For a long time, companies have been treating automation as an afterthought. It wasn’t that they didn’t want to adopt it. They were just afraid of change or hadn’t made time to learn more about it.
Why should you make automation a primary goal instead of an afterthought? Well, let’s start by looking at what automation can do for your business.
Automation eliminates the tedious, repetitive work that employees are having a hard time letting go of. It reduces the chance of error and allows employees to focus their energies on being creative and critical.
AKA on growing your business!
Having an automation mindset means that the company saves money in the process, which is what everyone wants. Including you, right?
A productive and efficient company is the goal of every entrepreneur. Being able to do more while providing quality services or products should be a priority for every business.
Technology makes all this easier, while automation helps companies and businesses achieve their goals.
Technology is the go-to place for entrepreneurs who want efficiency. They can use it to eliminate wastage and to accomplish more without having to employ more workers or lay off any.
Entrepreneurs who have automated their business processes give employees adequate time to grow the company. They can now focus on more critical tasks and serve their customers better.
A recent survey found that 67 percent of marketing leaders have adopted a marketing automation platform, while 21 percent plan to get one over the next two years.
Think about it: that’s 88 percent of marketing leaders on board with automation!
As an entrepreneur, changing your mindset about automation and the benefits you can reap from it will enhance your business.
Don’t take my word for it.
Let’s look at the facts together.
Why Automate Your Business Processes?
With the right tools, you can make all business operations more efficient. You are converting the manual labor your employees have to do daily into easier, manageable tasks completed within the shortest possible time. Efficiency then translates to higher output and a good return on investment for you.
This happens without the need to employ additional staff just because the workload has increased. You may afford one more employee on your payroll.
But if you do hire one, then their salary will have to be taken from your profits.
However, approaching the problem with automation as your solution leads to leaner and better processes. The great thing about automation is that it’s implementable on even everyday small tasks.
Most organizations think that automation is only for the enormous tasks. Little do they know that automating the smaller tasks is what makes a tremendous impact on their business.
It’s a simple equation, really:
LITTLE + LITTLE = A LOT
A good example would be the auto-reply from Gmail (or any other email client for that matter). You have two weeks to take your family out on vacation. You know that by the time you get back, there will be hundreds of emails waiting for you.
However, instead of leaving them unanswered and getting a whole lot of angry customers baying for your blood, you use auto-respond.
You don’t have to manually tell everyone that you are away because this would take some of your vacation time away. Instead, the auto-reply function automatically sends a reply to all the emails you receive and instantly informs your customers that you are away, but will be back soon.
You can even leave a number they can call (that of a colleague or business associate) in case of an emergency.
This is just one example of one task that happens a couple of times a year.
Just think about all the similarly small tasks that you could take off your mind for good.
Can’t think of any right now? I know the feeling – they are so many it can be overwhelming.
But don’t worry. I thought about them for you.
How to Leverage the Power of Automation in Performing Small Tasks
Your subscriber list is growing. It’s now almost impossible to get back to every single one of them with relevant information and promotions. I’m talking about relevant, personalized information, OK?
It’s become tedious work even for your employees.
Automated email marketing takes care of this seemingly small problem. You can send emails based on different customer characteristics, their interests, needs and preferences.
Some email marketing tools you can use for this are Mailchimp, Constant Contact, and Drip. They allow you to schedule and send numerous emails at once. They also offer statistics that help you track whether your marketing efforts are working or not.
A report by Social Media Today found that most small businesses spend at least 6 hours on social media weekly. They post on Twitter and Facebook several times a week. Plus, 55 percent of them have blogs.
According to these statistics, to compete in the big leagues, small businesses are also joining the social media platform. It’s no longer a choice; it’s a necessity. A survival instinct if you will.
However, do you have that time to create your marketing strategy, handle operations, perform other business functions, and still manage to post on social media AT THE RIGHT TIME EVERY DAY? Do you have a budget to employ a social media manager to handle your online presence?
No? Then why not automate it?
Even your social media manager may have a hard time juggling multiple platforms while trying to promote your product.
They have to produce content that is unique, relevant, timely, fresh, and that meets your customers’ needs.
Automation tools can ease this by helping you schedule content uploads on various social media platforms. Buffer, Mention, and Hootsuite, Sendible and MeetEdgar are just a few examples of social media automation tools you can use.
