64% of Irish SMEs say growing the business is a top priority according to new IDC research commissioned by Vodafone Ireland
Dublin, 14th June 2012 – New research has revealed that 64% of Irish SMEs say that growing the business is now as critical as reducing costs. The research, conducted by IDC and commissioned by Vodafone Ireland, indicates that while cost control remains a key challenge for many SMEs, there is now a significant change in focus towards business growth, with improving customer relationships seen by SMEs as vital to achieving growth in the current trading climate.
The research was commissioned as part of Vodafone Ireland’s wider ‘New Ways of Working’ programme to support Irish businesses by providing insights into addressing current market challenges and sharing Irish businesses’ experiences of implementing organisational change.
Anne O’Leary, Business and Enterprise Director at Vodafone Ireland said, “The surprising shift in attitudes of SMEs from the cost control of the last four years to a wider strategic focus on growth is encouraging and a significant indicator of renewed optimism. Economic factors, evolving technologies and changing consumer trends are driving SMEs to review their business and adopt new ways of working to retain and grow their business.”
The research has highlighted that improving relationships with customers was one of the key challenges experienced by 80% of Irish SMEs, with 81% of workers stating that customer service is a top priority - demonstrating the importance of an SME’s workforce differentiating on customer service.
Commenting on the research, IDC Research Director, Enterprise Mobility Strategies, Nick McQuire said, "There is a growing recognition that technology is a huge lever not only to engage and acquire customers, but also to retain and attract talent and drive productivity. Long-term competitive advantage requires a radical rethink of the existing communications model. This includes a deeper focus on innovation and crucially, aligning communications strategy closer to users, customers and business performance."
However, the research also indicates that businesses are addressing the challenges posed by consumers’ demand for 24/7 access to information as a result of using smart devices - 86% of mobile workers that use smartphones stated that it improved their responsiveness while 77% stated that their productivity had been improved.
Further evidence of the impact changing consumer trends have on an SME’s day to day operations was revealed in that being accessible outside of normal working hours was also found to help workers build and maintain vital customer relationships. Two thirds of Irish mobile workers confirmed that they checked email before 8am and a third after 9pm.
“Working differently and flexibly provides major opportunities for business growth and creating competitive advantage and this is what we are hearing from our customers,” said O’Leary.
Pat Whelan of James Whelan Butchers, based in Tipperary, has adapted his traditional business to market changes in recent years, “We’ve had to review how we run our business to make sure it’s relevant to this generation of customers and we are now using social media on a day-to-day basis to drive awareness of the business and engage directly with customers. We’re also expanding which means I’m on the road more but I can keep track of everything as I effectively have a desk in my pocket which is invaluable to help grow our business.”
Vodafone Ireland, over the coming months, will introduce a series of initiatives to support Irish businesses and show how technology can enable positive change and business growth. On www.vodafone.ie/businesstrends
Vodafone will share its customers’ stories, including Pat Whelan’s, and also publish other useful insights on Irish business trends including IDC’s Whitepaper – Mobility: Putting Growth Back on the Agenda which is now available to download.