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Small Business Telecommunications Service Use and Experience

Small Business Telecommunications Service Use and Experience

Posted by Shara Evans in Market Clarity Newsletter 30 Jan 2013

Although small business plays a significant role in the Australian economy, it’s one of the least understood market segments; with little representation vis-à-vis telecommunications service requirements and experiences.

We were therefore delighted to have won an ACCAN research grant to investigate small business’ experience with telecommunications services.

The resulting research, which is based on our interviews with 260 small businesses with fewer than 20 employees, is available for download at our website.

We hope you find Small Business Telecommunications Service Use and Experience interesting, and we wish you a happy, healthy and prosperous 2013!

Small Business and Telecommunications

It is an often-cited truth that small business is the engine of the Australian economy. Today, some five million Australians are employed by small businesses. Small businesses rely on telecommunications services to be able to do business, no matter what sector they are operating in. When a small business cannot access the Internet or make phone calls, orders cannot be taken or processed. When a small business operator waits in a call centre queue or is transferred between different customer service representatives trying to have a fault resolved, they are not only losing time, but money. This impact on productivity and turnover affects not only the small business owner, but its employees and customers.

This study indicates that while the majority of small businesses are satisfied with their telecommunications services, they are experiencing higher levels of faults than is ideal. These outages — even if they are for a short duration — can have a catastrophic impact on a small business. Compounding these issues are the problems that some small business owners have in resolving faults when they arise, even though most are paying for business grade services.

This analysis therefore provides important information in support of advocacy on behalf of small business, as well as providing a wealth of information for service providers targeting the small business sector.

Key findings include:

  • Small businesses with less than 20 staff place a high value on being digitally enabled, with most companies (92% of respondents) using 3-5 distinct telecommunications service types (fixed voice, fixed broadband, VoIP, mobile voice, mobile broadband and EFTPOS). Overall, every company interviewed used some type of voice service (fixed voice, mobile voice and/or VoIP) and 99% of respondents had some type of broadband connectivity (fixed and/or mobile broadband).
  • The vast majority of businesses utilise both fixed voice and fixed broadband services (95% and 96%, respectively). Mobile voice services (paid for by the business) are another key product used by small businesses (89%). Mobile broadband services are used by 45% of the respondents, whilst EFTPOS is used by 42%. VoIP services are used by only 16% of the small businesses interviewed for this study.
  • Small businesses overwhelmingly use business grade services: fixed voice (95%), VoIP (81%), fixed broadband (91%), mobile voice (89%) and mobile broadband (86%).
  • The impact of one-hour service faults varies by type of service, and a respondent’s business requirements. 25% of fixed voice users report that they would experience a serious or catastrophic impact; as would 24% of VoIP users; 32% of fixed broadband users; 24% of mobile voice users; 19% of mobile broadband users and 26% of EFTPOS users.
  • The impact of a one-day service fault varies by type of service, and a respondent’s business requirements. As expected, more businesses report an impact with a longer service outage. 62% of fixed voice users report that they would experience a serious or catastrophic impact; as would 47% of VoIP users; 66% of fixed broadband users; 55% of mobile voice users; 47% of mobile broadband users and 58% of EFTPOS users.
  • Many small businesses have experienced significant customer service problems such as difficulty in contacting their provider, being on hold, getting a problem resolved or having to call multiple times. 46% of fixed voice services users; 29% of VoIP users; 32% of fixed broadband users; 33% of mobile voice users; 21% of mobile broadband users and 11% of EFTPOS users have experienced a significant customer service is
  • Common complaints have to do with the length of time on calls, hold times, having to call multiple times, and being passed between departments. Other reported issues include navigating an automated system / reaching a staff member, getting through to someone who can help, unresolved issues, billing issues, response times to fix technical or service issues, English language communication issues, service provisioning issues and lack of clear / correct information.Lorem ipsum


While the vast majority of business customers are for the most part satisfied with the overall quality of their telecommunications services, the study highlights significant customer service and complaint-handling problems. Across the various services in use, a staggering 45% of the 260 small businesses made a complaint to at least one of their providers in the past year.

While small business has clearly embraced the digital economy, Market Clarity believes that the lack of knowledge about service diversity options presents a serious business risk for many small companies. This is an area where the telecoms industry can greatly assist small business with market education and product offers that safeguard business connectivity.

Study respondents were generous in allowing use of their verbatim comments in this report. Their stories provide a compelling narrative of the small business experience.

Small Business Telecommunications Service Use and Experience is available as a free download from Market Clarity’s website.


Market Clarity’s NBN Research

At Market Clarity we spend a significant amount of our time on NBN-related research.

  • The continuing rollout of the National Broadband Network will have increasing importance to Australian businesses. To help businesses plan for their own transition to the National Broadband Network, Market Clarity is now offering an NBN Proximity Analysis service.
  • Market Clarity is able to provide a fine-grained demographic analysis of announced NBN coverage areas using data from the 2011 Census. We can also provide NBN demographic breakdowns based on customers’ own areas of interest — either using customer maps provided in a suitable GIS format, or based on datasets such as postal areas or exchange service areas. Additional information on Market Clarity’s NBN Demographic Analysis is available here.
  • A carrier-grade NBNCo Bandwidth and Price Scenario Model that provides what-if scenario planning in a dashboard setting for the various NBN cost factors underpinning wholesale, consumer and business/enterprise services. This model is in use by major carriers, and provides a basis for understanding the various factors that will underpin carrier’s consumer, enterprise and wholesale services in the NBN world.

Market Clarity is currently developing a series of white papers and seminar materials designed to help SME and enterprise organisations understand the impact that the NBN will have on their infrastructure, work force and customer base.

We’re offering our industry colleagues the opportunity to sponsor these white papers, or engage Market Clarity to conduct a series of customer briefings. Contact us for further information.


Upcoming Events

CommsDay Summit 2013

9-10 April 2013 (Sydney)


Market Clarity CEO, Shara Evans will present highlights from “Small Business Telecommunications Service Use and Experience,” which is based on interviews conducted with 260 small businesses (with less than 20 staff) across fourteen (14) vertical industry segments.

In her talk, Shara will present an analysis of small business experiences with telecommunications services, covering fixed voice, VoIP, fixed broadband, mobile voice, mobile broadband and EFTPOS services. Topics to be covered include:

  • The types of services used by small business
  • Small business use of service bundles
  • Small business service selection choices
  • Service issues: fault frequency and business impact
  • Overall service satisfaction
  • Customer service
  • Service complaints

See our Events page for more information on forthcoming events.