If the business world was a steep cliff and entrepreneurs were rock climbers trying to get to the top, think of modern technologies as the footholds they’d use to boost themselves higher and higher, says Ambarish Gupta, founder and CEO of Knowlarity.
This analogy is particularly relevant to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in South Africa, where the decision to adopt a certain technological product or service, such as cloud telephony, could make all the difference between climbing higher than the competition, or lagging behind.

What is cloud telephony?

In a nutshell, cloud telephony is all your required voice and SMS services managed in the cloud. These services are more cost-effective than regular telecom services and do not require implementation of physical infrastructure. Cloud telephony also can easily scale in proportion to your growing business, to handle more customers quickly and efficiently.

Here are five ways that cloud telephony can positively impact your business:

Never miss another customer call
If you operate from a single phone line, you could lose leads, as potential customers who hear a busy tone, may call a competitor instead. Instead, you could implement an IVR (Interactive Voice Response) System via your cloud telephony service provider, with just a few clicks, and ensure you never miss another call.
The IVR, answers all callers, greets them politely, and gives them a menu of pre-programmed options to choose from. A caller could then leave a voicemail with a number for you to call back, opt to hear recorded information such as store timings, or wait to speak directly to you or an agent. Customers will be happy to get through to you, and you can rest assured that you won’t lose any business.
Provide better customer service
News of bad customer service reaches more than twice as many ears as praise for a good service experience. Here are some ways that cloud telephony helps you ensure a more positive customer service experience:
* Implement a toll-free number from your cloud telephony provider and more customers will be willing to call in.
* If you have a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system, you can easily integrate it with your cloud telephony system. Having all your customer details and call history in one place, allows you to tailor your conversation to suit a caller’s needs.
* Implement call recording and improve your customer interactions, by listening to the mp3 files later.
* Provide important updates via voice recorded messages or SMSes, to keep customers informed when required.

Find out which promotions offer the best returns
Your cloud telephony provider can help you link a different virtual number to each online and offline marketing campaign you run. Virtual numbers when called are automatically directed to your business phone line and tracked. After a while, you can see which virtual number is being called the most. Obviously, the marketing campaign linked to that number is doing well and you can pump more of your marketing budget into it.
Communicate quickly and affordably with partners and employees
If your cloud telephony services provider has a call conferencing service, you can use it to affordably and securely connect internally with employees, or externally with business partners, without using the Internet. You may not even have to pay for it.
Promote your business en masse
If there’s a special offer or sale that you’d like to tell customers about, check if your cloud telephony service provider supports the sending of bulk SMSes and voice calls. You can then program your system to send out a voice recorded message or a text message, to many receivers at the same time.

In conclusion
Across the world, technology is changing the way small and medium-sized enterprises operate – from making business faster and more efficient, to ensuring convenience for customers, to gaining customers from around the world. If you are a business owner who is thinking of using technology to ramp up, you can start small and affordably by following the five points listed above.