Globalisation has brought in various challenges as well as opportunities for SMEs. To tackle the challenges and to make the most of the opportunities, SMEs need seamless connectivity in multiple geographies. The connectivity should unite employees, streamline processes and improve collaboration. For this, SMEs require leading edge technologies, world class infrastructure, fool proof processes and high-end networking solutions to stay connected – to differentiate and compete.
As small companies turn into medium size organisations and when medium size companies transition into large organisations, the single most important need is that of employee, customer and partner collaboration and empowerment. This requires the SMEs to focus on customer delight which can only be supported by driving the customer responsiveness as a culture. This can be achieved by staying in touch with customers and by proactively responding to the evolving customer demands.
For reaching out to their customers, SMEs are embracing newer technologies, processes and concepts. Rising modes of communication mean increasing number of touch-points for a company to interact with their consumers. As these interactions become increasingly multimodal and collaborative, businesses must put together their resources to offer a highly satisfactory experience for their customers. Consistently meeting and exceeding customer expectations across all touch-points requires a thoughtful, intelligent and highly mobile communication platform.
Let's put the networking and telecommunication needs of SMEs in three different buckets – Fixed Line Voice Services, Mobile Services and Data Services. As these technologies integrate and merge often, many times a clear distinction in the real world is not possible.
Under the Voice Services the popular offerings include from basic business telephone lines to more advanced managed services including the Centrex – Centrex services (from 'Central Exchange') delivering facilities similar to Corporate Switched Telecommunications Network (CSTN). SMEs opting for a Centrex, get telephone lines which can be used as both direct lines (for calls outside your office) as well as extension numbers (for calls within
your office). All calls made between terminals in this system are not charged and thus allow unlimited free calls within the system, bringing in huge savings. This virtual system offers cost savings without giving away the features of EPABX. We notice that last-mile broadband networks have a great potential to transport data, if voice is needed it is
provided by the public switched telephone network (PSTN). Instead of separate voice networks, these data networks can avoid costs to be used for both data and voice.
Under the Mobile Services, the offerings include mobile voice, mobile data and mobile application services. There are two chief technologies for mobile voice needs
(GSM & CDMA). These services also include messages (text & multi-media including audio & video), call conferences, long distance national and international calling.
Similarly, other solutions and services available can be very beneficial for the SMEs. It is not possible to discuss each one of them here due to space constraint.
Most of these services and technologies are being offered by large telecom companies (telcos) under what is called as 'bundling of services'. The bundling of services bring cost savings, seamless integration and single vendor for SME. This allows the SME to manage fewer vendors and thus increase efficiency. Hence the SME needs to shop around for these bundling – those which makes more sense.
Are telcos playing the ball?
While the telecom needs of SMEs are fast changing, it is heartening to note that this segment is becoming more important for telcos than ever before. Telcos realise that these SMEs offer significant opportunity in many ways – increasing market & revenues, higher gross margins and increasing sophistication of requirements.
As existing contracts get renewed at lower prices in the large accounts, the SME segment's pie is increasing. Moreover, SMEs have lesser scale to bargain similarly low prices and hence offer higher profits to telcos. With growing revenues offering higher margin, SMEs have become a darling segment for service providers.
This has resulted in all large integrated telcos in India bringing more focus on SMEs. SMEs are indeed happy to get this attention. Most telcos have formed SME business units within their organisation. Obviously, with the right set of engagement tools, right product offerings and enhanced operational efficiency, SME would certainly be the next big growth area for telcos.
And of course the SMEs are not complaining. They are indeed feeling lucky. With this fresh approach from telcos, they now have the same access to customer services, technology solutions and services, which hitherto were only accessible to large organisations. SMEs are only going to gain and its time for them to 'sit back and stay connected'. It's an imperative in the competitive global market.