Small business owner. Photo courtesy Small Business Administration

Small businesses are the backbone of the U.S. economy, and San Diego is a city driven by small businesses.

America’s Finest City has been named by Forbes as the best city to launch a startup, and ranked by Entrepreneur magazine as number one for “booming entrepreneurship.” We’ve earned our reputation as a small business haven, too: 98 percent of San Diego employers are small businesses, and 64 percent of San Diego firms employ fewer than five people.

But in order for these glowing accolades to keep coming, our booming startups and other small businesses need to consider how the latest business tech can help drive their organization.

If you haven’t thought too hard about how to adapt your existing technology to meet current needs, don’t sweat (we know you’re busy). Small Business Week, which began Sunday, is a time to honor the small businesses that drive every level of our country’s economy. But in order for them to continue attracting talent and grow all year long, there’s some important tech that small businesses need to help them with customer service, cyber security and disaster recovery.

High-Speed Internet is The Lifeline of Any Business

This seems like I’m stating the obvious, but businesses today must have a reliable Internet connection with the speed and capabilities that their business requires. Business apps and software are increasingly hosted online, rather than installed on a desktop or laptop computer. Unreliable high-speed Internet service means lots of hidden costs and hours of added stress. Plus, if you own a brick-and-mortar business, more consumers expect businesses to provide complimentary wifi access as part of the customer experience.

It’s All About Security

From surveillance to cyber security, it’s critical that all of your assets, both physical and digital, are protected. Smart security systems that you can access from your smartphone give brick-and-mortar business owners peace of mind, while strong cyber solutions are a must for any business. In fact, cyber attacks are on the rise, and small businesses are especially vulnerable because they have fewer resources and, in many instances, lack an Information Technology department trained to deal with data breaches. Seventy-five percent of small businesses have no disaster recovery plan in place, and 40 to 60 percent of small businesses that lose access to operational systems and data without a disaster recovery plan end up closing their doors forever.

Know Where and How People Are Buying—Change Is Happening Fast

First of all, I guarantee both your existing customers and potential customers are more reliant than ever before on searching for products, services, and news through voice-enabled technology. It’s important for your business to “appear” in voice searches, and the way to do that is through effective search engine optimization, or SEO. Optimize your website content through voice search, and more people will know who you are and how to connect with you.

Second, remember social media platforms aren’t just for your communications anymore. People are increasingly shopping for goods through their social media apps, such as Instagram and Facebook, and skipping links to your website entirely. This generates instant sales for you and reaches your customers exactly where they are. Additionally, social media (particularly Twitter) is increasingly the primary way many audiences now expect to reach customer service.

Finally, I recommend that you get “smart” on artificial intelligence. AI offers greater personalization of the customer experience through automation (think about the customer service chats that you’ve interacted with before). Humans have limited bandwidth, and sometimes small businesses have limited staff. Learning how to use this technology for your business can help your customers resolve challenges with your product or service more quickly, saving you labor, saving your customer frustration, and providing a valuable source of information on what’s working and what isn’t.

Adapting to new technology can seem daunting, but breaking it down into simple steps ensures that you’re always one step ahead of your customers—and won’t be left behind.

Jared Ruth is the director of product & marketing at Cox Business. He has nearly two decades of experience in the telecommunications field with an emphasis in sales and marketing.

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