other. This way, it minimizes repetitive data entry for your employees and makes life easier for them. For example, Dialpad integrates with CRMs like Salesforce and HubSpot to embed the dialer right in the CRM, which lets agents take calls without having to switch to the Dialpad app:

Hubspot dialpad dialer

Is it scalable?

Let’s face it. No business can perfectly predict what its communication needs will be in the next five years. That’s why it’s good to have a flexible, scalable business communications platform.

For example, can you easily add new users and new accounts without IT help? How much time would that take? What if you have a busy seasonal period and need to onboard a hundred new agents... And then also remove those users after the high season is over?

With most business phone systems and contact center platforms, this is very hard to do, especially if they’re built on legacy infrastructure or have been around since the PBX days.

Dialpad, on the other hand, lets you scale up and down easily:

Adding a user to dialpad

In fact, ClassPass’s small two-person IT team can support their company globally with hiring and opening new offices—in literally minutes!

Accessibility across different devices

Everyone uses different devices. Unless you’re a company that is super strict about every single person using the same computer model, your employees are probably all using some mix of Windows, Mac OS, Android, and iOS devices.

Your business communications platform should support those different devices.

Dialpad, for example, has a desktop and mobile app that works across all those computers and smartphones—and again, also works on a web browser, no app downloads needed.

How real businesses manage their communications: 4 case studies

When it comes to business communication strategies, every organization is, of course, different.

So, I’ve pulled a few examples of companies in different industries and of different sizes to give you an idea of how different business communications plans can look like.

1. Onboarding everyone onto a new communications platform—in 20 minutes

Fintech startup Katalyst develops cloud-based financial technology and management software for the hospitality sector, and their products include point-of-sale software and online ordering tools.

As they were growing, Katalyst needed a phone system that could scale with them and be as agile as they are. As their CEO Dan Roland put it, “we are constantly on the move and needed an option that we could take with us anywhere”.

So, they went with a business communication platform that was easy to set up. How easy? They onboarded the whole company in about 20 minutes.

More importantly, Katalyst was scaling quickly and needed to be able to add new users—fast. So, they also made sure that their new platform let them onboard new employees with the click of a button, no IT help needed.

“Dialpad allows us to continuously add on lines, call centers, and departments as we grow internally. This allows us to be extremely agile in a cost-effective way.”

Dan Roland
CEO, Katalyst

2. Saving $500,000 in annual telephony costs

If you’re running a business and are using accounting and bookkeeping software, you might have heard of Xero (or maybe you’re actually using it).

Today, it’s no longer a small startup—it’s serving more than a million small business customers. But with such huge growth comes new communications challenges. When you have over 1,000 employees around the world, keeping everyone connected is a different kind of adventure.

As they grew, they amassed a patchwork of different types of business communication systems and regional service providers. It was wasting money—and resources. They needed to consolidate.

So they did, eventually going with Dialpad. Now, Xero’s global team can empower its global network of employees to work from any device, wherever they like, using whichever communication channel they need.

Andrew Jessett, Xero’s General Manager for Internal IT, says, “We now have one global business communications platform for all offices”.

The best part? By breaking free from its reliance on outdated technology and multiple different business communication system providers, Xero has been able to save $500,000 in costs annually.

3. Adapting 40+ locations to remote work

When Australian electronics retailer Bing Lee saw its online sales drastically increase at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, David, its Head of Process Improvement, knew it needed to scale up the contact center operations to keep up with demand.

Whereas before, Bing Lee employees had mostly worked from one of the company’s 40+ locations, they’re almost all working remotely today.

And because Bing Lee’s agents are working from home, they need reliable call quality and an effective business communication platform that just worked, no matter where they’re located. Dialpad’s contact center platform gave them that.

“Dialpad has given us the flexibility to prioritize the health of our support agents with remote solutions while adding robust analytics, reporting, and monitoring capabilities which enabled us to raise the level of service for our customers,” says Dave.

4. Empowering call center agents to catch every call in 40 seconds or less (with the analytics to prove it)

Healthcare plan provider Firefly Health is another business that needed to scale rapidly when it went from having just a few employees to over 50 almost overnight.

Its contact center team has a ton of agents, and as a company they needed a platform that could cover both internal and external communications across multiple channels.

Their sales team uses Dialpad to make calls to potential customers—and beyond phone calls, Dialpad also integrates with Outreach, a sales email engagement and follow-up platform that they're using:

Outreach dialpad integration

Firefly Health’s call center also uses Dialpad Ai Contact Center to connect incoming calls from patients to the best agent quickly. In fact, Firefly has a service level agreement with one of its clients—Blue Cross Blue Shield—that stipulates that all calls have to be answered within 40 seconds, with the evidence to prove it.

Dialpad's built-in analytics let them do exactly that:

Contact center analytics

“The metrics in Dialpad proved to them we were answering within their SLAs and doing what they wanted us to be doing,” says Kimberly, their Head of Member Experience Operations. "They were very pleased with the analytics we were able to draw”.

Ready to upgrade your business communications?

No matter which communication channels your business uses, having a truly unified solution can help you not only save money and resources, but also empower your team to connect the dots between conversations—both external and internal ones—without having to flip back and forth between different tools.

Want to see what life could be like with a way more streamlined communications toolkit?

Need a business communications platform to support your distributed team?

Sign up for a free 14-day trial to have phone calls, start video meetings, and send SMS/MMS + team messaging—all from a single app! It takes just a few minutes, and you'll be set up with virtual phone number too!