Small businesses are a major part of the Australian economy and a very substantial market for telecommunications service providers. Yet it seems that they often have to make do with consumer grade services.
Earlier this year the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) released the results of a study it had commissioned from research firm Market Clarity into small businesses’ use of and experience with telecommunications services. Market Clarity found that almost a third of the 260 SMBs (less than 20 staff) surveyed were “suffering the same customer service and complaint-handling problems experienced by general consumers, even though the vast majority are paying for business-grade services.”
Furthermore Market Clarity found that so-called ‘business services’ offered by telcos often lacked many of the features that might reasonably be expected of business grade services. “Whilst survey participants overwhelmingly reported the use of business grade services, questions remain as to the precise definition of a business grade service, and how it might vary by provider,” the research firm said.
“For example, what are the service level agreements (SLAs) that apply to business grade services, and how do they differ from a provider’s residential service? Are separate customer service areas allocated to business customers? Are account managers allocated to business customers? In choosing a business grade service, what decision criteria do business customers apply?”
Information on SLAs would certainly be useful as most small businesses, not surprisingly, are heavily dependent on their communications services. Across all types of services on which they were questioned - standard telephony, VoIP, broadband, mobile voice, mobile data and EFTPOS - around 50 percent or more of respondents said a one day services outage would have a serious or catastrophic impact on their business.
Market Clarity suggested there was opportunity for telcos to provide education on risk reduction via service diversity, and of course to sell additional services to provide this diversity. More than 50 percent of respondents said they had no backup for their fixed broadband service.
M5 Networks Managing Director Richard Ruth said that M5 was focussed on small business and well aware how important reliable communications were for SMBs. “We’re totally focused on serving business customers. We assign every customer a dedicated account manager. We provide 24/7 phone system management and support. The M5 engineering team continuously monitors our customers’ telecommunications 24x7 to resolve issues as they occur. And we have a 95 percent same-day resolution rate for all service issues.”
One of the biggest gripes uncovered was with the time taken to resolve issues with telcos’ customer service staff. It found that 45 percent of those surveyed had made at least one complaint in the prior 12 months and that many had been forced to devote significant time to this task.
“Common complaints have to do with the length of time on calls, hold times, having to call multiple times, and being passed between departments. Other reported issues include navigating an automated system / reaching a staff member, getting through to someone who can help, unresolved issues, billing issues, response times to fix technical or service issues, English language communication issues, service provisioning issues and lack of clear / correct information,” it said.
This activity can be a significant drain on the resources of a small business because it is frequently the business owner or other revenue generating staff members who have to spend time on these issues. The smaller the business, the greater the impact.
M5 Networks Australia are experts in business VoIP and softphone technology with over 10 years experience providing flexible office phones as an alternative to the traditional PABX. The only business phone company will need from the most experienced VoIP Business Phone providers. Contact the experts today.