New research carried out on behalf of Vodafone Ireland has revealed that 73 per cent of Irish businesses are positive about the future and what it holds for them. Research carried out by Freeform Dynamics indicates that while most businesses have a positive attitude towards change and are aware of what needs to be done to make a business ready, only 25 per cent of them feel that they are adequately prepared to handle challenging market trends and developments over the next five years.
The research was commissioned as part of Vodafone’s new “Ready Business” strategy which has been specifically designed to give Irish businesses insights into the tools and policies necessary to become ready to succeed in their current market and to face unexpected challenges and changes in the future.
The research shows that 86 per cent of those businesses which said they were “not ready” have a desire to implement rapid responses to new and changing business needs over the next five years.
A further 88 per cent believe in the importance of dealing with customers on a more individual and interactive basis. Similarly 88 per cent identified the importance to their business of protecting their customers’ privacy.
"Evolving trends and new technologies are constantly driving businesses of all sizes and from all sectors to adapt to meet their customer, and employee, needs," says Vodafone Ireland enterprise director Anne Sheehan.
Listening to customers
“Mobile technology is one of these drivers, particularly when it comes to customer engagement. Listening to customers and taking their feedback has never been more accessible. Interestingly, over 70 per cent of ready businesses have rapid response systems for customers in comparison with less than half of those businesses that do not consider themselves ready, indicating that ready businesses embrace fast-paced digital communications and provide their customers with platforms to engage with them.”
According to Sheehan, these so-called “ready businesses” exhibit certain important traits. “The first is rich communications,” she says. “They are able to adapt in response to their customer engagements. They use all available communication channels to stay in tune with customer needs.
“They also value their people and their partners. They tend to have a very open and collaborative approach to working. They are open to flexible ways of working both with their employees and partners. Mobile working, remote working, home working and so on are all embraced.”
Another common attribute is their ability to exploit technology and use fixed and mobile networks to the advantage of their businesses.
“They make the best use of the communications technologies available to them. They also show an ability to move on from old ways of doing things and adopt new technologies such as the cloud and managed services and so on. This cultural leadership in respect of adopting new ways of doing things is very important.”
Sheehan believes the benefits of being a ready business can be measured on the bottom line. “Being ready means that an organisation understands its customers better, is better able to manage customer information, enjoys an improved working environment, and benefits from improved data flows around the organisation and better management of that data. If an organisation is a ready business they have the ability to adapt and change, to be agile and flexible in response to the changing needs of their customers and changes in the market. They will have the right systems in place to do this. This will enable them to retain existing customers and win new business.”
She cites the example of one Vodafone customer which has used new communications services to help it become ready for future changes.
“One of our customers took the fixed line out of the business and now use the Vodafone One Net Express service to give them a landline number and a mobile number all in one. They have reduced their bills and their management overheads and this has also allowed them to serve their customers better.
Adapting to change
“This is one example of an organisation being able to adapt to change and make the best use of new technology. Cloud-based organisations shouldn’t have to invest in expensive infrastructure. From a Vodafone perspective we can help them realise these benefits through our unified and total communications offerings.”
A key element of the Ready Business strategy is Vodafone’s commitment to helping its customers prepare for the future. “Higher levels of readiness equate with greater success today,” says Sheehan. “The results of the research showed that the most ready are significantly more successful than the least ready when measured by factors like customer satisfaction and performance when compared with competitors.
“But an important principle is that business readiness is not a binary concept – it is a continuum with no absolute end. This means it doesn’t matter what the level of readiness is today, businesses will still benefit from investing time, resources and effort on improving it.
“We can help organisations become business ready in a number of ways,” she says.
“We can provide the expertise and services to help customers improve the way they operate, not just the way their employees work. We will sit down with them and look at their business and see where they are and help move them along.
“We will look at their communications and data strategies and advise them on how these can be improved or how they can become more efficient in those areas. We will also look at the things they need to do to improve.”
This might involve investing in new technologies or making better use of what they have. “Most businesses are already using what they have pretty efficiently and it will usually be a question of building on that platform and looking at where they want to be in two or three years’ time,” she says.
“The business might be planning to employ more staff or move into new markets and it will be a question of how to do that as efficiently as possible.”
She makes the point that new technologies mean that SMEs can become just as ready as global multinationals. “It’s the same agenda for SMEs and large international companies. It doesn’t matter if you have three employees or 3,000. There are no barriers; the technologies and the products and services available now scale to suit any size of business.
“From our perspective the most important thing is that so many organisations are positive about the future and are willing to make the investments to be ready for the changes and opportunities it will bring.
“We want to help them in their journey towards becoming ready for that future.
“The fact that businesses understand the need to adapt is great news for Ireland Inc.”