Can telephony save SMEs from stagnation in 2017?

SMEs provide both backbone and rocket fuel to the UK economy. Accounting for 99.9% of the private sector, businesses with fewer than 50 employees inject stimulus for innovation, drive competition and create jobs. They contribute £1.8 trillion to the economy and employ 60% of the national workforce. Economists agree: SMEs are good for UK plc.

But according to the latest FSB Voice of Small Business Index, only 53.2% of small businesses expect to grow over the next 12 months. What’s holding them back?

Communications roadblock

In its latest SME Hopes and Fears Index, Barclays shows that better availability of technology is the biggest factor impacting business growth in 2017. As more communication begins to take place virtually, modern technology is essential to help businesses connect effectively, work productively and mitigate risk. In particular, making the switch from traditional telephony to a modern hosted phone system can help solve many challenges facing small businesses today, and can play a major role in driving future growth.

Technology can – and should – improve business communications. For SMBs in particular, modern communications technology can enable you to compete on equal terms with much larger businesses and grow without having to invest heavily in new offices, hires, resources and equipment.

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Greater flexibility

Small businesses rely on their agility to survive. Being able to adapt to the changing needs of the market quickly and easily is what makes SMEs stand out against larger competitors. Voice and data infrastructure should therefore be easily scalable to suit business needs – whether at a single office, across sites or out on the road.

Hosted telephony allows businesses to manage user settings, connect multiple offices and add handsets or mobile devices simply and easily into the system with minimal IT or provider support. SMEs can also have phone numbers that aren’t tied to a regional area, giving the appearance of a greater presence (or a more local one) when needed.

Improving operations

Voice communication still makes up a large part of how customers interact with businesses today. This means having a robust and flexible telecoms system is crucial for ensuring customer service quality. Hosted telephony can ensure calls are always answered by routing them seamlessly between hunt groups, and even locations or devices, for increased business continuity.

Also, with cash flow and expenditure always presenting a concern for small businesses, having both telephony and data coming from one provider means they can spend less time on supplier management and focus their energies on growing the business instead. Furthermore, a modern telecoms system can give them greater visibility into how calls and data are being used. Such performance data can help SMEs plan ahead, and adjust their telecoms strategy to best suit the business and budget.

Tools for innovation

SMEs wanting to drive growth need the right tools. With a hosted system, there’s no costly hardware to purchase or maintain going forward, and with a simpler per user per month cost for the service – usually including calls – budgeting for telecoms spend is much easier.

Hosted telephony offers a range of benefits over traditional ISDN, and its flexible nature makes it ideal for SMEs who value adaptability within their infrastructure. Adopting new technology drives innovation; a change in telephony can be the solution many SMEs need to reach their full potential in 2017.

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21 March 2017 | Jamie Ward

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The views in this article are the personal views of the author and are not necessarily endorsed by Gamma.