How Technology Can Improve Small Businesses’ Bottom Lines

These challenges are diverse and include issues such as limited time, manpower and budgets, to administrative, HR and financial strains, as well as a continual need to improve customer service and reduce costs. In particular, small and micro sized businesses need to take note of these issues.

While micro businesses are integral to economic recovery, in order to stay ahead of the competition and grow exponentially, they need to take advantage of technology to showcase their products and services, improve customer services and reduce costs – all of which will provide an edge over larger competitors.

Technology remains vital for micro businesses to grow and intelligent outsourcing allows business owners to focus on critical needs and growth. However, one area in particular remains central to success – customer service – particularly for micro-enterprises where the owner needs to manage a number of different roles from manufacturer and salesperson, to marketer and accountant. With limited time, resources, and an extensive workload, providing seamless customer service can appear extremely difficult to master.

In fact, a recent survey found that 70 per cent of micro business owners admit to having taken a business call in the toilet to avoid missing out on new business. The research highlights not only the high levels of commitment portrayed by micro businesses, but also reiterates the competitive nature of the market place.

However, by equipping staff with technology which allows for flexible working, immediacy and the ability to work at full capacity from anywhere/24/7, micro businesses will soon be on their way to reaching their full business potential and providing customer service that can not only equal, but, surpass that of their competitors.

Ed Reeves, co-founder of Penelope, shares his top tips on using technology to improve your business.
• Find technology that complements your working pattern – The rise of tablets, smart phones and paper-thin laptops has paved the way to make flexible working easier, but don’t be overwhelmed by choice or features. Make a list of the top five actions you need out of a piece of technology and then stick to that list – don’t be swayed by what is trendy or on sale. Speak to a local specialist or read online reviews to find out the pros and cons of a specific technology and then don’t overdo it.
• Call management solutions – If you spend a significant portion of your working day driving or in meetings, it’s imperative to have a system in place to ensure you are capturing your calls. A missed call is a missed opportunity, and in such a tough economy, it’s vital that your customers get their call answered promptly and have a positive experience from their first touch point with your company.
• Digital receptionist – Telephone answering services or digital receptionists, specifically targeted for small businesses, are a quick and easy way to make your business more efficient and look bigger than it is. First impressions count, so it’s imperative that customers and potential customers have the best experience possible from the first touch point with your business.
• Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software – Nothing is more frustrating than not being able to access vital business information in an organised, logical manner. CRM software (which can be tailored for small businesses) allows you to store all your company’s important information, like customer names, preferences and contact details, in one place. Most of the big CRM companies also offer a mobile app version of their software for even greater ease for working on the road.
• Protect your data – Working in multiple locations can also lend itself to losing gadgets like phones or laptops and ultimately leave you in a vulnerable position. To protect yourself and your customers, backup data in external hard drives, install tracking software to find your gadgets if they are lost/stolen and finally, use software to protect your passwords and any sensitive customer information.

For the 4.6 million micro businesses in the UK, technology is the key to levelling the playing field with big corporations. Whether it’s a web-based tool such as invoice systems, a software program, social media, mobile apps or call management solutions, micro business owners need to embrace technology in order to become as streamlined and efficient as possible while still maintaining the ability to provide the best level of customer service possible