Cisco commissioned Forrester Research to survey 374 companies to quantify how unified communications (UC) affect the small and medium-size business sector. The survey asked participants how certain UC capabilities affect their operations but survey participants were not given any information on any specific product or company. Organizations surveyed were limited to companies with 125 employees or less with no more than seven locations to determine the significance of UC in this market segment. Survey participants included decision-makers from LOB (73%) and IT (27%). Decision-makers in six countries participated in this survey from countries including, the US (34%), France (16%), the UK (19%), Italy (13%), and Australia (18%). The survey included organizations from manufacturing, financial services, and professional service firms. This document focuses only on the financial services segment. See parts two and three for detailed findings on the manufacturing and professional services firms.
Responses were generally consistent among the companies, but there were some variances by industry. In general SMBs have several requirements for UC within their operations, although some drivers for larger sized organizations, such as the ability to locate others with a single address, were less pronounced. The study indicates that UC helps SMB improve responsiveness to its customers, decrease problem resolution time, reach decision-makers more quickly to speed approval processes, and build organizations that make it easier to attract and retain employees.
Financial Services Firms Survey Findings
Forrester interviewed 133 SMB financial services companies in six countries (the United States, the UK, France, Italy, and Australia) to evaluate the benefits of UC for their organization. Questions provided to the participants asked how UC capabilities would apply to issues and were provided a choice of responses for each situation including a negative response. Key issues for FS firms include: high competition for customers, rising costs for facilities and staffing, and slow response to customers using the Web and phone channels.
The survey provided senior managers a description of UC capabilities across several business areas and asked them how these capabilities would affect their current business processes. Key findings from this global survey for financial firms include:
- 73% save time with the ability to reach DM across a single number.
- 81% improve efficiencies in reducing delays in reaching decision-makers.
- 69% improve customer support with the ability for managers to collaborate in real time with peers.
- 68% benefit by training personnel on new products via Web- and videoconferencing.
- 73% lower training costs by offering video desktop training.
- 67% save time by improving internal communications for projects or customer applications.
- 69% would generate more revenue if online customers could collaborate with experts.
- 62% of mobile employees could respond faster with advanced business features on their mobile device.
Overall Study Summary
Small and medium-size businesses face challenges unique to their size and environment. They need to respond quickly to their customers and build long-term satisfaction. Additionally, the employees require effective communications to improve project completion and reduce business delays. UC addresses the needs of these smaller businesses by improving business agility, accelerating project completion, and increasing overall worker productivity. Across all industries interviewed, UC benefits include:
- Effective team collaboration. UC facilitates work group collaboration and discussions by making it easier for workers to set up meetings, discuss issues, and make decisions more quickly.
- Rapid problem resolution. Problems are common to all businesses, and firms that address customer problems immediately — with improved collaboration to solve problems quicker — provide competitive differentiation and improve customer loyalty.
- Access to experts. When experts are available for conferencing with customers and solving business problems, they generate higher approval ratings from their customers.
- Attract and retain employees. Organizations compete for top employees, and providing a work environment that improves internal and customer communications enables them to attract and retain top performers.
- Improve sales performance. New sales proposals often get delayed by internal activities that require decision from various managers who may not be accessible. UC supports a more collaborative environment and helps create a virtual sales team to respond more quickly to customers.
- Increase employee productivity. With the ability to reduce delays in reaching co-workers, including remote workers, employees save time in setting up meetings and completing projects.