What is the most important tool that you use for your business? A new survey of executives in small and midsized companies suggests it’s not your printers, your copiers or even your desktop computers. It’s your smartphone.

The survey of 260 business decision makers, commissioned by Microsoft, found that seven in 10 agreed that the smartphone is their most important business tool. Unfortunately, however, more than 80 percent use it only to check email. Smartphones are much smarter than that. Executives can call on today’s smartphone to serve as a communications system, computer, camera, presentation device, payment service and GPS.

Just about anything you can do from your desk or on the road can be accomplished with a smartphone, which hundreds of businesses in Atlanta are using to streamline communications with customers and provide remote working capabilities. They are dramatically reducing travel time and cost, as well as paperwork and administrative expenses.

Any business owner who has taken the time to check understands that consumers rely on smartphones, laptop computers and other mobile devices to research, locate and communicate with their favorite businesses. Yet, according to the Microsoft study, more than half of those surveyed are not using any type of mobile marketing to reach the devices that consumers are holding all day long, missing out on an eager audience.

Owners of small and midsized businesses should consider three approaches to capitalizing on mobile devices and the marketplace’s stampede toward mobile communications:

  1. Think internal. How can mobile technology improve your company’s day-to-day functions, such as reporting, invoicing and team collaboration? You may be surprised at the possible impact. When First Choice Home & Hospice Care of Utah began using Windows Phone 7 smartphones to allow clinical staff to file paperwork remotely and in real time, the company saved $500,000 annually in labor and travel costs. Staff spent far less time traveling to the office to file papers, needed less time to enter patient records into the system and improved patient care.
  2. Consider customers. Mobile technology can go a long way toward improving customer service response time. When you can use your mobile device to discover issues as soon as they pop up on Twitter or Facebook, you’re able to respond immediately to those following the conversation. Similarly, with remote access to all your customer records from your business laptop, you can immediately research and respond to customer issues from anywhere in the world, at any time.
  3. Maximize mobile’s potential. Get to know the mobile device you’re using and take advantage of its full potential, from presenting to banking and from finding your way on the road to having your say online.

You can learn more ways to go mobile by visiting www.microsoftbusinesshub.com. It may be your smartest move of the day.