Magazine article Business Credit

Help for Small and Medium-Size Businesses: A Clear Path Online through the Telecommunications Maze

Magazine article Business Credit

Help for Small and Medium-Size Businesses: A Clear Path Online through the Telecommunications Maze

Article excerpt

Over the years, small and medium-size businesses (SMBs) have adopted technologies that fundamentally changed the way they conduct business. And now, the Internet and the convergence of voice and data once again present an opportunity to revolutionize how these companies do business.

But, for SMBs especially, the telecommunications revolution is a decidedly mixed blessing. This is primarily because choosing the right telecom services is confusing for small to mid-size business owners who do not usually have the resources or expertise to cost-effectively sort through "the telecommunications maze." In addition, these businesses have traditionally been difficult to reach, and hence are under-served by larger telecommunications carriers.

In fact, the right telecommunications tools and services can be an enormous benefit to any company. However, the wrong telecom services can put a serious drag on a company's sales, expenses, operations, and overall financial results.

Firms of all sizes have spent much effort re-engineering and wringing costs out of a number of key areas. But in the new economy, an inefficient telecommunications infrastructure can be a major source of wasted money. This is especially true for SMBs. To maintain their competitive edge, these businesses must take time and resources away from running their specific businesses and channel them into e-business activities. Such activities include developing and managing an effective web presence, facilitating e-commerce for existing customers, reaching new customers through the large volume of aggressive advertising campaigns, and choosing the communications services that will allow those business functions to run smoothly.

A company's telecommunications infrastructure serves as its "digital nervous system," supporting all of its e-business activities as well as both internal and external communications. A cost-effective and reliable infrastructure is not just a wise investment for small and medium-size companies--it's critical to the success of their businesses.

Too Much of a Good Thing

Today's telecommunications services market can be intimidating to smaller businesses. A proliferation of service providers exists with each offering a multitude of plans. New-to-the-market service providers are currently offering great price deals as a strategy to grab market share. Incumbent service providers are answering the challenge with special plans and lower rates. Within this cornucopia lies the optimal plan for any company at a given time--a plan that can potentially save that company a significant amount of money and resources.

Unfortunately, many smaller companies are not aware of these opportunities. In fact, many companies settle for telecommunications services that are not cost-effective and don't completely meet their business needs, simply because they can't afford to spend time navigating the telecommunications maze. Without the luxury of resources to spend sifting through all these options, small and medium businesses have to "go it alone."

The crux of the problem: realizing the savings opportunities is tough because it is difficult and time-consuming for small businesses to know which plan and service provider can best meet their companies' needs. Service providers are not required to measure their offerings against universal standards, like those found in food labels or appliance efficiency ratings. Criteria, like minimum charges, monthly service fees and billing increments, vary wildly from plan to plan. Even comparing a half-dozen plans takes so much work that most companies decide the cost savings just aren't worth it, even if these savings are potentially significant. And, they are.

This is a huge wasted opportunity, for both the small and mid-size American businesses (Dun & Bradstreet estimates there are a total of 9.8 million), and the carriers trying to reach this vast, yet fragmented, market. …

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