With consumers feeling the brunt of inflation, interest rate hikes, and load shedding, it should hardly be surprising that businesses are starting to feel the pressure too.

Although inflation has cooled in recent weeks (signalling interest rates will at least hold stable for the moment) and load -shedding levels have dropped slightly, business is still tough. With the local economy expected to grow by just 0,1% this year, conditions aren’t about to get any easier either.

Businesses business looking to ensure their long-term survival needs to find ways of driving growth while keeping overhead costs as low as possible. There are any number of strategies a business could employ to do so. Technology, properly applied, is one of the most effective.

As John Woollam, CEO of Euphoria Telecom, points out, there are numerous ways businesses can use technology to improve their bottom lines and save on costs. Some of those are obvious – automating certain processes, for example, can result in immediate savings – but others are less so.

Another example is telephony, which has seen significant advances in recent years. That’s especially true in the Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) space.

“Modern, affordable cloud technologies allow businesses to control VoIP costs without necessarily signing up for long-term, binding contracts,” he says.

That’s in addition to the existing cost-benefits that come with using VoIP, such as needing less physical infrastructure and not having to worry about hardware maintenance fees.


Making hybrid work

A move to cloud-based VoIP could help organisations better deal with the shift to hybrid work. According to a study released in late 2022, some 36% of South African middle-income earners and 46% of top earners are hybrid workers.

While that has significant benefits for workers and the companies they work for, there are complications too. When someone calls an office, for example, it might not be possible to put them through to the person they want because they’re working offsite. That, in turn, can degrade the overall customer experience.

That’s the opposite of what you want as a business. Research from Zendesk shows that 52% of customers will switch to a competitor after a single bad experience. It might seem small, but forcing someone to make another call to reach the person they want can be that experience.

With the right VoIP tools, that call could be easily transferred, with the relevant person able to take it on their smartphone, laptop, or tablet.


Building on data

These kinds of tools can help build a good customer experience in other ways too. Cloud-based VoIP services can, for example, gather data on things like the number of calls received versus calls answered, average call lengths, and total call times. These features can then be used to monitor staff performance and identify areas that need improvement for CRM purposes.

“Better customer service can translate into both savings and profit for businesses,” says Woollam. “A recent report showed that about 59% of consumers believe companies should use the data they collect about them to create more personalised customer service experiences and that business leaders recognise that deeper personalisation means more satisfied customers.

“With more personalised and attentive service, repeat calls are less likely, and eliminating repeat calls can yield considerable savings.”


A part of the mix

“The economy may be unpredictable, but a strategic approach to capital outlay for essential business infrastructure can cushion the impact,” Woolam concludes. “For many businesses, that means taking a considered look at the technologies they’re using and integrating things like cloud-based VoIP services into the tool-set available to them.”