The gulf in collaboration capabilities between large companies and SMEs was exposed by the pandemic, but smaller firms now have an opportunity to level up their connectivity.

The Covid-19 pandemic accentuated the gap between large organisations and SMEs when it came to remote working. Many enterprises were already well on the way to adopting a more flexible workplace before the pandemic struck, albeit having to act quickly when lockdowns were implemented. SMEs, often more financially fragile than big firms and without the resources to test remote working, had to adapt to a new reality.

This didn’t just mean providing employees with the appropriate tools to work from home, but also trying to keep up with a rapidly growing number of customer interactions on the phone. When companies struggled to cope with the spike in phone requests, their customers turned to email, social media or even WhatsApp to get their problems dealt with faster.

Most SMEs have been left to respond to these changing behaviours and challenges in an ad hoc way, employing a “sticking-plaster” approach to finding tools for what they initially expected would be a short-term issue, according to Chris Wade, Chief Marketing and Product Officer at unified communications provider Gamma.

Yet almost a year and a half into the pandemic, it’s clear this is no longer a short-term situation, and a more sustainable, long-term approach will be needed to ensure staff productivity and customer satisfaction.

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"A cloud-based contact centre is the ideal option to take on the customer experience battle with bigger companies on equal terms."

Customer demands have changed

“Sticking-plaster solutions can only take SMEs so far in this journey – especially when it comes to customer service and providing better customer experience,” says Wade.

“Customer demands and behaviours have drastically changed over the pandemic, with people turning to online and digital services to communicate with brands, purchase what they need and get the help they require. Voice calls are not dead, but customers expect to have different options and SMEs must keep up to fulfil all those requirements.”

For SMEs, this inflection point is both a challenge and an opportunity. Email, social media or chat can remove the necessity to have multiple agents answering phone calls.

Contact centre technology still not a priority for SMEs

Historically, the contact centre tools that would allow a business to employ those different channels have been too complex or expensive for smaller companies. Though that’s no longer the case, according to Gamma’s SME Buyer Behaviour Survey, more than 80% of SMEs still don’t employ contact centre technology to manage customer communications, remove silos and gather more insights into customer behaviours.

SMEs are sometimes intimidated by the term ‘contact centre’, without realising that in today’s digital world, a tool that can help them communicate with customers via different channels is becoming the norm,” Wade adds. “With competition now increasingly based on customer experience, and with an increasingly dispersed workforce, a solution such as a cloud-based contact centre that can help SMEs meet customer requirements is the ideal option to take on the customer experience battle with bigger companies on equal terms.”

80%

of SMEs don't employ contact centre technology

Hybrid doesn’t mean remote working will be the preferred choice, nor that the office will become irrelevant.

The future of work is hybrid

With most companies now looking to adopt a hybrid working model post-pandemic, the main challenge is providing the same experience to office-based and remote workers.

Hybrid doesn’t mean remote working will be the preferred choice, nor that the office will become irrelevant.

It’s about giving employees the option to work where they prefer, which is easier said than done without the correct processes and solutions in place to ensure everyone, regardless of location, can access the same tools and information.

Connectivity is the foundation of a successful hybrid workforce

A study by Zen Internet found that 89% of remote workers lose half an hour per day to poor connectivity. Rural dwellers, a population that has grown during the pandemic, struggle especially to get adequate connectivity.

According to Gamma’s recent SME Buyer Behaviour survey, 44% of SMEs still rely on consumer broadband for their business needs, which isn’t just inadequate from a connectivity point of view but also presents security risks.

The reliance on video conferencing tools, such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams, has increased the need for stable connections further. Even if half of the workforce goes back to the office, in a hybrid environment all employees need to have the same tools to work properly.

Poor connectivity could create an even bigger divide between office-based and remote workers – with the latter becoming almost “second-class” employees, struggling to get work done.

Meanwhile, poor connectivity could also mean customers are not able to reach customer service agents, with every missed call representing a potential loss for the business.

44%

of SMEs rely on consumer broadband

"Our underlying business-only network and connectivity services allow us to support SMEs’ communications requirements, both internal and external"

Winning the CX battle

Through the acquisition of Telsis’ software and development capability in 2019, Gamma has been expanding and strengthening its portfolio to provide SMEs with a contact centre solution designed to help them deliver improved customer experience.

Horizon Contact, its cloud-based contact centre solution which integrates with its unified communications proposition, empowers customer service agents to collaborate easily with the rest of the business, and to work from anywhere, at any time.

This results in much faster decision-making and information sharing, as well as improved employee engagement and better customer experience.

Gamma also recently launched a mobile service, Gamma Mobile, to empower employees to work on the move, or simply remotely, with a focus on providing better coverage across the country.

To deliver this service, Gamma has strengthened its relationship with Three UK so its customers can benefit from its £2+ billion network investments and the latest mobile technology, including superfast 5G.

Business requirements will change further

“Our underlying business-only network and connectivity services allow us to support SMEs’ communications requirements, both internal and external,” says Wade.

“We believe communications solutions are only as good as the connectivity to support them, which is why our network plays a huge part in setting us apart from other software providers delivering services over the internet. We have the full spectrum of solutions to support businesses in their unified communications strategy. This means we understand business needs and offer solutions that adapt to the environment the business works in.

“As hybrid and mobile working take centre stage in the years to come, business requirements will change further. At Gamma, we deliver end-to-end unified communications solutions to the environment SMEs operate in. We have 20 years of experience in business communications, and over 5.5 million users on our network. We can cater for any particular setup and adapt to business needs.”

“We believe communications solutions are only as good as the connectivity to support them, which is why our network plays a huge part in setting us apart from other software providers delivering services over the internet.”

Download the full report: Connected Business

From the rise of ransomware as a service to the burnout caused by video conferencing, connected technology is not without its challenges. However, as the Connected Business report examines, savvy organisations are finding new ways to use this tech to protect, connect and synchronise their workforce to thrive in the new normal.

The report explores how decision-makers can best utilise and navigate the business technology available to them to better connect and collaborate with their workforce. It discusses how technology can play a pivotal role in moving towards a new, hybrid model of working explores the true standard for today’s Connected Business.