Tag Archives: Customer

IT Support for Small Businesses – How to Build Your Business Without Breaking the Bank

Building a small business is hard work. In the initial period of most small businesses, one or two people are trying to do everything until the business grows enough to diversify functions and hire assistance. While you are trying to develop products and/or services, you are also trying to build infrastructure to support the business functions. Chances are, if you are the kind of person who is focusing on product or service development, you probably are not the person with the breadth technology information to build your own infrastructure.

Our experience working with small businesses is that the creative folks who design the products and services and actually manage the business don’t know a great deal about computer technology, particularly new technologies. Many of these people don’t even want to know how or why a system works. All they want to know is that this system and this application will help them accomplish their business goals and what they must do to make it work.

When a fledgling business moves from an idea to a real product or a real service and begins to work with customers who want that product or service, technology becomes essential. In today’s markets it is difficult to be in business without a website and internet commerce applications. These, in turn, require management and maintenance, as well as security. As the business continues to grow, it becomes necessary to manage bookkeeping, customer service, inventory, and staff. This, in turn, requires more technology.

In a world in which new technologies emerge daily, keeping up with change is a full time job. Knowing which systems and which applications will meet the needs of a growing business in the present and in the future requires knowledge, experience, and technological skills. Unfortunately, none of that is free. There are three ways to respond to the need of a small business for technology infrastructure.

The first response is to decide to try to do everything yourself. The founder of the company goes to a computer company or store, explains the perceived needs of the small business, and buys the recommended hardware and software. This brave individual then returns to the office to try to make everything work.

The second possible response is to hire an IT professional or a team of IT professionals. This requires time and money. The fledgling company will conduct a search for a qualified individual, make a hiring decision, and start paying this individual or group of people salary and benefits and social security and everything else. The business will also provide work space and a work area for this individual.

The third possible response is to enter into a contract with an IT services company, such as INS. The small business principals will then discuss their needs and their budget with the service company’s consultants. A contract will be executed on either a retainer basis or on a per-item basis. The small business principals will then go back to work creating and selling products and/or services and growing their business. Meanwhile, the IT services company will go to work designing the best system for the current and future needs of the small business, installing equipment, setting up systems, applications and websites, and creating the networks and connections that will allow everything to work smoothly. The IT services company will monitor, manage and maintain the entire technology infrastructure for the small business.

Most technology professionals will tell you that the first response is a sure path to disaster. Most financial advisors will tell you that the second response is probably going to break the bank. The third response, however, may provide the most efficient and cost-effective solution to the technology needs of a small business.

Most small businesses discover a need for the following minimum system capabilities:
* Inventory management

* Production management

* Sales management

* Marketing functions

* Website, electronic commerce and security

* Customer database

* E-mail

* Customer and market surveys

* Fax, web conferencing, video conferencing capabilities

* Human Resources and payroll systems

* Billing and accounting systems or software

* Document and forms production, management and distribution

* Planning and budgeting functions

* Competitive analysis functions

* Wireless systems

Once these programs and systems are in place, they must be integrated. The system must then be managed, monitored for service disruptions, repaired, expanded and further integrated. Security demands change almost daily and require constant updates to protect the business and the customer.

The purpose of technology is to assist the company in implementing business strategy and managing day-to-day business functions. Every business function managed or assisted by technology frees the employees of a small business for more integral functions. Further, the right technology properly leveraged will increase productivity, and assist the company in knowing more about their customers and the buying habits of their customers by collecting that information and making it readily available in a variety of settings and contexts.

Contracting with an IT services company saves money, provides the best fit of technology with business objectives, and eliminates the need for small business principals to worry about systems infrastructure. These companies provide 24/7 service and support to ensure that the company does not lose business due to down time, without the financial burden of paying overtime to an internal IT staff. Considering all the services provided, as well as the knowledge and experience of IT services companies in working with the needs of small businesses, it is not surprising that IT services companies are the solution of choice for many small businesses.


Find Out If CRM Systems Are Meant For Small Businesses

Most small businesses have this belief that most CRM solutions are meant for the large scale corporations. They think that CRM solutions for small business do not exist. However, the real fact is that there are many best customizable CRM for small business companies.

Same Challenges

Though small businesses have a smaller turnover, they have similar business processes disconnected systems back office as well as similar complexities as present in larger organizations. Hence, the challenges faced by small businesses are primarily same as that of larger organizations – to get a unified view of customers through the company. Their aim is to provide a consistent customer relationship management service, which also yields profits for the organization. As the business continues to grow, the organization realizes that informal customer communication cannot be sustained any longer.

Proper Understanding

A thorough understanding of typical customer behavior enables the smaller businesses to customize CRM solutions to be better than newer competitor offerings and responding to customer requirements. Hence, in such cases, CRM systems can prove to be valuable tools to retain customers as well as attract new customers especially as the business continues to expand.

Customization And Complexity

Most CRM solutions for small business often do not fulfill the expectations the firm has of the software. If the CRM system cannot closely integrate with the other existing systems or does not store information within the customer database in a centralized manner, it can deprive the small business of leveraging the complete potential of the CRM solution. Another aspect is that if the CRM database cannot be customized or configured as per the organization’s requirements, it can result in the CRM system being completely inflexible.

Strategy As Opposed To Technology

In the case of small businesses, they should consider only those CRM systems, which can be incorporated easily into the existing IT infrastructure. Ideally, CRM solutions should be considered as a strategy as opposed to just technology. These need to be implemented directly to curtail costs as well as errors pertaining to sales, thereby raising revenues. Since most customer information is already available within current systems in the organization, creating a new application, which contains entirely new information, is a redundant process and in the case of small businesses with limited resources, this can be a painstaking process.

Cost Traps

Before any purchase of CRM solutions are made, the small business should ask if the software will truly communicate with customers and be easy to use by the employees. You also need to know the overall costs for integration of the CRM system.

Implementation Partner

Since most small businesses have limited resources, they cannot spare their employees on a full-time basis to carry out CRM solution implementation. Hence, ideally such companies should work with partners who will bring in necessary expertise and resources for implementation. Most small businesses have concentrated on license costs and do not consider effort, time or expertise required to ensure success of customer relationship management system implementation.