Ouch! The Cost Of SMBs' Communications Pain Points

The study, conducted by SIS International Research, also found that nearly 60 percent of SMBs do not have a unified communications solution in place, but that awareness of the technology is rising, signifying a big opportunity for the channel, according to Siemens.

The No. 1 communications pain point for SMBs is waiting for information, defined as the time it takes to reach someone to pass along information or get an answer, according to Siemens. Rounding out the top five were unwanted communications, inefficient coordination, barriers to collaboration and customer complaints.

On average, 70 percent of SMB respondents said they experience the top five pain points, and 17.5 hours each week is spent addressing communications barriers.

The study also found that the average cost of the lost productivity due to dealing with these pain points was $26,041 per knowledge worker per year, or about $5,246 per employee.

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Researchers determined that the time spent per week dealing with communications issues was more than 50 percent higher in companies with more than 20 workers. In hard costs, the study concluded, companies of 100 employees could be losing more than $500,000 each year by not addressing their employees' most painful communications issues.

"You can translate that lost time into money. When you add it all up, the hidden costs are significant," said Tricia Cooper, director of strategic marketing for Siemens Enterprise Communications.

Forty-one percent of respondents said that a solution to reduce the time spent addressing the top five pain points is a very high or extremely high priority.

Compounding the pain points is the increasing mobility of the workforce, Cooper said. Half of today's global employees are considered mobile workers, including 35 percent in the U.S., according to the study.

"As the business environment becomes more complex, you have to take actions to be more competitive. There are no borders to doing business. There are also issues of doing more with less in today's economy. Companies are running leaner but trying to keep quality of service high," Cooper said. "There are upsides to mobility, but you can't ignore the downside too. On-the-go means more phone tag, and you're back to the No 1 pain point."

The study also revealed that more than half of SMB employees use communications technology in six different areas: PBX, instant messaging, conference calling, videoconferencing, contact center and faxing, illustrating the need for unified communications solutions, Cooper said. "SMBs are increasingly using communications technologies to improve productivity. The proliferation has created the need for multiple devices, tools, applications," Cooper said.

The good news for VARs is more SMBs recognize that unified communications can alleviate their pain. More than 83 percent of SMB respondents have heard of the term and 41 percent said they currently use a unified communications product. The fact that 59 percent of respondents do not utilize that technology represents significant opportunity for the channel, said Karl Hotz, vice president of channel business development at Siemens.

"Folks have different definitions, and they think they're using it when they're really not. Their PDA is synced to Outlook. But that's it," Hotz said. "What we're finding here is a good majority [of SMBs] want unified communications. They want the ability to be highly mobile and integrate business workflow processes wherever they are. They're starting to realize they need UC. The number of customers I talk to, more and more of the conversation comes around to presence and mobility integration. This is a tremendous opportunity, which we are very highly focused on."

The opportunity for VARs is also great because unified communications is not a transactional sale, he said. Small businesses need help to design and implement the solution.

"It's not 'Let's count phones and people.' This is a consultative sale and a look at the business workflow processes and really understanding what their core business is and what their utilization processes are for communicating," Hotz said. "