They make it easier for you to post without having to go to every social media platform to post. Better yet, they offer insightful reports into what works and what doesn’t, plus dashboards that allow you to answer customers’ messages and comments without logging in to each platform.
Improving Communication with Customers
A successful business has effective communication channels with its clients, employees, suppliers, potential clients, and stakeholders. Sometimes, the money to hire a public relations team is not available, and even if it is, it can get overwhelming for the team.
There are promotions to run, emails to respond to, newsletters to write and send, product information to post etc. The era of email personalization has also made some important tasks seem more difficult.
A study by Deloitte found that consumers expect personalized interactions with businesses. They are also ready to share personal information to receive customized products and services.
Businesses can, therefore, use automated tools to improve communication and make it efficient. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools help enterprises manage their interactions and relationships with their clients.
A CRM keeps you connected to your customers and streamlines your processes. This ultimately leads to improved profitability.
The most popular CRMs include Salesforce, HubSpot, NetSuite, Infusionsoft by Keap, and Zendesk Sell.
With such a tool, your business can collate data from most of your communication channels including social media, company website, email, telephone, and live chats. When you use the right CRM and integrate it with your other digital tools, this “collation” happens automatically.
In other words, you get invaluable marketing insights at the literal push of a button.
This is how great, efficiently-targeted campaigns are born – they stem from knowing your customers’ needs and wants. And, of course, they boost profit margins!
Improving Communication with Employees
The automation of in-house communication is also vital. How you communicate with your employees determines if they feel like part of the company and included in day-to-day activities. It also influences how they treat your customers.
With communication automation tools like Zoom, Slack, and Fleep, the company can separate personal communication and work-based communication.
Such tools enable the company to easily carry out communication across different channels. These channels enable you to direct message, video call, share multimedia files, create project specific communication channels, share contact details, and so much more.
Customer Support and Service
Customer support tools (Freshdesk, Zendesk, and Sales Autopilot among others) automate support, customer feedback, and offer ticket tracking support. Others provide you with the ability to get analytics and reports from forums and communities.
This simply means that you are always on top of things and able to help your customers better. These automation tools also help your business forge stronger and longer-lasting relationships with the clients.
Lead Generation and Nurturing
Although emails have been known to bring a 44 percent return on investment for every $1 spent, the average professional sends and receives over 140 emails a day.
The channel is therefore overcrowded and may not be an ideal way to respond to customer inquiries or try and generate leads.
Facebook, too, has changed its algorithms. Users are now seeing more of prioritized posts from their friends and families over those from brands. This is why chatbots are becoming popular.
Knowing all this, imagine that your marketing efforts are doing great and prospective clients have started contacting you on social media and via your website. The prospects want to ask questions or get guidelines on how to use one of your products.
They send messages either via Facebook or through the send a message button on your website.
You can engage the clients one-on-one when they are few, but once your prospective clients become many, you will definitely need a chatbot to automate this lead generation process.
If your salespeople fail to find that Facebook message, then the potential client is disappointed. And we all know that when a potential client is disappointed, they never turn into a real client.
Chatbots use artificial intelligence to respond to messages. This technology makes it possible to extract customers’ email addresses, phone numbers, or other contact details, and send the info to the CRM for your salespeople to see.
The sales team can then convert this client into a paying customer based on intel gathered automatically. Two of the most popular chatbot platforms are Chatfuel and Botsify.
What Does the Automation of Small Tasks Do for Your Business?
Some of the primary benefits of automation include:
- Increased Efficiency and Productivity
Whatever industry you are in, it’s most likely that machines already help your workforce carry out routine and tedious tasks. This leads to fewer manual errors and inefficiencies.
Your employees will need vacation days, sick leaves, breaks etc. but the machines will not. Speak of increased productivity, right?
Plus, automation tools leave little room for error. They also eliminate time wasted since, unlike employees, the tools don’t have to lug papers and documents from one department to the next.
I mean, they do. But they do it almost instantaneously. They don’t need to take the elevator to see Karen in accounting.
Easing the work for the employees improves their efficiency and leads to better output. Your employees also get more time to take on new tasks, and get creative and innovative.
