How SMBs can leverage VoIP to improve productivity and bridge the competitive divide with corporates

A recent report by the OECD found that while SMBs are becoming an ever-more critical cog in the economies of nations around the world.

One area where they continue to struggle is in technology.[1]

With the escalating complexity of technology, SMBs are struggling to find the same productivity benefits that digital transformation has afforded corporates. As a result, even as SMBs become as engaged in organisational or marketing practices as large firms, wages and revenue remain constrained as a result. "We need a fundamental rethinking of SMB and entrepreneurship policies to improve business conditions and access to resources. This will enable workers to have higher wages and greater productivity, as smaller employers harness major trends like digitalisation," OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría said, in announcing the OECD SMB and Entrepreneurship Outlook[2] report.

Communication is one area where entrepreneurial SMB businesses can start to address this divide and quickly find big gains in productivity and competitiveness. Statistics show that by 2022 close to half the global workforce (42.5 per cent) will be considered to be mobile workers[3]. This is with good reason, too. Statistics also show that 85 per cent of businesses report greater productivity as a result of enabling employees to work flexibly and remotely[4]. This is often chalked up as enabling a "work from home" culture and providing work/life benefits, but the reality is that there is more to it than that. A mobile worker can spend more time with clients, on-site, and at remote locations or even overseas.

To enable mobile working, however, organisations need to modernise their communication platform, and this means VoIP. The nbn rollout throughout Australia has provided the infrastructure required to enable robust VoIP communications platforms to be deployed into the smallest SMB customers, and it's underpinning the rapid adoption of SMB-focused solutions, such as Optus Loop.

VoIP is often talked about as a cost-cutting exercise, particularly when it comes to making long-distance and overseas calls. That is certainly a benefit to Optus Loop as well, with organisations saving money per call made. Furthermore, the infrastructure is hosted in a highly secure environment, so there's no need to maintain server rooms and equipment on-site.

But that's really the surface-level value of Optus Loop. For mobile workers, Loop has a dual identity function meaning that a single phone number can be assigned to multiple devices. Both incoming and outgoing calls will appear to come from the single desk phone, giving clients and customers the perception that they're dealing with a corporate number, but the staff member can be located anywhere, and take the call, regardless of where the customer thinks they're ringing. There's no more need to deal with a receptionist and have the call forwarded – this now happens immediately at the point in which the call is made.

Another key productivity benefit is the ability to record calls. This can be used to enable greater transparency between team members and customers, or for reference back to at a later date, ensuring that nothing was lost from the call.

It's the connectivity with CRM systems where SMBs will derive the greatest value from their investment in Optus Loop, however. Loop integrates with most major CRM solutions, and as far as productivity goes, the benefits of doing so include:

  1. Real-time data records – sales agents through customer support are able to see the entire experience that the customer has had with the company at a glance, with each additional call into the company adding to that profile. This makes it easy to see in an instant where the issues and successes have been with that customer.
  2. Automation – one of the biggest failings of any CRM system is the reliance on manual data management – it's far too easy for an agent to neglect or forget details, or even pull up the wrong data. By connecting Loop to the CRM, the risk of human error in interactions with customers from informal systems is minimised.

One final area where organisations need to innovate in order to enable remote working is around internal collaboration. It remains important that a remote worker is accessible to the rest of their team, and can have a meeting room-like conferencing experience with the rest of their team, regardless of where they are. Optus Loop features desktop sharing, file sharing, instant messaging, Presence and Outlook Calendar integration among its features, meaning that the availability of each team member is as easy to determine as being in the same room with them, and once the meeting is joined, it is as easy to collaborate and share content.

With Optus Loop as the company's VoIP solution (starting at just $25/month per user), SMBs can access the kind of enterprise-class communication features that allow them to address the technology productivity hole that enterprises currently hold as a competitive advantage.

Find more information on Optus Loop and the productivity benefits of Cloud-based VoIP services.