Internet-based instant messaging has become a popular way to communicate, not only at home but at the office as well.
At home, our families chat with friends, relatives, classmates?and even with online, automated tutors! In the office, some of the same goes on. But the real benefit of instant messaging in businesses, including insurance agencies, lies not in the social or educational value of chats, but in the productivity boosts, cost savings and accuracy gains it can produce.
Instant messaging (IM) lets users maintain a list of people with whom they interact on their computer. At any given time, users can see who is available to receive a message and with the click of the mouse, start a real-time conversation with him or her.
Instant messaging?which is offered by major Internet service providers, as well as firms that have developed enterprise-based systems?delivers immediacy and interactivity that mirrors in-person conversations but without the need for a face-to-face meeting. It can be thought of as “e-mail on steroids,” eliminating the steps?and delay?that come with the “click, open, read, re-read, click, reply, proof, click, send, and hope for a response sometime soon” process of e-mailing back and forth.
In addition to sending individual messages, popular IM services also provide small-group chat rooms for collaboration and conference-call type conversations. They also allow sharing of links to Web sites and files?text, audio and video; provide for customized streaming of news and stock quotes; and allow for voice conversations among users whose computers are equipped with microphones.
Instant messaging has grown in popularity in the workplace. Group collaboration features have found a place in creative firms, software-development organizations and other entities that use teams to serve clients. The quick communication and instant response of IM have been popular with other industries, including stock brokerages. The ability to find and communicate with remote workers has been useful for all kinds of firms, including companies with salespeople working from home offices, publishers with a network of writers, or any firm whose laptop-equipped employees shuffle from hotel to meeting to airport to hotel.
Many uses for the instant messaging system exist in insurance agencies. Imagine being on the phone with a client who asks a question you can?t answer; instead of putting the caller on hold while you track down the answer, you make small talk with the client while sending an instant message to a co-worker, who promptly responds with the answer. Or you?re in a negotiation, perhaps on a telephone conference call with a co-worker and a prospect. You and your co-worker can communicate using instant messaging on your PC, with the other party being none the wiser.