How CSPs can support SMBs and invigorate the backbone of economy
Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) account for more than two-thirds of Europe’s workforce, and more than half of its economic input. Unsurprisingly, they have been hit particularly hard throughout the pandemic, with research from last year revealing more than half of SMBs face severe losses in revenues. Their crucial role in driving global economic growth makes protecting SMB vulnerabilities an extremely significant priority.
In the last year or so, SMBs have had to rapidly transform to be more digitally inclusive. However, many lack the resources or technological knowledge to implement and manage the advanced solutions now required to actively manage remote and in-house workers, not to mention customers, , says Andrew Walker, senior managing director and global communications & media industry lead at Accenture.
I’ve already discussed the opportunities for Communication Service Providers (CSPs) around 5G and smart homes. In this article, I’d like to outline the opportunity presented to CSPs in supporting SMBs, as the world emerges from the pandemic, and increase both their short and long-term resilience.
In fact, an Accenture survey from May last year found 45% of SMBs increased trust in their CSP, showing how these providers have been given the platform to build their relationships with SMBs, drive their own growth, and boost the economy along with it.
So, how do CSPs capitalise on this relationship, and give SMBs the support they require to bounce back, reinvigorate themselves, and drive growth amongst Europe’s economy?
Consolidate and build the digital portfolio
The minimum expectation of CSPs is to get the digital basics right by competing on premium connectivity. And, in the digitally invigorated world, SMBs are increasing their demand for high-quality, reliable connectivity. So, the first concern for CSPs should of course be to consolidate customer relationships by delivering on this expectation and expanding connectivity offerings at the high-end.
However, with the global, cross-industry digital acceleration that has occurred over the last year, SMBs are feeling the pressure to expand their digital offering and are therefore increasing investment in IT products and services. In fact, SMB spending on new technologies is projected to climb by more than 6% by 2025.
For increased spending to pay off though, these businesses need to be sure they are investing in the right places and building a digital service portfolio designed for long-term growth. This is where CSPs can go beyond their offer of reliable connectivity.
CSPs should be looking to build the digital portfolio of SMBs, offering cloud, security, ERP, business analytics and digital services to help manage and grow businesses. Reliable connectivity acts as the platform but offering these other digital enhancements will deliver on SMBs’ desire to grow their digital services, while strengthening that customer-provider relationship.
Deliver top customer care
These technologies must also be implemented beyond internal business practices and used to develop how SMBs interact with their customers. The pandemic has shifted the way in which customer service operates and it is therefore crucial for SMBs to remain flexible with how they service their customers to maintain loyalty beyond the pandemic.
CSPs can help businesses customise their customer care and support, expanding omnichannel, automated and video-based customer interaction and ensure this continued flexibility. This doesn’t mean neglecting face-to-face interaction of course but provides important differentiation.
Customer expectations have been irreversibly transformed by the emergence of the remote world, giving CSPs a responsibility to deliver the modes of communication crucial to the new form of SMB customer care.
Become a trusted business partner
While big enterprise may often be the more attractive, enticing opportunity, the growing digital connectivity for SMBs is helping them to compete and grow exponentially. They are an increasingly important asset for CSPs.
And according to the survey cited earlier, 31% of SMBs see proactive business support as a key feature of great customer care; businesses are looking for more from their providers. By providing the strategic support discussed, the role of the CSP can change to that of a trusted business partner, helping SMBs re-think their business models and ways of working.
With a closer working relationship, CSPs can ensure the new digital tools acquired during lockdown will be effectively leveraged to drive business growth and improve customer care, ultimately benefiting the CSPs themselves, the SMBs, and their customers. It’s the ultimate opportunity for any CSP with the power of their own digital backbone, they can bolster the backbone of the economy, too.
The author is Andrew Walker, senior managing director and global communications & media industry lead at Accenture.