How voice communication will remain crucial to SMEs future success

If, as a business community, we were to believe the rhetoric of industry experts, we would be forgiven for thinking that pretty soon customers will communicate exclusively through social media, digital apps, and live chat.

While there may be elements of truth to the idea, it ignores the reality of business communications. The fact is that voice is still (and will continue to be) crucial for many businesses, particularly SMEs. In fact, according to research from Ofcom, 64% of SMEs said that their business could not carry on without fixed-line phones, and 52% said the same for mobile.

Smaller businesses operating on tight margins in competitive environments might not have the capacity to invest in channels other than voice. So they need telephony infrastructure that is robust, reliable and scalable according to their needs. And as SMEs look to drive future efficiencies and get closer to their customers, continued investment in voice will be vital.

Giving customers a voice

There will always be a proportion of people who want to speak on the phone to another human being when contacting a business. This is especially true for SMEs, where building genuine, personal relationships with customers is everything.

But the ways in which those kinds of conversations happen inevitably shifts over time. Increasingly, people like to communicate through VoIP or video conferencing services like Skype. And the growing popularity of features like FaceTime in the consumer space will inevitably bleed into the world of business.

It might seem odd to place those things under the banner of ‘voice’, but for customers the distinctions between voice and video conferencing will blur and become arbitrary. They will want to contact you though these methods, and SMEs will need to ensure that their telephony infrastructure can support them.

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A voice solution that works for the gig economy

Because small business life can be unpredictable, SMEs have recently become more reliant on flexible working. Over the past year, two in five small enterprises in London have employed gig economy workers, as well around one in five outside of the capital. Of those who did, a quarter described the gig economy as the “future of how businesses work.”

This hiring paradigm allows SMEs the flexibility to better manage their workforces. But it also means a larger number of remote employees will make up those workforces.

To remain efficient in this environment, voice infrastructure will have to become leaner and more flexible. SMEs will need to be able to quickly bring new short-term contractors onto their telephony infrastructure and just as easily remove them once contracts end. Similarly, if contractors are in different locations or time zones, it is likely that VoIP and video conferencing will become the norm. And businesses will have to invest in this kind of telephony infrastructure.

As with customer contact, SMEs must adapt to the way employees need to use voice.

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9 August 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.