How SMEs can get better telecommunications support

New market insight suggests that many SMEs are not getting the service they need (and pay good money for) from their telecommunications provider. With many providers focussing on new consumer business and enterprise account management as a priority this year, a service gap has opened up in the middle. And it is the SMEs that are dropping into it.

High quality communications technology will be crucial to the success of many SMEs in 2016. But the insight from the sector suggests that a lack of account support is leaving many businesses exposed. Worse still, it is the most important element of telecommunications for most modern businesses that is most affected: mobility.

The answer for companies that are looking for better account management is to look outside of the traditional big four providers, and to dedicate the time and thought to what they want from their telecommunications supplier.

What do SMEs need?

SMEs place more importance on better service from their telecommunications provider than anything else. In order for the service to match their expectations, SMEs would do well to make a list of what they think constitutes good account management.

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Things to think about might include:

› Contact

Nine to five support is no use for 24 hour businesses. If a telecommunications provider cannot guarantee that helpful and knowledgeable support staff will be available around the clock, they may not be worth working with.

The right provider will meet its customers’ needs head on. So whatever the issue and whenever it occurs, help is on hand.

› Resilience and security

Security across mobile and fixed is one of the most important factors for SMEs that are thinking about telecommunications. The safety of data and peace of mind that comes with consistent connectivity is vital for any owner or board who relies on the long term success of their business. A good service provider will have provisions in place to protect your data whilst on their network, as well as measures to protect against fraudulent use of your systems, too.

There are various options available to an SME looking to review their telecommunications, with SIP trunking, hosted phone systems and enhanced connectivity all offering their own benefits. But what is most significant is the additional resiliency delivered by each when compared with traditional services As such, providers are far more comfortable in offering more ambitious response times for fault handling than ever before.

› Escalation

Twinned with service, a streamlined and easy to follow escalation process is crucial for SMEs. It means that whatever the issue, the path to the right person is clear. And in real terms it means if something goes wrong first thing in the morning, a business owner doesn’t have to spend the first few hours of the working day calling round various departments trying to find the one with the answer.

› Accuracy

By their nature SMEs are limited when it comes to time and resource, particularly in support or operational areas such as IT and finance. As such, convoluted pricing plans and billing do little more than take frontline staff away from their core business.

Finding a provider that offers billing to suit your business is vital. In practice, this can be online bill management, transparent costs and easy-to-read monthly statements. An added bonus is the provision of management reports, which flag up billing trends and enable future cost savings.

› The SLA

The most important thing an SME can do when working with a new provider is to have clear Service Level Agreements in place to set service delivery expectations from the outset. But crucially it should not be something they have to ask for. A responsible provider, whose instinct is to offer first class account management, should have it at the top of the to-do list when acquiring new business. The SLAs will cover everything that is important to the customer and manage expectations on all sides. In doing so they will become the cornerstone of the account management process.

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27 January 2016 | 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.