Business and Enterprise | Small Business |

Why the digitisation of Small Business is now urgent – not just important

By Michael Ackland July 31, 2020

If COVID-19 taught us anything, it has been how to rapidly respond to change. With online spending skyrocketing in recent months, Australia’s small-to-medium businesses must respond to this change in customer behaviour in order to take advantage of the ‘new normal’.

The COVID inflection point for digitisation

Make no mistake: Australian businesses in all shapes and sizes are at an inflection point, with the data telling a truly remarkable story. Unemployment has risen rapidly, and 1 in 10 small to medium businesses are no longer trading due to COVID-19. Those that have survived are reporting serious concerns, with 80 per cent of small to medium businesses expecting adverse impacts to their operations in the next two months.

Small business owners have always told us that one of the biggest barriers to getting their operations online was the time required. Owner-operators are typically so invested in doing the day to day that they don’t have the time to digitise their business. But now that COVID-19 has driven legions of shoppers online, driving a digital strategy for small business is not just important – it’s urgent. Especially considering we’re seeing Australian consumers actively looking to support local businesses in their area.

New data from Venture Insights indicates that 70 per cent of Australian consumers now consciously support local businesses, but many indicate that they are hamstrung by a lack of online presence. Businesses that go digital also reap near-immediate rewards, with our research showing that boosted technology spending leads to revenue that is three times faster than those who don’t invest in technology.

There are clearly huge opportunities for small to medium businesses in Australia to go digital during this time.

Driving digitisation

To capture these post-COVID consumer dollars, businesses must seize the opportunity of e-commerce as much as possible because those that have adapted well have put technology right at the centre of their business.

Businesses that have managed to rapidly digitise during lockdown have told us that tech and telecom services are now more important than they had been in a pre-COVID world. Connected, always-on tech is now being used by small businesses to create new experiences for customers and new ways of doing business.

There’s no doubt that it’s going to continue to be hard for many to adapt. Previous barriers to adoption such as time pressure or complexity are still as relevant as ever, but the urgency has increased. Video, remote connectivity and e-commerce must now be the watchwords of the successful post-COVID SMB.

One such business adapting successfully is Kalleske Wines. Situated in South Australia’s Barossa Valley, Kalleske relied heavily on physical presence at its winery, restaurant and cellar door to do business. When COVID-19 hit, Kalleske had the radical idea to take the fundamental features of a winery and put it online, adapting and digitising its operation rapidly to stay open.

It started to offer mixed six- and 12-packs of wine with accompanying videos and downloadable resources for customers to learn more about the wine. Furthermore, it replaced its Cellar Door experience with Facebook Live sessions in conjunction with a local industry group to continue tour and information sessions. Private tastings were held via video conference, with customers being sent new 100mL sample sizes to try the wine during the session.

Kalleske has told us that they’ll almost certainly continue all of these initiatives in the future to ensure that customers who would rather not travel can still take advantage of what their business has to offer.

It’s not an easy road out of COVID-19, but with resilience and ingenuity, many SMBs will be able to adapt to changing consumer behaviour and provide more remote working opportunities for their employees. Ultimately though, there is no going back.

COVID-19 represents a fundamental opportunity to capture not only a new wave of online shoppers, but also for SMBs to digitise their operations.

As the backbone of the Australian economy it is now incumbent upon all of us to get behind small business and help them grow. However, moving past these challenges (toward a new normal) and moving back into growth requires time and support, which many SMBs don’t currently have.

So we have made some small but significant changes to help them thrive:

  • To give you peace of mind about staying connected to your business operations over the coming months, we’re providing unlimited data allowances on fixed broadband free of charge for our small business customers until 30 September.
  • We’re offering small business customers a $50 credit for 6 months when connecting a new fixed internet service on the $100 Business Internet Unlimited plan with a $25 Business Calling Pack, until 31 August. This is a great offer providing more value to our Business Internet Plans to help small business to thrive again.
  • We’re offering small businesses access to our new Digital Marketing Services website plans at half the regular cost, until 31 August. We’ll help you create or update your website and if needed, open an online store.
  • We’ll be on hand to assist you in creating business listings for Google My Business, Apple Maps and Facebook Business. For our existing customers, we will automatically apply 50 per cent off your Telstra Digital Marketing or Telstra Online Essentials website subscription charge.
  • If you’re missing any equipment to work from home, Telstra’s Mobile Worksuite gives you the data, software, devices and support you need to get you and your team working remotely smoothly.
  • We continue to monitor the situation closely while working closely with regulators and the government. Our absolute focus remains on team wellbeing, supporting our customers and playing our part in the national response.
  • Find out more details about how we’re supporting small businesses through COVID-19.
Business and Enterprise | Small Business |

Supporting small businesses through COVID-19

By Michael Ackland April 8, 2020

Updated July 8, 2020

Many small businesses across Australia are feeling the impacts of COVID-19. Australian small businesses are agile; we’ve always admired that about them, and we’ll see many of them adapt. But it’s important that the rest of Australia also gets behind them to support them through this challenging time. We’re showing our support by helping them adjust in a number of ways.

