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In an uncertain UK economy, bettercustomer service and increased innovationwill be critical to small firms' survival. Whilevirtually all UK companies have invested in ITand telephony, fragmented communicationsand failure to adequately integrate services isjeopardising business operations, and evenconstraining growth.
Despite widespread use of technologiessuch as unified communications (UC),bringing voice data onto one platform,smaller organisations have given it a mixedreception and perceived high costs ofinstallation and total cost of ownership (TCO)have deterred adoption. This leaves ownermanagersfrustrated by their communicationssystems and limited by their inability tounleash staff potential and resolve their ownlack of know-how.
A look at the operational effects offragmented communications demonstratesthe impact of these inadequacies on SMBs.Studies have found that firms waste up to40% of productive time on problemsassociated with multiple and poorly integratedcommunications channels. Tedious waits forinformation, lost calls and poor collaborationtools, consume 5.3 hours of productive timeper week, per person.
The TCO of UC is still an issue for SMBs.Accustomed to small IT budgets and withcommunications often supervised by a nontechnicaloffice manager, small firms can viewUC as resource-heavy. In addition, trainingstaff to use a multi-function UC platform isseen as time-consuming and costly.
Thankfully this situation is changing withinnovations from communications providerswhich can transform SMBs' servicecapabilities and reduce communicationscosts. UC - once seen as the domain of bigfirms - is now being increasingly used byorganisations as small as 10-100 employees.There are three key benefits that are drivingthis seismic change.
Firstly, UC systems are transformingresponsiveness with a single-numbercapability across the workforce. With the UCserver installed on the network, or itsfunctionality delivered as a managed service,UC platforms can route all communicationsto users' devices or workstations, with only amodest implementation outlay. More calls canbe handled more efficiently and effectively bya small workforce. The platform's real timeresponse banishes previous voicemail andmessage hold ups.
Additionally a flexible UC-based workforcecan enhance customer service. In a recentcase, a UK-based vintage car club with over30,000 world-wide members that wasdrowning in 500 calls daily has managed itsincoming calls far more effectively with a UCsystem.
The second driver is reduced costs, welcomein a tight economy. Although workforces areequipped with staff mobiles, avoidableoperational costs like staff claims for mobilecharges from their personal network providerare a profit drain. An optimised UC systemwill route mobile calls through the office datanetwork, reducing charges, and cutting outtime-consuming administration.
The final driver and the biggest win for UC isthe potential to transform office costs. Smallfirms implementing bespoke UC platformsenable a much simpler set up andreconfiguration of network connection points.This cuts the number of desk phones andoffice floor space needed. It allows them torethink office layouts, and move within (or outof) over-sized or costly rented office space.Staff can be re-motivated and expensiveproperty leases changed. This flexibility couldmake a critical difference for an organisationthat is planning to expand into a larger officefootprint as it achieves growth.
In another example, an arts centre buildingin Northern England became a multi-purposearts hub as a result of its UC implementation,enabling the tenant businesses to accessmore flexible connection options. The centrehas subsequently attracted a range of smallfirms and sole traders that can scale up orscale down their communications capabilities- and cost base - depending on workload andcustomer demand.
In the future, SMBs will want to gear upfor growth, and they will needcommunications that offer their customers abetter service and cut costs. Adoption of thenew wave of small, easily-deployed UCsystems by SMBs will become a crucial partof their growth plans. NC
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