The research was commissioned as part of Vodafone Irelands 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 OLeary, 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 SMEs 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 SMEs 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 OLeary.
Pat Whelan of James Whelan Butchers, based in Tipperary, has adapted his traditional business to market changes in recent years, Weve had to review how we run our business to make sure its 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. Were also expanding which means Im 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 growth 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. Vodafone will share its customers stories, including Pat Whelans, and also publish other useful insights on Irish business trends including IDCs Whitepaper Mobility: Putting Growth Back on the Agenda which is now available to download.