What is a SME? It is a Small and medium-sized enterprise.
The way in which SMEs operate is vastly different today than it was 30 years ago. That’s due to the technological changes that have happened in the workplace, impacting things such as communication, customer service, identity, market research and more. Here are some examples of the ways in which technology has changed the ways SMEs operate….
In previous years, offices had to make room for storage – and lots of it. Copies of important documents, employee records, invoices, accounts and everything else was printed and stored in binders, stacked on shelves or shoved into cupboards. But technology has totally changed that. Nowadays, cloud technology has revolutionized the way businesses file documentation. Applications such as Google Drive allow us to make and live-edit spreadsheets, word documents are more so that employees don’t print multiple iterations of one thing. And services such as Dropbox allow SMEs to save, share and access all manner of files from anywhere in the world.
As technology improves, there are more and more ways for fraudsters to take advantage of unsuspecting SMEs. However, technology is also ‘fighting back’ against fraud, with recent developments serving to safeguard businesses against scams from criminals. In days gone by, SMEs would have hand-written checks and trusted that employees, suppliers and anyone else who needed payment wouldn’t tamper with them. Of course, this ‘left the door open’ to fraudsters who were determined to steal from businesses. Now, however, technology has developed enough to help SMEs safeguard against check washing or tampering. For instance, the highly secure checks from suppliers such as this one give SMEs peace of mind when writing checks, utilizing anti-fraud technology to ensure that fraudsters are stopped in their tracks.
In the past, SMEs conducted all their business deals in face to face meetings. New contracts were signed and deals were negotiated in person. However, technology has totally changed this. It’s true that there’s still a great deal of value in meeting in person (for instance, when a client relationship has started to sour, or a very lucrative arrangement warrants quite literally going the extra mile), but more often than not, it’s fine to rely on technology. Web conferencing, Face Time, Skype, Google hangouts and other similar technology mean there’s less need for SMEs to travel outside the office for meetings, resulting in reduced business expenditure.
Technology has also changed the way we do market research. In earlier times market research was conducted using physical surveys, reports, telephone calls and focus groups. However, there was also a great deal of speculation, and many assumptions were made – simply due to the fact that gathering market research was an expensive and time-consuming exercise. However, recent technology has changed this; SMEs can now conduct market research to delve into what their customers really think using online surveys. Online surveys are quick to make, easy to disseminate and easy to extrapolate data from, making it a useful technological advancement for SMEs.
Customer service is another area of focus that technology has completely revolutionized for SMEs. In the past, businesses predominantly invested in telephone-based customer service resources in order to answer questions and resolve problems. Recent technology has put greater emphasis on customer service, enabling it to happen far more quickly in the kind of format customers find convenient. Telephone-based customer service has been replaced with live chat and social media responders, handling customer queries in real-time, and often around the clock.
Finally, an SME’s ‘social identity’ has also changed dramatically in the wake of technological advancements, as social media makes a business’s reputation far more difficult to manage. For instance, if a business’s customer service is sub-standard or they receive a poor review on Facebook, their bad reputation will stick. For this reason, even small businesses are becoming more aware about their social identity. SMEs are monitoring activity online to ensure that their reputation is favorable in the eyes of their customers, meaning that technology is requiring SMEs to invest time and resources in maintaining a positive digital presence.