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More than 80 percent of SMEs underprepared to meet customer needs in today’s market

12 декабря 2011

New Avaya research reveals a discrepancy between the need for responsiveness in SMEs and their ability to effectively communicate and deal with customers in today’s volatile market. According to a recent survey of 700 senior managers in small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the UK and Germany, over two-thirds (68%) see responsiveness as the most important factor driving their business decisions today, followed closely (66%) by a desire to build solid customer relationships. Yet, it also unearths that 81 per cent of decision-makers feel their current customer service is not up to par. In addition, over half (52%) feel they need to improve communications overall with customers and prospects.

The findings come from independent research commissioned by Avaya, a global provider of business collaboration and communications solutions, into the impact of flexible working on SMEs in Germany and the UK. They suggest that while the majority of SMEs have a clear understanding of where they need to focus their efforts in order to respond to today’s tough economic conditions and meet customer expectations, many of them are lacking the concrete procedures and tools to enable them to rise to the challenge.

Indeed many SMEs have already identified fundamental areas for improvement as well as the steps they need to take to set the changes in motion effectively. The area highlighted by SMEs as most pressing overall in meeting customer demands was finding more effective ways to balance staff resources and skills (48%). Providing access to staff at more convenient times was a key focus for the majority of decision-makers (41%), while almost as many (39%) stressed that the quality of service they offer could be improved greatly by enabling customers to access the right expert at the times that suit them.

And in pursuit of offering greater convenience, responsiveness and quality of service to customers and prospects, more than a third (34%) of SMEs acknowledged that offering employees more flexibility in their day to day working hours could be the key.

In fact, there is an overwhelmingly strong feeling of confidence among SMEs that more flexible working environments have the potential to significantly improve the way in which they communicate and deal with customers. Over four-fifths (84%) of decision-makers said they have a positive attitude towards flexible working and over half (51%) believe that it helps them to recruit and retain a loyal workforce – one of the most important contributors in offering consistent, high quality, positive customer service.


“There is no doubt that in today’s challenging business environment, companies across the board need to go the extra mile to meet and exceed customer expectations. It’s often SMEs that act as the litmus test for the overall direction of the market, so it’s interesting to see that such a vast majority are prioritising responsiveness, customer service and relationships above all else,” said Michael Bayer, President, Avaya EMEA. “Yet, the findings also uncover the need for new ways of working and communicating to fill the gap between good intentions and reality. In today’s fast-moving, increasingly global environment, it’s critical that businesses have the tools and solutions to communicate with and serve customers effectively. Arming a workforce with Unified Communications solutions, for example, can enable employees to be more connected, mobile, contactable, agile and responsive, and at the same time businesses can better organise their workforce according to the specific needs of their customers – altogether laying the foundations for excellent customer service.”

Heightened responsiveness, the ability to provide access to experts and better quality customer service are just some of the benefits that flexible working can bring to businesses. Previous research from Avaya has shown that flexible working communications tools can have a significant impact on the bottom line as a result of greater employee efficiency and overall business productivity. The provision of flexible working options can also help to support healthier work-life balance for employees overall.

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