The program will honor small businesses that instill the spirit of innovation and apply information technology to improve the customer experience. Selection of the winner will be announced at the NFIB's national small business summit to be held in Washington, D.C. on June 16.
The winner will receive $20,000 in technology from Dell; a "Day with Dell" program with Dell experts, including Michael Dell, to share best practices in technology; a lifetime membership to NFIB; and other prizes. Nine finalists will receive a Dell Latitude notebook computer and a one-year membership to the NFIB.
If you are an owner, president, or chief executive of a small company and have driven a significant change and/or developed a competitive advantage in delivering superior customer value and experience, Dell wants to hear your story about how technology has helped you improve customer relationships. Purchases of Dell equipment are not required to enter, but a little brand partisanship probably won't hurt your chances.
In a press conference held yesterday to introduce the contest, Michael Dell, chairman and chief executive officer, said he knows first-hand about how providing a superior customer experience can grow a business.
"Twenty years ago, as a small business, we introduced the direct sales model, with a singular focus on listening to customers and working hard to get them exactly what they need," Dell said. "This approach has been instrumental in our growth. Our partnership with NFIB gives us an opportunity to highlight the successes of small businesses through the award program."
This is a new annual awards program that is designed to embody the spirit of small business a spirit that analysts predict will lift the U.S. out of its economic slumber.
"Small businesses fuel our economy and their success is essential to the productivity of the nation," said NFIB President and CEO Jack Faris. "Small business are feeling very optimistic; our research shows small-business optimism is at the fourth highest level it's been at in our 25 year history."
Faris added that small-business hiring plans are also strong. "One-in-five of our members is planning to hire and expand their business soon, " he said. "Tax cuts hit customers' wallets in July and cash registers on Main Street have been ringing ever since. Substantial job creation is about to get underway."
Frank Muehleman, senior vice president and general manager of Dell's small and medium business division, said small businesses are set to go through a major technology refresh in 2004.
"Today small businesses are in a position to take advantage of tomorrows technology," Muehleman said. "Systems purchased prior to Y2K are growing antiquated. Older PCs typically have higher support costs because they can't handle the demands of new applications. SMBs work out the economics and see they can actually decrease end use issues and power costs at the same time. PC replacement ensures that small businesses can run the latest applications to help increase productivity while reducing IT costs."
Muehleman said the IT industry is expecting to see tremendous growth for notebook computers in the U.S. and small business will be leading the charge. Interestingly, industry analysts forecast that notebook computer sales will overtake desktop PCs by 2007. Another bright spot of IT growth is in storage, which Muehleman said is benefiting from decreased costs as standard-based storage technologies have evolved.
"Mid-size businesses are deploying more sophisticated storage systems such as storage area networks (SANs) technology once reserved for big businesses with big IT budgets," Muehleman said. "And network-attached storage (NAS) devices are now much more economical for smaller businesses. They connect directly to existing networks NAS devices can be installed and running in 15-minites with little no IT experience and no network downtime."
To be considered for the Dell/NFIB Small Business Excellence in Customer Experience Award, small businesses must show how they have used information technology to improve the way they deal with their customers or how a new technology has been leveraged to deliver superior customer service. Entries should include customer case studies. Submissions will be accepted online until March 31, 2004.
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