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07 Nov

Unless you’ve been completely out of touch recently it probably won’t have escaped your notice that interest rates have gone up. Or at least the Bank of England has raised its base rate to 0.5%, signalling the way for other institutions to follow suit.

Depending on your news source of preference, it has to be said that some of the headlines announcing the base rate rise were somewhat alarming. Yes this is the first rate rise in ten years, but it only puts us back to the 0.5% rate which ran from March 2009 up to August 2016. And if you’re looking at a ten year pattern then it’s probably going to be a while until we get back to the 5.75% base rate which was in operation in November 2007, let alone the 7.25% rate seen in November 1997. At least that’s the signal coming from the Bank of England’s monetary policy committee (MPC) which in their report which was released alongside the base rate announcement said that they expect future rises “to be at a gradual pace and to a limited extent.”

Whilst the decision to raise rates sends out a signal, analysts are indicating that the overall effect on borrowers and savers will be fairly limited. However, that’s not to say that those with borrowings should ignore the rate rise; nor should they set aside the potential impact of future rises, however low and slow they turn out to be. So perhaps now is the time to respond to those signals and, particularly with the end of the year fast approaching, take a look at overall business costs and operating methods. Not only will any cost savings identified help to offset interest rate rises, in the short term they can be used to reduce business borrowing, helping organisations to look forward to a bright and slightly less expensive 2018.

It is surprising how cost and efficiency savings can come from the simplest of changes to existing processes. Take business telephony for example. When your phone system is operating smoothly it is all too easy to take it for granted; and yet if you haven’t sat down and reviewed your telephony processes in the last few years then you probably aren’t maximising the opportunities which are available.

  • How are calls answered, do you really need to follow that manual transfer process or could a simple tweak direct calls automatically to the right area?
  • When someone isn’t at their desk do calls simply ring out, potentially losing custom, or are there automated processes in place to switch calls to alternate numbers, to a virtual assistant, or to an answering service?
  • Are you using the right mix of local, national and international numbers in order to attract potential customers; and are you optimising the revenue/benefit matrix through the use of freephone, standard rate and premium rate services?
  • Do you analyse your call data in order to identify patterns which can lead to further cost savings? For example, simple queries about opening hours or prices could be switched to an automated response service, thereby saving employee time.

Ask yourself these questions and more and you may well find ample opportunity for ongoing efficiencies. Some of these may lead to direct cost savings, whilst others will free up employee time or simply make it more attractive for potential customers to call. And with the Bank of England not only being concerned about the effects of inflation but also areas such as low productivity, we may well find that dialling up telephone efficiencies could lead to increased productivity; delivering a double win not only for business but also for the country.


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