The 28 million small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in the United States contribute 42 percent of non-agricultural GDP, generating $2.1 trillion in revenue. This sector employs more than half of the working population with 120 million people, and it has generated more than 65 percent of the new jobs since 1995. SMBs cover every imaginable industry, and increasingly technology is playing a big role. According to Zinnov, the total addressable IT opportunity with US SMBs stands at $265 billion, and a new survey by Time Warner Cable Business Class indicates they can leverage this technology for new opportunities.
The survey suggests SMBs can expand their growth using new technology including Wi-Fi, social media programs and websites. According to the survey, there is a knowledge gap between the many SMB's currently operating around the country, which provides many opportunities for service providers.
The most noticeable gap was with Wi-Fi, with only 43 percent of SMBs stating they offer Wi-Fi, even though 80 percent said patrons expect it for free, and it is one of the best ways of attracting new customers. With more than 65 percent of Americans owning smartphones and other smart mobile devices capable of accessing Wi-Fi networks, providing free access is becoming a standard service for SMB's if they want to remain competitive.
Another statistic which highlights the knowledge gap between different businesses is 41 percent of the respondents said they do not use a website in the day-to-day business, while another 54 percent don't use social media to promote their business. In today's business environment a digital presence can only help the organization get more recognition, which will eventually translate into more customers purchasing the products and services they offer.
"In order for small businesses to perform at their best, they need to use technology productively. Whether it’s a restaurant providing Wi-Fi to meet customer expectations, or a printing company using social media to reach new customers, technology provides the means for businesses to help their bottom line," said Maureen Link, group vice president, Small Business, Time Warner Cable Business Class.
While many SMB's use technology, the systems that are in place are generally outdated, with the majority of them evaluating their technology bi-annually or annually. This has resulted in 33 percent of SMBs in the survey saying they have been negatively affected with outdated technology. Technology that is up-to-date gives business owners the ability to provide a platform in which customers can access information much quicker, which leads to higher customer satisfaction.
Technology is just one of many tools SMB's use to ensure customer satisfaction, but if it is not implemented properly it can result in customer dissatisfaction. It is therefore essential to find a service provider that understands the needs of the business and has the expertise to put a system in place that is always up-to-date with optimal functionality.
Edited by Maurice Nagle