Back to basics

UK SMEs plan to go back to basics in order to support their growth plans for 2018. So says a report commissioned by American Express and Oxford Economics which also revealed that the UK SME market is the most customer-centric in the world.

Interestingly, in a time in which Brexit could easily be seen as a cause for uncertainty, the survey reveals that UK SMEs are four times more confident heading into 2018 than they were one year ago. Even more impressive is the fact that UK SME confidence levels are 10% higher than the global average of 47%.

Underpinning this increased optimism is a recognition of the special advantages which SMEs have over other organisations allied to a desire to build growth by concentrating on core areas. These include operational effectiveness, agility, and strong customer relationships. Commenting on the survey results Jose Carvalho, senior vice president at American Express Global Commercial Payments said “Our research shows that the UK’s smaller enterprises are primed for success in 2018 by focusing on their special advantages, staying close to their customers, and improving efficiency.”

Going back to basics, refocusing on core areas in order to identify realistic and cost-effective improvements may be in the minds of UK SMEs, but it is also good business practice for organisations across the board. One-man bands or global conglomerates, charities or quasi governmental organisations; no matter the nature of the business, revisiting existing practices can result in some surprising outcomes. Particularly so, as the world of technology moves onward bringing with it the opportunity for enhancing processes whilst simultaneously saving costs.

Take virtual switchboards for example. Not only can they be fully programmable, but reprogramming can generally be done online in response to business needs. And we are not simply talking about press button one pathways here; company switchboards can be programmed to recognise calling areas or even individual telephone numbers, enabling calls to be rooted seamlessly to the intended recipient. This has the benefit of saving employee time which otherwise would be wasted in transferring calls around the organisation. In addition, speedier response times also help to improve the customer experience; at a stroke enhancing customer service whilst improving efficiencies.

Then there are the other benefits of reprogrammable switchboards such as being able to change call pathways in response to staffing availability or even to change priorities in response to a marketing or promotional campaign. And with caller metrics available for analysis, businesses can really start to understand telephone interactions with customers and others, using this as a springboard for future improvements.

One other benefit, particularly from a SME point of view, is the fact that company switchboards can flex and grow with the organisation. This means that businesses don’t have to future guess functionality, nor do they have to incur substantial expenditure now simply because they expect to expand in the future.

In the survey, 47% of SMEs saw increasing operational efficiency as one of the three top drivers of financial performance over the next three years. Business telephony is just one area which businesses may wish to review but it is one which with thought may not only lead to efficiencies but also meet another priority by helping to boost the way in which organisations interact with their customers.

Written by Alison