Running a business means taking care of numerous processes on a day-to-day basis. Whether it’s handling customer orders, product development, quality control, or one of many other tasks, these processes are necessary to keep your business running smoothly.
But, what if you could automate them? Since we’re living in the age of technology, it’s never been easier to use computers and software to handle various tasks so that your team can focus on other things. However, while automation can streamline your operations, it requires plenty of planning and oversight to get it right.
So, with that in mind, we’re going to dive into business process automation and how you can utilise it for your company. Here’s what you need to know.
What is Business Process Automation?
Business process automation to the act of using technology to perform various duties and tasks automatically, rather than relying on employees to do them. One example of an automated process could be to send a follow-up email to customers as soon as they purchase something on your website. Using software to send this email lets you ensure each customer gets a response, even if you have thousands of shoppers on your site every day.
As you can imagine, not all tasks can (or should) be automated, but most departments can benefit from this technique. That said, business process automation often works best in the sales and marketing departments. This is because the primary purpose of automation is to allow employees to focus on higher-level, customer-facing tasks instead of spending so much time on repetitive labour.
Benefits of Business Process Automation
The ability to outsource daily operations to computers and software yields some incredible advantages for your business. Let’s run down the top reasons you should invest in business process automation.
- Saves Money – You can do more work with fewer employees, saving you labor costs for a stronger bottom line. That said, some automation tools have a relatively steep learning curve, so you might have to invest more time and energy up front to get the system ready. Automation can also help you save money because you can scale your business up without adding tons more employees.
- Saves Time – The entire point of automating various business processes is to make your staff members work more efficiently. When they’re not focused on menial tasks all day, they can get more done in less time. Overall, business process automation streamlines your operations significantly.
- Reduces Human Errors – As your business grows, it’ll get harder and harder to keep up with your increasing customer base. Unfortunately, without automation, it’s easy for clients to fall through the cracks. Also, employees may accidentally perform tasks incorrectly from time to time. In some cases, these errors can compound each other and create a cascade of issues. Fortunately, computers don’t have the same problem, and they can adapt to changing situations pretty easily.
- Improves Workflows – Operational efficiency depends on high-quality workflows. Employees need to perform tasks sequentially to ensure they don’t miss anything. By incorporating business process automation, you can speed up each workflow and make it as efficient as possible. Simply put, automation can ensure your company runs like a well-oiled machine.
- Streamline Information – Data collection and analysis are crucial for businesses to stay ahead of the competition. Unfortunately, with so much information available, it’s hard to distil it into actionable insights. Thankfully, business automation allows managers and executives to understand data more easily because the software can deliver it more efficiently in bite-sized packages. Overall, it’s easier to make decisions and adjust workflows based on data, not insight.
How to Choose the Right Business Automation Tool
While business process automation can benefit your company, not all tools are built the same. Also, you have to be strategic about where you deploy these programs. As we mentioned, not everything can or should be automated within your operations. So, you have to figure out how to blend software and human workers seamlessly.
So, with that in mind, here are some top tips on choosing the right automation tool for your business.
Identify the Need
The first step is writing down individual workflows for each department. For example, you can outline your standard sales funnel from lead collection to closing a deal. Once you do that, you can pinpoint specific tasks that can benefit from automation. For example, perhaps you can automate the organisation of your subscriber lists. Rather than having a person sift through your lists manually, a program can filter subscribers according to various triggers (i.e., clicking an email link). Usually, automation works best for simple and repetitive tasks.
Running a business means using a wide array of programs to achieve various goals. For example, perhaps you have one system to handle emails and another to process transactions. Maybe your sales team uses one app while your operations team uses another. As you pinpoint elements that can be automated, you have to figure out how different programs can work together. Fortunately, integration tools like Zapier can help facilitate this transition.
Ease of Use
As mentioned, automation typically requires a substantial upfront investment of time, money, and energy. So, while you’ll eventually make your operations run smoother than ever, you have to take the time to build a solid foundation first. One area where you could encounter issues is how your employees use the software. Typically, onboarding can be lengthy, particularly if you have tech-averse workers. Overall, you want to choose software with a low entry bar so that it’s easier for everyone to adopt it quickly.
As you use your automation tools, you’ll invariably run into hiccups and setbacks. When that happens, you need to be able to talk with the app’s support team to resolve these issues as quickly as possible. When comparing different tools, be sure to ask questions and utilize the support staff before making a final decision. Also, if the software comes with a free trial period, take advantage so you won’t run into any problems later on.
