Source: Alcatel-Lucent SMB

Access to cheap credit, poor employee productivity and escalating operational costs are common Small and Medium business (SMB) themes from across the world. This is despite that according to an IFC report, between 80 to 90% of businesses across Middle East and North Africa are SMB in nature. In the face of these hurdles, SMBs remark that technology adoption is pivotal to resolve customer grievances.

SMBs needs globally are the same

In 2005, immediately following my MBA, I volunteered to work as a Marketing Consultant for a US Government sponsored project in Kazakhstan that provided free consulting services to SMBs. In this role, I witnessed firsthand the daily trials and tribulations of a small-medium business and how simple technology could uplift employee output and operations.

In my present role, I work with resellers who in essence are a SMB as well and based on their challenges, I have concluded, that SMBs world over grapple with the same issues (Fig 5 of the IFC report corroborates as well). The magnitude might differ, for example, a SMB in the UAE or Saudi Arabia can depend on government wings (ex Dubai SME) with a mandate to boost SMBs and alleviate their issues. While for some SMBs in large parts of Africa or Central Asia, crucial government support might be missing.

SMBs make up large parts of the economy and the figures close to home resonate with the IFC report. 95% of businesses in Dubai fall in the SMB segment and employ 40% of the workforce, while Saudi Arabia statistics reveal a similar trend for 93% of businesses.

Satisfied Customers – a universal SMB goal

You may have come to recognize, this commentary is not on how to resolve the global SMB dilemma of access to cheap credit. Rather how SMBs can deliver a great customer experience, boost productivity and rein in operational expenses with technology.

When customers have a problem, no matter the severity of the impact, they need to reach their supplier. Missed calls and long hold times cause frustration and introduce the idea to switch suppliers for the next project. I imagine this goes against the grain of the 75% respondents of the Circle Research study who recognize customer success second only to business growth.

Technology Wishlist – Cost-effective and Scalable

As a result, SMBs are cognizant of technology adoption but it should neither break the bank nor stifle business growth. To be always available for customers, SMB infrastructure should include enterprise mobility and support emerging trends such as Bring Your Own Device (BYOD). The BYOD message resonates across business because companies save on the cost of procuring employee devices, and I imagine its impact on a SMB balance sheet to be even greater. Finally, SMBs need collaboration tools that often only come with large and expensive installations.

Hello OpenTouch Suite for SMB

For the 95% and 93% of respondents in the Circle Research study who ticked cost-effective and scalable as top choices in their technology wishlist, the recently launched Alcatel-Lucent OpenTouch Suite for SMB is designed for them. The communication and network infrastructure affords SMBs the plug-and-play tools and applications that promote teamwork, decrease communication costs and take customer service a notch higher.

Home cooked and ad hoc solutions serve SMBs well in their initial stages but become unwieldy beyond a certain scale. At this fork in the road, SMBs regard technology as that crucial piece of the jigsaw that takes their desire to succeed and willingness to satisfy customers to the next level.

The 3 Pillars of SMB Success