According to the European Commission, over 99% of European businesses are classified as SMEs (small to medium enterprises). To fit in this sector companies need to employ less than 250 staff, and the vast are described as micro-businesses employing less than 10 staff.
In the UK alone there were 5.7 million micro-businesses in 2020, which accounts for 96% of all businesses. These small businesses are often the backbone of national economies and in the UK they account for 33% of total employment and 21% of turnover.
So it’s fair to say that they’re fairly important to national economies. And reading the telecoms press and service providers’ reports, they’re increasingly important to service providers as they look to open and grow new 5G B2B revenues.
A recent Ericsson Mobility report called out four key 5G use cases. These were – gaming, smart cities, SOHO (small office, home office) and secure campus 5G networks. For the SOHO use case, this involves providing a wireless-based cloud office for small office and home office enterprise over the 5G network with guaranteed quality of service.
There have also been a number of recent reports from the TM Forum calling out the importance of enterprise segments on future revenues for service providers. So, all things considered, SMEs are clearly important to the telecoms industry. However, the current reality facing many SMEs when dealing with their service providers is somewhat removed from ‘digital nirvana’.
SMEs often represent a middle ground for CSPs. They’re not consumers and they’re not large enterprises that often have their own account manager. So, they have to deal with call centres.
Visit the websites of most service providers and for consumers the sales and care processes are digital.
For sales, the consumer clicks on the ‘buy now’ button and they start a quick and easy process. For business customers, they get a number to call to start a relatively slow and cumbersome process. If an SME customer is looking for convergent offers, covering fibre broadband and 5G, then often the call centre agent is dealing with separate systems, one for fixed and one for mobile.
They set up separate orders, have event logs for customer care on different systems, and often two separate billing systems. In some CSPs, the sales call centre agent ‘swivel-chairs’ going from one system to another when dealing with the SME customer. In others, they’ll be transferred to another call centre agent.
However, there’s no good reason why SMEs should not be able to use the same digital channels for sales, marketing and care that consumers have. SMEs have information like company registration numbers that need to be collected during the onboarding process. But adding a field to an on-boarding process is a straightforward process that can be done in hours.
The other complication that is often cited for SME accounts is hierarchies of users and multiple users. But this is an outdated argument as digital BSS used in consumer sectors contain group and family accounts that can support hierarchies with numerous users assigned to one account and a nominated point of contact for payment. They also support a wide range of products, services and offers.
B2B customers can have access to an app and portal that provides them with up-to-date account information, personalised offers, SLA status and everything they need on a one-stop-shop to manage their B2B account – without the need to call a call centre.
Routing enquiries from SMEs to call centres costs SMEs time. This is time they are not working, which means they are not earning. For SMEs, this is a big deal, but the current call-centre first approach is not just costing SMEs money, it’s also costing the service providers money.
In consumer segments, many service providers have strategic KPIs involving the adoption of digital channels. These measure the number of care calls that go via digital channels and the number of sales that use digital channels – and these are working. In consumer markets, many digital-first service providers have seen their acquisition costs cut by up to 70% and the cost to serve cut by 50%.
With the enterprise segment forecast to drive the majority of 5G revenue growth for service providers, maybe it’s time for service providers to look at the channels that they use to engage with business customers and offer a digital alternative to dealing with a call centre.