How the Cloud Can Help to Build an Attractive Business in 2015
The cost of technology has never been more appealing than it is now, especially for small businesses. The traditional belief was cloud-based web tools and automation software are best reserved for enterprises, and that these tools are too costly and their capabilities are too expensive to be efficiently utilized by smaller and medium sized organizations. However, although cloud technology is often associated with large-scale, enterprise usage, it doesn’t mean small business should avoid it. With the plethora of web-based cloud or SaaS platforms available to SMBs today, it is extremely easy to adopt and can be seamlessly integrated into a businesses technology portfolio to increase efficiencies of key business tasks such as client engagement, workflow and day-to-day operations. In short, for SMBs cloud technology can quickly become a competitive advantage and a time-saver in a number of ways.
Cloud is More than Just Your Website and File Sharing
As the cloud is no longer a trend that is discrete from mainstream IT, it is quickly becoming a mainstay of SMB IT. A recent Techaisle study, 2015 US SMB Cloud Computing Adoption Trends, revealed that cloud adoption within US SMB sector is currently at 89 percent and will reach 96 percent in 2015. While according to Cloud News, SMBs will push cloud services spending past $125 billion globally by 2016 as organizations almost double the amount of services being used. It is clear SMBs have come to realize the cloud can help address real business needs, and will continue to play a key role in streamlining processes and better managing costs.
Cloud adoption is trivial when it comes to hosting a website as most businesses no longer keep and maintain a server room at their office to host their website. Email and file sharing is another great example of cloud services that were quickly adopted. But when it comes to calendar and client management, SMBs are keeping their old software and missing the opportunity that cloud provides. Online calendar, online scheduling and online CRMs have efficiencies beyond the standard cloud benefits. As with any cloud application they are always available, backed up and have zero maintenance for the business. But they also offer a unique value, as they can actually connect to your website, social networks and email, offering a seamless flow of client information between your customer-facing assets and your internal tools. Implementing these cloud-based scheduling capabilities takes a few days at most for small businesses, and the benefits of having a streamlined system that is connected to all your online communication channels is tremendous. The time and cost savings are huge for today’s SMBs that run on lean budgets and tight schedules.
It‘s Not Only For Your Business, It Benefits Your Customers Too
One of the greatest impacts of leveraging the cloud that is often missed is the huge improvements in customer service. As customers today want services 24/7 from anywhere, on any device, the cloud has the capacity to turn average customer service into exceptional customer service. The cloud by nature is available 24/7, creating an on-demand repository of every action and transaction between the business and the client.
Cloud business applications have the capacity to offer personalized, self-service portal for clients –making the business available for its clients 24/7. A client portal can be anything from a basic document sharing, where clients can view and share documents as part of working with the business, to a complete on-demand repository that recognizes returning customers and offers a view of all communications between the client and the business. While cloud-driven online invoicing and payments eliminate the hassle of manual billing, invoicing and collection processes for both the business and the client. These portals help to heighten client convenience, and bring it to a new level for SMBs with a client portal that is nimble, agile and most of all, accessible. It is also important to note these self-service portals are available on-demand, 24/7, and unaffected by the businesses restrictive 9am-5pm hours of operation – giving customers the opportunity to reach out when it’s convenient to them and helping the business manage each client inquiry in a timely fashion.
When Married with Mobile – the Cloud can Bring Even More Benefits
Mobility today means more devices (smartphones, tablets, phablets, laptops), more locations (office, home, abroad) and more apps that improve productivity, collaboration and your overall business.
And this shift in mobility is paying off with 70 percent of firms saying mobility is improving customer service, according to the most recent Sage U.S. SMB Survey on Mobile Devices. Twenty-one percent of Sage respondents reported that mobile technology even helped drive more work to their company. This reflects a significant change in the use of mobile technologies for SMBs from years past.
But the great power of mobility shines when married to great cloud solutions. As an example, the cloud CRM can be programmed to deliver automated email or mobile notifications for customer inquiries or notify the business team member when it’s time to follow-up. On the other end, an online calendar and scheduling automation solution will remind clients of upcoming appointments via email or text messages, eliminating the need for a phone call reminders. With 81 percent of cell phone users sending or receiving text messages, and with 90 percent of all of the messages being read within three minutes, leveraging mobile to communicate with clients is more productive and efficient than almost any other means of communication.
Another aspect is email marketing. With clients reading more emails on their mobile after business hours, the call-to-action of those emails need to be easily digestible on a mobile device. Simple forms or a “schedule now” button are becoming a popular alternative to the typical call us (that won’t help after business hours) or visit our website (which is far too complicated for a mobile call-to-action).
With mobile and the cloud united, employee daily planners become extinct, replaced with a full-service, cloud-based CRM and online calendar that syncs with any mobile device. The employee has complete access to client records, appointments and follow-up reminders in the CRM through any mobile device. In parallel, the client has anytime access to account information from any mobile device, saving time and money by eliminating calls to the businesses customer service department.
Suggesting that the cloud or mobile is having a major impact on the small business landscape may not be much of a surprise. But, smart SMBs should take it one step further and leverage the cloud to increase client engagement through websites and mobile devices – improving overall customer satisfaction. As this cloud-web-mobile union continues to gain momentum, additional software tools will be developed for SMBs to tie it all together.