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Navigating financial difficulty

To give you peace of mind about staying connected to your business operations over the coming months, we’re providing unlimited data allowances on fixed broadband free of charge for our small business customers until 30 September.

If you’re a small business and a supplier of ours, we will also make sure we pay your invoices as quickly as we can. We recently announced we’re moving to 20-day payment terms by 30 June for all our suppliers who are small businesses, charities, indigenous organisations and disability enterprises.

Adapt and keep going

Doing business doesn’t look the same for many of us right now, so our aim is to help small businesses through this difficult period by assisting if you need to ramp up your digital presence.

We’re offering small businesses access to our new Digital Marketing Services website plans at half the regular cost, until 31 August. We’ll help you create or update your website and if needed, open an online store. We’ll be on hand to assist you in creating business listings for Google My Business, Apple Maps and Facebook Business. For our existing customers, we will automatically apply 50 per cent off your Telstra Digital Marketing or Telstra Online Essentials website subscription charge.

If you’re missing any equipment to work from home, Telstra’s Mobile Worksuite gives you the data, software, devices and support you need to get you and your team working remotely smoothly.

We continue to monitor the situation closely while working closely with regulators and the government. Our absolute focus remains on team wellbeing, supporting our customers and playing our part in the national response.

Additional support with business hibernation

As we see more and more businesses shutting their doors due to COVID-19 restrictions, we want to play our part in helping small businesses to hibernate and get through this difficult time. We’re offering small businesses with a 10-digit account number who have had to cease trading the option to suspend their fixed business services.

Further details and eligibility can be found on the Telstra website . Eligible customers can take up this offer by logging into Your Telstra Tools and submitting a Service Suspension request.

Once the suspension is applied, customers won’t be charged for their fixed service provided they don’t use it. The service suspension will remain in place until further notice and Telstra will provide customers with 30 days’ notice of when the suspension offer and suspensions will end.

Additionally, customers can also divert their affected fixed business phone service/s to another fixed or mobile service of their choice, regardless of the carrier, at no cost for the period the suspension is active. Once you have applied to suspend your services, you will be sent instructions via your registered email address on how to forward your calls.

Things you need to know:

  • Account suspensions will not be backdated.
  • Should a customer use their fixed service while it has been suspended, the suspension will be removed, and they will be billed for that month.
  • Offer is not available for Telstra mobile services, items purchased on a repayment option and Telstra Business Tech Support or Telstra Business Digital Marketing Services.
Business and Enterprise |

Remote work: how to get off to a strong start in 8 steps

By Campbell Simpson April 2, 2020

Preparing your organisation for remote working can feel like a big challenge. And this challenge is only amplified if remote working has become critical due to unusual circumstances or if many employees are new to working from home.

Here’s a simple step-by-step guide to some of the important areas to cover off when setting up a remote workforce:

Communication. Good communication and transparency are crucial to the ongoing success of any remote-work scenario. In initially setting up staff for remote work, email is probably the best tool. But you could also establish communication via the company’s intranet or through collaborative platforms such as Slack.

Assessment. Encourage your employees to fill out individual assessments on how prepared they are to work remotely. You should include a question about whether they have a suitable workspace at home. This information will allow your organisation to plan for and assign who should work remotely. In some cases, it may be more appropriate for staff to take staggered days in the office rather than to have everyone working remotely at once.

Induction. Introducing employees to remote-working setup and conditions can be similar to “onboarding” new employees. Create a set of guidelines including expectations and FAQs. If the remote-working situation is likely to be temporary, even if you don’t know for how long, plan regular updates and communicate these too.

Hardware. Depending on the nature of your organisation, you may either need to equip workers with laptops, mobile phones and printers, or assess the suitability of those already in place – whether they belong to the company or the employee. Other hardware considerations include headsets, microphones, noise-cancelling headphones and cameras (for videoconferencing).

