Ricoh Europe: why digital is the key to competitiveness

David Mills, CEO, Ricoh Europe
- Leadership - Nov 24, 2016

Humans have studied space for thousands of years, but it literally took rocket science to get us there. Europe’s mid-sized businesses (MSBs) need a similar gain in technology to realise their astronomical goals.

New Ricoh research into Europe’s mid-market found that sourcing and funding the right technology was one of the biggest barriers to growth. Cut off from the support offered to start-ups and expected to compete with larger enterprises, many MSBs suffer from ‘Middle Child Syndrome’.

We found that 30 percent of MSBs are yet to deploy digital technologies with the specific aim of scaling up to become big brands.

Technology helps MSBs both with their customers and with their employees. When we asked them to list the main benefits from digital, improved customer service was the top result (36 percent). This was closely followed by increased employee productivity (32 percent). Attracting top talent (27 percent) was the biggest challenge for MSBs, after complex regulations.

So where to begin?

Improved customer service & communication

Many larger organisations are formed out of mergers or acquisitions between mid-sized businesses. Indeed, 27 percent of MSBs are looking to participate in M&A activity in the next two years. This process is hard enough, but it’s critical that customers aren’t left stranded as firms hurry to connect the different platforms used by each company.

Information must be consolidated quickly and seamlessly. This allows firms to analyse the data and glean useful insights. It also ensures communications remain targeted and personalised.

As companies grow, it can be tough to retain that high level of service with resources spread thin. But tools exist to ensure that engaging customer communications are cost-effective. With 70 percent of companies looking to move into new markets in the next two years, a reputation for excellent customer service is vital.

Increased employee productivity

A key benefit of modern technology is the ability to efficiently store, process and communicate information. Customers and stakeholders expect quick and accurate services these days. This cannot be achieved at scale without the implementation of digital tools.

Employee productivity is an important outcome for MSBs. Almost a third (32 percent) of firms that have implemented digital technology have already seen an improvement.

Digital tools improve productivity in two ways. First, they facilitate the free movement of information throughout the company. This ensures employees can access it easily and focus on delivering personalised service. Second, they help streamline workflows while minimising waste and costs.

Desirable employer brand

A major challenge MSBs face is attracting top talent. 65 percent of MSBs claimed that they struggle with this as many prospective employees would rather work with big brands. Alarmingly, 58 percent of firms reported that they struggled to attract top graduates because they haven’t deployed the latest digital tools.

If MSBs are to attract the best talent, they must offer them the best tools to be as productive as possible. This includes offering technology comparable to the leaders in their fields. The increasing employee demand for flexible working can only be met with the right digital processes.

Italian bank Cassa di Risparmio di Volterra experienced the growing pains typical of the mid-market. Before working with Ricoh's Communication Services team, the cost of maintaining quality customer service across its expanding network of branches effectively prohibited further growth.

“We recognised the need to invest in a solution which reduced our cost per branch as we grew and increased value by providing remote expertise,” said  Eugenio Fortunio  COO of Cassa di Risparmio di Volterra.

“Once installed, the new 'virtual-communication-point' technology let customers video-chat to our HQ-based experts remotely and helped employees share information and collaborate. This saved crucial time and the expense of an on-site expert. It also allowed us to continue investing elsewhere in our expansion.”

The need to digitise is fast becoming synonymous with remaining competitive. And digitalisation must start with the leader of the company. 76 percent of those polled say MSBs need “a defined, long-term vision” for digital success.  And 77 percent say they need “a clear plan” to execute it.

MSB leaders have lots on their agendas. Managing today’s growth and investing for tomorrow are key responsibilities. To keep growing and take their company to the next level, they must prioritise technology. It’s digitalisation that will help them overcome the problems of “Middle Child Syndrome”.

By David Mills, CEO, Ricoh Europe

Read the November 2016 issue of Business Review Europe magazine. 

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