When you’re operating in a competitive market (and let’s face it, who isn’t?), staying ahead of the competition is critical to the success of your business. But what’s the best way to do that?
Some might suggest that it all comes down to cost and simply by undercutting your competitors, you’ll win the business.
We don’t agree. While customers are certainly cost-conscious, price is rarely the most important factor when choosing a supplier. Today’s consumers don’t always want simply the cheapest option. They want good value, a great service and to work with a supplier who understands and meets their needs.
This is great news for you. Because it means, by working differently to your competitors, you can get ahead – without resorting to price cuts.
Here are seven ways you can use technology to build a competitive business and stay at the forefront of your industry.
Create a flexible business model
Gone is the traditional model of the 9-to-5 business. Today’s customers want to access products and services around the clock. So being available when your competitors are not instantly puts you at an advantage.
Running a flexible business may mean offering services out-of-hours, allowing customers to order online anytime, or providing after-sales support 24/7. Of course, it might not be practical to employ staff around the clock. But by using technology wisely, you can give the impression of always being available. With automated email responses, virtual chat assistants, and call handling software, you can let technology win sales and service customers, even when you’re not physically in the office.
As well as creating a more responsive service for your customers, you can also use technology to offer increased flexibility to your staff. As employees strive to achieve a better work/life balance or need to fit work around other responsibilities, more and more employees prefer to work outside traditional hours.
As well as being a great way to increase staff loyalty, flexible working can also help you attract new customers, particularly if you’re available when your competitors are not.
If you give staff the option to work remotely from home or while commuting it becomes easier to attract and retain the best people. It’s also a great strategy for boosting morale and productivity throughout the business.
To achieve a successful flexible working model, you need to be confident that the technology your staff use is supporting them to work remotely.
Investing in new smartphones or laptops can open up a host of opportunities for your business. But it’s important to manage the process. You need to use technology wisely to ensure staff are productive when they are not physically in the office. You also need to ensure that data is secure and that your teams can access everything they need to do their job and avoid downtime. Talk to your IT support provider about how you can use technology to work more flexibly.
Boosting productivity is one of the best ways to achieve more without increasing overheads. In turn, you can pass cost savings on to your customers, or offer a more efficient service to make you the provider of choice within your market.
Here are just some ways to use technology to boost productivity.
An audit of your current processes will help you identify bottlenecks and spot the activities that take up the most time. You’ll then be able to see where improvements can be made to streamline processes and improve productivity throughout your business.
Use software to improve collaboration
The right project management software can dramatically improve productivity throughout your business. As teams can collaborate more easily on projects, they can dramatically cut the amount of time spent on internal emails and meetings. Reporting also becomes easier and managers can track what teams are working on and allocate resources where they are needed most. Talk to your IT provider about the different options, such as Microsoft Teams.
Using technology such as video conferencing can mean less time spent travelling to meetings. A business trip that might have taken a day can now be completed in an hour, freeing up time for other activities.
Automate everyday tasks
Technology allows you to automate common daily tasks so staff can concentrate on more interesting and more profitable work.
Using software allows your staff to log time spent on particular tasks and monitor productivity to see where improvements can be made. Often you might find staff are incredibly busy – but not on tasks that are helping your business grow. Only by monitoring how staff are spending their time can you identify problems and create improvements.
There’s a wide range of powerful project management software packages available, including Microsoft Teams, for businesses of all sizes. When implemented effectively, the software gives your teams and managers clear visibility of what’s going on at any time; improving accountability and helping staff make better decisions for the business.
Find opportunities to disrupt your market
We’ve heard a lot about disruptive companies in recent years, especially with regards to start-ups disrupting existing industries. But what exactly does ‘disruption’ mean. Well, most commonly, it simply means using technology to offer customers a better way to access products or services.
We can see examples of disruption in almost every industry: Airbnb has disrupted the hotel industry while Deliveroo has disrupted the restaurant industry and Netflix has disrupted the home entertainment industry. And while these companies have boomed, in each of these industries we can see countless casualties. While the disrupters are thriving, the businesses that failed to keep up have ceased trading.
Of course, you don’t have to be a start-up to be a disruptor. You just need to look at how you currently serve your customers and ask if there’s a better way. Do customers still want to do things the way they’ve always done them? Or is there a way you can use technology to deliver the same service in a more efficient way?
In a world where customer expectations are constantly changing, if you don’t adapt to their changing requirements, it’s likely that one of your competitors will. You can be the disrupter who introduces innovation to your sector – or you can risk being the company that is disrupted.
Streamline your processes
Using IT to streamline and improve daily activities lets you improve productivity without increasing staff overheads. In turn, this allows you to provide a better service to your customers, making your offering more enticing than your competitors.
Ultimately, today’s consumers want simplicity. They want the end result with as few steps as possible. So, if you can streamline your ordering process, enquiry process and support, customers will be more likely to order from you than from a competitor.
Take a look at all the processes your customers and your staff use throughout the customer journey. Are there areas where delays or frustrations commonly occur? It’s likely that simply by changing the way you use technology; you can prevent problems arising.
Recruit and retain the best talent
Building a successful business starts by recruiting the best people. When your teams are happy, motivated and productive; customers notice and are more likely to return.
Your IT processes can have a big impact on recruitment and retention. From attracting candidates to staff training, IT and technology can be used throughout every aspect of recruitment and retention. With effective IT processes and a forward-thinking approach to technology, you can build a thriving workforce.
Conversely, if you have a work environment where technology is outdated or constantly causing problems, it’s likely to impact staff morale; creating a negative office culture with high staff turnover.
With effective IT systems in place, you can foster a productive work environment where staff feel supported and confident. And as we’ve seen, you can also use technology to offer flexible working, with flexible hours and the option to work remotely. If this is something that your competitors are not offering, it’s an easy way to make your company more attractive to the best candidates.
Use data to grow your business
Having access to the latest business performance data is crucial if you’re to get ahead of the competition. You need to know where your strengths and weaknesses lie and be ready to spot opportunities and threats before they occur.
But in a world where managers can easily become overwhelmed by data; identifying and analysing the right information isn’t always straightforward. With different reporting tools and multiple spreadsheets, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. This could mean that your business falls behind while you’re busy trying to understand the current status.
Using the right reporting tools, you can cut the amount of information you receive while ensuring that key outputs are tracked, allowing you to constantly improve your business. Talk to your IT support provider about the different reporting options available.
Protect your business from security threats and IT downtime
You can have a great office culture, streamlined systems and a productive workforce but everything can collapse in an instant if you’ve failed to protect your business against cyber-attacks.
Without an effective cyber security policy, your company is at risk. If you are attacked, you might not be able to recover. And while you’re busy firefighting, your competitors have the perfect opportunity to take business from you. So, don’t wait for issues to arise, take proactive steps to protect your business from security risks – before they happen.
As well as the risks presented by cyber breaches, your business is also at risk from IT downtime. When your staff are unable to do their jobs due to IT issues, the impact on productivity, morale and customer satisfaction can be far-reaching.
There’s a lot to consider to keep your business ahead of the competition. The good news is you can use technology and IT to build a competitive business, providing more opportunities to succeed than ever before.
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