Effective collaboration can help your business

Saurabh Singhal

Not so long ago, employees used to work in a well defined office space with a fixed workstation. Today, increasing number of employees are mobile workers working not only from their primary office, but also from home offices, the offices of customers and partners, coffee shops, hotel rooms, airport terminals and just about anywhere. The benefits of this shift can be illustrated by an example, cutting out an average daily commute of 40 minutes and enabling employees to work remotely can deliver up to eight weeks of time back per year, per employee.

However, the challenge that emerges with these shifts is the need for effective, cost-efficient and real-time communication. Most small or medium businesses do not think of their business communications as something that can help attract new customers, increase revenues, develop more repeat business, keep overhead in check - all of the ways that a business grows.

The fact is, simply being able to connect anytime, anywhere is no longer enough. Businesses that want to truly leverage the power of remote workforces, dispersed operations, tele-working, etc. need solutions that enable them to proactively manage and integrate today’s anytime, anywhere communications capabilities. Mid-size firms that fail to implement a mobility collaboration strategy run the risk of reducing their ability to compete effectively with both same-size and their larger competitors.

The right communications system can help make your business operate more efficiently, by reducing expenses, by enabling your people to be more responsive to customers and each other, and by giving you an added measure of flexibility in managing the peaks and valleys of business expansion and contraction. Here is how:

1. Enabling faster responsiveness

When a call comes in, it is not uncommon for even the most customer-focused company to throw up roadblocks. How often do you find someone in your company saying: "Our person who handles that kind of project is not here right now."

During peak buying seasons, or when a call comes in outside of regular business hours, or if the customer request is not quite routine, these delays tend to increase. Even a company with generally fast response times can find them slowing to a painful crawl. In today’s world, when the competition is a click away, these delays invite the prospect to move on and find a company more responsive.

Midsize businesses that implement a mobile collaboration strategy can enable its staff to respond quickly to customers and colleagues no matter where they are, thereby accelerating the speed of business and customer satisfaction.

2. How easy are you to do business with?

How easy do you make it for customers to choose and do business with your company? Thinking about it quickly, you might answer "We are a small company, we can respond to any situation quickly." In reality, nearly every company has procedures and processes that must be followed when taking on a new customer, a new job, making a bid or signing a contract.

With the right technology, organizations can have access to the most current and accurate information available at real- time and with the correct context. It also enables the right people to quickly come together to handle the query. All this greatly enhances your ability to make it easier for your customers and partners to do business with your organization.

3. Creating the right customer experience

86 percent of consumers will quit doing business with a company because of a bad customer experience (Harris Interactive, Customer Experience Impact Report), and it will cost you 5 times more to attract new customers versus retaining existing customers (Lee Resource Inc).

Small and medium enterprises that do not provide a personalized and differentiated customer experience, will lose customers and fail to attract new customers.

The right technology helps to make better use of the information and resources available in order to attract and retain customers, and improve competitive positioning – all within a cost-effective business model.

4. Efficiently managing business growth

The reality in business is that a "steps and ladders" growth pattern is more typical than simple, steady upward growth. That is what can make managing a small business such a high wire act: projecting incoming business and matching it with cash flow and overhead.

Providing your business with an extra measure of flexibility to manage inevitable fluctuations in business growth is a critical way today’s IP based communications systems deliver a compelling value proposition for small businesses.

So how are modern communications systems suited to the task of business development for SMEs?

Today’s communications systems are more versatile, able to accept applications, ready to become integrated into everyday business operations, becoming a "go-to" resource for

Better customer service: account executives can now prioritize their calls.

A more productive office: employees have more tools to manage their own calls making it unnecessary for the office manager to field calls and track down employees.

More flexibility: employees can easily work from anywhere, integrating their mobile phones into the IP Office solution and "hot desking:" easily handling all their calls at a phone in one of the company’s many public areas.

Messages never get lost: voicemails get digitized, attached to e-mails and sent to a smartphone.

Better collaboration: it’s now easy to pull together conference calls and even record them.

Why the time is now

In today’s challenging economic environment, growing businesses need to be able to take advantage of any window of opportunity to drive innovation and be ready to benefit from the return of favorable business conditions.

For some companies, there may be one specific advantage—for example, the ability to transform how they serve customers. For others, it may be the flexibility and empowerment that these new solutions provide to their people while mobile.

For every company, these solutions offer opportunities that can be implemented without causing disruption or discarding existing assets such as the desk phones you may now be using in your business. This makes the value of these solutions to your business more compelling than ever.

Saurabh Singhal is director (marketing), India & Saarc of Avaya Communications.