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SMBs faced with communications challenges on a global scale

Growth in technology and international communication continues to open up a world of opportunity for Australian small-to-medium businesses (SMBs).

A recent survey commissioned by Truphone shows Australian businesses are expanding their reach globally, with more than half the respondents (53%) indicating their organisation regularly sends 10 or more employees on overseas business trips. Almost three in five respondents (61.9%) send staff abroad at least once a quarter.

The survey revealed that while SMB’s are embracing a more international outlook, they face a number of challenges in managing global communications. 60.7 per cent of businesses surveyed believe being contactable is too expensive when employees are travelling for business, or communicating with people based overseas.

With costs top of mind for most SMBs, it’s not surprising that 40.1 per cent of respondents cited managing the costs associated with international communications as their biggest challenge.

To address this challenge, some Australian businesses are looking to policy to curb the costs. Limiting international communications to Internet based tools was reported as the most common approach, with almost one in four (24.6%) businesses restricting their employees to using Skype/VoIP applications when travelling overseas. One in five (18.0%) businesses permit only the use of email to reduce international communications costs.

For SMBs, the reliance on Internet based tools was more evident than for larger organisations (48.9% vs. 38.0%), indicating a broader concern around cost management for these sized businesses.

But limiting international communication has wider-reaching impacts than just cost savings. The research indicated that more than 12.5 per cent of Australians have lost clients as a result of not being able to be contacted while travelling abroad. Over half (49.6%) indicated they are unlikely to call/text colleagues who are based in international locations due to the high cost or complexity. For SMBs this is of great concern, with 53.4 per cent reporting these impacts, compared to 47.6% of larger sized organisations.

With cost and productivity high on the agenda for SMB’s driving their business across borders, what is perhaps most concerning is many are unaware of their options. 40.7 per cent of respondents are unaware of alternative options for international communications. Another barrier is a reluctance to change, with many businesses reporting they prefer to use what they know, even if more cost effective options exist (48.7%)

But alternative international communications solutions are not just about saving money. Global mobile providers such as Truphone offer a range of benefits to improve connectivity and enhance international communications whether at home or abroad. Choosing a provider which offers multiple international numbers on a single SIM enables businesses to connect more seamlessly with their international connects closer by providing a local number in selected countries for their contacts to reach them on, at local rates.

For SMBs, this offers more than just a way to stay connected – they can create a virtual shopfront in countries where they frequently do business, allowing them an international footprint, without the cost of an actual presence in these countries.

For example, SMB’s with business interests in the US can have an Australian and a US number on a single SIM, giving them a ‘local’ presence in both of these countries.

With the number of small-to-medium businesses seeking a more global presence growing, now is the time to seek out alternative solutions for their international communications needs. That way, they can get on with business, and their business abroad becomes business as usual.

About the Author:

Dr. Alex Ip, Senior Vice President, Asia Pacific
dr_alex_ipPrior to joining Truphone in 2011, Alex spent 25 years working in the international telecommunications business. He built, operated and ran a mobile network operator in the Macau SAR, successfully competing with the incumbent for nearly 10 years. Alex graduated with a Ph.D. in Data Communications from Loughborough University of Technology in the UK and also holds a M.Sc. in Global Communications Management from University College London in the UK.