Different Types of Business Processes That Can Be Automated
Once you start seeing how business process automation can help your company, you’ll want to start using it everywhere. However, these are the departments where automation can have the most significant impact.
One way to make your operations more manageable is to break things down into projects. Automation is essential for project management because it ensures that everyone involved stays focused and on target. Automated tasks can also speed up deadlines so that you can complete more projects throughout the year. For example, the software can notify project managers as employees complete objectives so that there’s no downtime between tasks.
Two of the most common project management processes are Kanban and Gantt. If you’re unfamiliar with these methods, they can potentially help increase your productivity significantly. By automating these methods, it’s easier for your employees to adopt them and succeed.
Branding and Marketing
Marketing is an essential part of any business. Fortunately, business process automation can help you get more from each campaign. Here’s a rundown of some of the ways that automation can help with your branding and marketing.
- Logo Makers – Instead of hiring a graphic designer or team to develop your company’s logo, you can now use AI-based logo design services that enable you to get high-quality, high-resolution designs in minutes, not days or weeks. Plus, you can create as many different ones as you like based on your changing needs.
- Email Marketing – Automation is essential to manage multiple email lists. Trying to have employees curate these lists regularly would be impossible. Automation allows you to send more emails and update your lists based on user behaviour. This efficiency ensures you can get more from your campaigns and promote your brand identity faster.
- Collaboration – Unfortunately, most businesses experience a disconnect between their marketing and sales teams. This disconnect can lead to confusion about different promotions, creating a negative view of the brand from the customer’s perspective. Fortunately, automation tools make it easier than ever for these teams to work together to create cohesive marketing strategies and campaigns.
Even if your business has a dedicated customer service team, automated tools can make it easier to interact with clients. The faster and more efficient you are with these interactions, the more satisfied your audience. Some typical customer service automation processes can include:
- Chatbots – It’s not realistic to have someone on hand 24 hours a day if a customer has a question or complaint. Fortunately, chatbots allow you to respond to clients in real-time without the extra cost of having agents field calls and messages all day and night. Bots can answer simple questions or direct customers to the correct department, making it easier to deliver accurate results.
- Phone and Chat Menus – In many cases, customer service reps spend much of their time figuring out what the customer needs. But, with automated menus, individuals can direct themselves to the correct department to get faster results. That said, it’s crucial to make the menus as straightforward as possible to prevent confusion.
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM) – If someone buys from your business repeatedly, you need to build an account for them[ so your sales team can look at their past order history. CRM tools empower your reps to engage with customers more deeply, so they’re more willing to stay loyal to your brand. Also, automated tools can send reminders to refill orders, thank you messages after a purchase, and more. This attention to detail makes customers come back again and again.
Although social media sites make it easier (and more affordable) to promote your business, managing multiple accounts requires a lot of time and effort. Fortunately, automation tools enable your marketing team to stay on top of posts and engagements by building a social media calendar. These programs allow employees to draft posts ahead of time, post to multiple profiles at once, and see what interactions are occurring on each platform. Without these tools, social media management can quickly become a full-time job.
Taking care of your employees is a crucial part of running a business. Thankfully, there are tons of HR tasks you can automate, such as:
- Onboarding and Training Procedures – Employees can follow instructions within an automated course instead of working directly with an HR rep.
- Benefits Management – Even if you have a relatively small staff, tracking and maintaining individual benefits can be challenging. Automated tools empower reps to send reminders, keep track of benefits usage, and more.
- Timekeeping and Payroll – The more employees you have, the more time you can spend tracking hours for mistakes or fraudulent behaviour. Instead, it’s much easier to let a program do everything for you.
How much of your sales rep’s time is spent closing deals with clients? Unfortunately, it’s likely not as much as you might think. According to some data, the estimate is about 35 percent. Automation tools can assist with various tasks, such as:
- Lead Generation – Harvest new leads using software, not labour hours. Tools can cultivate new leads from a wide range of sources.
- Invoicing and Proposals – Templates make it easier to send new invoices and proposals to clients. Instead of building these elements from scratch, the rep just has to enter a few details, and it’s ready to go.
- Follow-Up Messages – If a rep is talking with multiple clients simultaneously, it’s hard to keep track of where everyone is in the pipeline. Automated tools can send messages and reminders both to the rep and the customer so that no one falls through the cracks.
As you can see, business process automation can help virtually every aspect of your business. Overall, the goal is not to replace workers but to make them work more efficiently. With so many tools at your disposal, it’s easier than ever to build a strong, productive bottom line.