Software. You’ll need collaboration and file-sharing tools to manage jobs and workflow. Again, communication is key, so everyone knows which systems to use and for what purpose. Provide robust guidelines around file-sharing covering issues such as version control, file-naming conventions and where to save shared files. The IT department plays a central role in this aspect of procedural planning.

Passwords, security and backups. All remote workers will need to know their passwords, especially if they need to switch between computers and other devices. Remote workers will also need to have any required software installed on their devices and have access to internal systems, such as the company’s HR platform. Most cloud-based work-sharing programs offer some capacity but if backups are crucial to your business, bring it to the attention of your IT team. Remote working presents corporate security issues, so check that your IT team has safeguards in place.

Workflow. Once your remote workers are established, ongoing challenges will revolve around workflow and inclusion. It’s easy for remote workers to feel out of the loop. They also need clear guidelines as to what they should be working on and when. Depending on your team structure and the nature of your business, useful touchpoints include regular check-ins, sticking to scheduled team meetings, daily “scrums”, phone calls and video conferencing.

Flexibility. It helps to keep an open mind and build a bit of flexibility into your remote working ethos. If the situation is temporary, teams may have to be more versatile than usual; for example, flexible working hours may be necessary if your team is juggling childcare, illness or time-zone differences.

Contact your Telstra Client Executive today to discover how we can help you with business continuity planning.

Business and Enterprise | Telstra News |

How businesses are using connectivity to combat COVID-19

By Michael Ebeid AM March 30, 2020

The words “unprecedented and uncertain” seem to be used a lot lately, but they truly do describe our current environment. It’s being felt in every facet of our lives – from home, to work, to the checkout. One thing that is certain though is the enduring, innovative and collegiate spirit within our government agency and business community, as we all work together to ensure they can continue to provide their services to customers and clients during this period of disruption.

We’ve been working hard to deliver some innovative business continuity solutions to our Enterprise customers who, like all of us, are working out the best COVID-19 workarounds.

Connect and collaborate with video

Video conferencing is an excellent way to stay connected and present with your teams if you need to move to remote operations. Our virtual teams across Australia do this every day for meetings as well as larger scale events. Telstra is holding weekly live streams to thousands of our workforce simultaneously and conduct Q&A.

South Australian Premier Steven Marshall and Education Minister John Gardner recently hosted a webinar with more than 800 school principals and more than 250 pre-school directors from our Adelaide Telstra office.

Using our video conferencing facilities, the South Australian Government was able to talk directly to the state’s education leaders to discuss health and safety protocols, social distancing and other practical measures.

Coronavirus update for education leaders

It's fair to say that many parents and teachers are worried about what coronavirus means for their school communities. A short while ago I held a webinar with hundreds of school principals to discuss health and safety protocols, social distancing and other practical measures. Keeping our education leaders informed is just another part of our plan to minimise the impact of coronavirus in South Australia.

Posted by Steven Marshall on Monday, 16 March 2020

Working remotely

Times like this reveal the power, capability and flexibility of allowing your teams to work remotely, particularly to ensure business continuity.

Over two weeks ago, Telstra moved to full working from home (WFH) arrangements for all our Australian office-based staff, to ensure we were flexible and ready to adapt to this evolving situation and maintain our focus on the essential role we play in connecting Australians. While WFH is something many of us in Telstra already take advantage of, it’s a brave new world for many other businesses and agencies who are facing a similar remote working situation, but it’s one they’ve proved eager to explore with us. I’m in my third week WFH now and there is so much to navigate before you even get to the technology and connections, but you have to get that right first.

Remote working requires the right gear for your people as well as the necessary infrastructure. Over the past week or so we have rolled out hardware including tablets, mobile routers and headsets, as well as a suite of software and network capacity upgrades and tech support to a large number of our enterprise customers. We’ve recently assisted government departments as well as businesses in the health and energy sector, enabling thousands of staff to now work from home and continue to serve their customers and clients.

Remote access can also benefit your customers or clients. We’re working with the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) to develop an online solution for approximately 4,000 students currently stuck overseas due to COVID-19 restrictions, allowing them to access educational resources and course content material.

Dialling up cloud-based call centres

Connectivity, combined with the right cloud-based solutions can make your operations location agnostic, giving you and your workforce the freedom and flexibility to operate offsite when needed.

The ever-changing and escalating COVID-19 situation has resulted in a number of agencies and businesses preparing to stand up special virtual call centres in case their call taking employees can’t access their physical sites. This includes Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services which operate some of the largest call centres in Australia.

