How Does Technology Improve a Business?

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Think back to how business was done a few decades ago. There was no email, Internet, mobile marketing, telecommuting or smartphones. Now communications are instantaneous, huge amounts of information move through email and the Internet and powerful tools are in the hands of owners and employees. Innovations in technology have improved operations at companies of all sizes and helped turn small local businesses into global businesses.

Communication

Cell phones have become small business necessities for owners and employees. These devices are lifelines for staying in touch when on the road and responding to customer inquiries in a timely manner. Smartphones raise the bar with access to the Internet, email and business applications in a small hand held device. Email, text messaging and social networking are other advances in communication that keep small businesses connected to their customer bases and improve internal communication within the company.

Marketing

Technology has freed small businesses from the restrictions of prints ads when it comes to reaching new and existing customers. Internet marketing ranges from a simple informational website, to advertising on search engines, to online product sales. Email marketing is an effective and low cost method to reach a large group of people with a newsletter, coupons or business updates. Mobile marketing is a relatively new frontier that reaches people through text messaging, advertising on mobile applications and offering branded applications that tie customers into what is happening with the business in a fun and entertaining way.

Productivity

Small businesses need to wring every ounce of productivity out of their operations and technology tools help employees get tasks done more quickly. This may range from printing out marketing materials to providing customer service through email or online chat. The key is to keep employees focused when using technology and to use it appropriately with the goal of saving time. Sometimes, a phone call may be more efficient and productive than an email. Provide employees with the right hardware and updated software to keep them working at peak proficiency.

Customer Service

Technology brings businesses closer to customers. Businesses use email to answer questions, offer online chat to help customers that are visiting the business website, and equip call centers with the latest phone equipment that makes customer service agents more efficient. Give customers a choice of ways to contact the company. Technology is powerful, but keep the people element in mind and don’t skimp on training employees in effective customer service techniques and the proper use of the technology.

Telecommuting

Many small businesses now offer telecommuting and flex time as benefits. Colleagues can stay in touch from different locations, and when working different hours, by using email, online collaboration tools and mobile computing devices. When in the office, workers can share digital documents, convey information through presentations and create training videos to bring new employees up to speed.

Teleconferencing

Teleconferencing over the phone is one of the simplest conferencing methods, but advancement in recent years have brought web conferencing to the fore. Web conferencing can bring together web cams, audio and collaborative online meeting spaces to create an extremely interactive environment. Participants can see each other, work together on documents and recreate the in-person meeting experience no matter where they are in the world. This is one way that small businesses can extend their reach to include global customers and workers.

What are some of the challenges that organizations face in today’s environment?

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Corporate responsibility programs can help businesses entice customers, attract and retain talent, assure investors, reduce operating costs, improve employee morale and enhance a company’s reputation. However, business owners should understand the benefits and limitations of corporate responsibility programs in order to choose an initiative that benefits the community and the company.

Resource Investment

Convincing shareholders or other financial decision makers to allocate resources to a program designed to benefit something other than the company’s bottom line can be the first obstacle a small business owner must overcome. To sway reluctant company leaders or employees, a small business owner can explain that customer buying decisions are influenced by company behavior.

Company Integration

To be successful, corporate responsibility programs must be embraced and supported by top management and woven into company culture and operations. Stakeholders will soon become skeptical of one-time initiatives or programs that come and go. Timing also can be a problem. Corporate responsibility programs introduced to sway public opinion immediately after a company crisis can do more reputation damage if they are perceived by customers and stakeholders as insincere.

Communication

Small businesses owners should not assume that customers and community members know about the company’s investment in socially responsible programs. They should not only explain the company’s actions but how these actions are helping improve the community, Langert explains. Including a description of company initiatives in an annual report or taking pictures of an employee volunteer effort and posting to a company’s website are strategies for communicating a company’s corporate responsibility efforts.

Identifying Benefits

The business benefits of corporate responsibility programs are not always immediately tangible. For example, while it’s difficult to link investments in corporate responsibility programs to increased profits, there is evidence that these programs can protect the reputation of an organization during times of company crisis.