Working with a number of our partners, we were able to set up a 100 “seat” contact centre in a matter of hours, ready to go if needed. This virtual centre can be accessed by staff over the web, allowing them to make and take phone calls almost anywhere.

Are you prepared?

As your organisation goes through a large shift in the way it normally carries out business, it is important to consider where changes will have the most impact.

Consideration should be given to:

  • How will you communicate with staff?
  • Are employees able to work from home and access all the systems they need?
  • Do employees already have the necessary devices and technologies to work from home?
  • Are there alternative locations that employees can work safely, if not from home?
  • Has there been any load testing on remote access capabilities to allow for increased remote access workloads?
  • Have you been in contact with your critical service providers for continuity assurance?
  • Are there alternative methods considered for critical roles if their home Internet access should fail or become over-subscribed (e.g. alternate networks through 4G wireless routers)?
  • Have all systems been licensed to support remote access capability?
  • Has the process been tested in part or whole?

Business continuity pre-planning is essential for maintaining the well-being of your people and your business during these uncertain times. As the Prime Minster has said, we are likely to live with COVID-19 for six months, which means these new working arrangements need to be robust and our “new normal” for the time being.

Talk to your Telstra Client Executive if your business is unsure where to start or needs help strategising your business continuity plan, or increased capacity and bringing it all to life to ensure your business continues to thrive.

Business and Enterprise | Small Business | Small Business |

Keeping volunteer firefighters on track with Account Management Support

By Luke Hopewell March 10, 2020

When you run a business, you don’t want anything to derail your progress. Even the smallest issue can cause problematic ripples for your day-to-day activities. So when Amy’s dad was working with the NSW Rural Fire Service over Kempsey late last year and his data service stopped working, he needed answers fast.

Amy’s dad is a 30-year pilot. He learned to fly while raising three kids and supporting his family in New South Wales. When he’s not flying with the Rural Fire Service as a volunteer pilot, he’s complaining about who left the lights on around the house and reminding his family who pays the electricity bill.

As part of his business, he connects with Telstra.

But like all things, sometimes he encounters snags and minor issues that need to be solved fast. When he was flying as part of recent firefighting operations, he found one such snag.

Because connectivity is so vital to Amy’s dad, he’s a user of our small business Account Management Support service.

We know that business owners are time-poor. All your energy should go into looking after your customers and improving your operations, not spent on the phone to your suppliers, on hold or in a queue in-store. Our small business Account Management Support gives you more time to look after your business, while we handle your communication and technology needs and account queries.

This service comes at no extra cost, for every single one of our small business customers, irrespective of their size or the number of services they have. Whether you’re a work from home sole trader or have a more complex business with multiple staff across multiple sites, your account with us just got more personal.

In fact, since we launched the service last year, our Account Management team has provided assistance through more than 1 million calls from Telstra customers.

While Amy’s dad is pretty tech-savvy, the Account Management Support service gave Amy and her dad extra peace of mind, knowing they could call on help if they ever needed it.

When his data SIM card went out while he was working with the Rural Fire Service, she knew the issue needed a quick resolution. That’s when Mac swooped in to fight this proverbial fire. Mac works as part of our dedicated Account Management team.

When you call or talk to us with a question or an issue with your account, you’ll reach a team of dedicated business specialists that are accountable for resolving your queries from start to finish. We have a dedicated number – 132 000 – for small businesses, connecting you with our Account Management team with extended support hours of 8AM-9PM every day of the week – so you can concentrate on running your business during its opening hours.

When you call us, the small business expert you speak to will be responsible for navigating the complexities of any issue. You can also opt in to our text-back service, which will give you regular updates on the status of your request.

Amy’s dad called her when his data service stopped working, and Amy was straight on the phone to our Account Management Support team. She says that Mac was able to immediately diagnose the issue as a mismatched SIM card serial number on the account, and immediately reregister the SIM cards for active service.

Amy said that she was eternally grateful that Mac could fix this issue. “Any other company would have just told my Dad to go into a local store to fix the issue in person, but while he’s flying a helicopter fighting fires, he can’t exactly park anywhere, y’know?”

“Mac asked the right questions, and quickly understood exactly what had happened to the SIM, and in no time at all, Mac had put out the biggest fire of all today and got the service working again,” Amy said.

She tells me if she could speak to Mac again, she’d want him to know that he’d had “a magnificent impact potentially saving animals, homes and even lives”. “A simple request to reactivate a SIM card is something these guys can do standing on their head, and it has an incredible impact and really helps get the job done,” she adds.

Find out more about our small business dedicated Account Management Support team.