- Improved Communication
It’s no longer necessary to leave important notices on sticky notes or bulletin boards to keep your employees informed. Automation ensures that every employee is in the loop about essential matters.
It also opens communication between employees and their supervisors. Hierarchies are brought down while collaboration and interaction flourish.
Automation also makes it easier to handle different collaborations and teams. The teams find it easier to handle the workload when processes are automated.
This is because they can stay updated on tasks and changes easily. They are faster than your usual email and ensure that the manager is more organized and always updated on the workflow.
- Streamlines Functions
With automation, the business simplifies workflows and human touch points are reduced to only the ones that truly matter.
- Reduces Operational Costs
An automated process reduces the need to hire more employees. It also reduces costs in terms of operations.
For example, some tasks will require one person to complete their work before the next employee can do their job. Automation completes tasks faster and helps your business save on labor expenses and time.
- Efficient Client Management
Automation of processes ensures that they run smoothly. It also helps meet a client’s needs adequately. The sales and marketing team gets regular updates on what clients want.
And, of course, on what they hate about you. It may not be pleasant, but it’s definitely useful.
It also leads to better data collection and proper documentation of clients. This eliminates the constant need for follow-ups since updates are automatically sent to the customer.
Customers also get a fantastic experience since their complaints get resolved in good time. Your customer care team can also respond to bad reviews in good time to prevent a crisis.
- Employees Become Accountable
Automation means that employees do not only show up, but they can also show progress at the end of the day.
Progress reports don’t have to be done on paper or in person anymore. A manager can have a bird’s eye view over his department’s work with a single click.
- The Growth Of Your Company
Reducing human error gives you an advantage over your competitors. Your business can grow at a faster rate through the automation of business processes. With automation, you can monitor operations and gain insights from data collected.
The company is also able to double its output, which increases your profit margins. You also save up on other office resources like paper, ink, and other supplies needed by employees to perform manual tasks.
- You Can Make Better Plans and Better Forecasts
Businesses can gain insights into their performance easily through automation. They can also keep track of client information, requests made and approved, products delivered and returned, complaints solved and other pending issues.
The data collected helps the business plan better for the future and predict its trajectory. This data ensures that your business is always working to improve its processes and to provide the best services and products to customers.
Just think about how long it would take you to compile data on how your company is perceived from social media networks, various media outlets, forums, blogs, emails and other correspondence with clients. You have to gather it, analyze it and then dig for actually useful insights.
It’s a MASSIVE amount of data.
You will need several employees to work on this for weeks.
Do you know how long it takes to do the same process with the right integrated automation tools? Less than a second.
All you have to do is generate the reports. The data is all compiled. Even the insights are there, telling you exactly what to do to conquer the hearts and wallets of your customers.
How to Strategically Introduce Automation to Your Organization
Now that you know the advantages of automation, how do you ensure 100 percent assimilation? We know that change can be hard for everyone.
So, how do you strategically ensure that automation becomes part of your business processes? And that your employees embrace it instead of dreading it?
- Change Starts at the Top
Start with the leaders in your organization. Ensure that you have convinced the leaders to join the automation bandwagon before you introduce it to your employees.
When it comes to implement, have the priority areas implemented first depending on your line of business. For accountability, clear backlogs and have release cycles that help you measure progress. Progress must be measured regularly to gauge whether you meet your goals or not.
The whole process must have several contributors involved. Do not designate it to one person. Nurturing the project from inception ensures that your automation infrastructure matures and grows into a scalable and maintainable process.
- Determine What Process Is Best Depending on Your Company’s Pain Points
Don’t just implement automation because your competitor has done it.
No. That’s always a bad idea.
You’re a leader, not a follower.
Identify your company’s pain points and start small.
Starting small ensures that you gauge how helpful a certain automation tool is to your company before you fully implement it. Automation requires considerable investment and you need to see a return on it as soon as possible.
ROI only happens if you automate the right areas of your business.
Research and find out from your employees what parts of their jobs can be simplified. Get feedback from clients on processes that take longer to get fulfilled.
This should determine what automation tool you choose. Also, this ensures that when you are presenting your research, you can corroborate it with data and present quantifiable results to the C-level board.
- Choose a Tool that’s Easy to Use
It’s no fun when employees have a hard time using tools that are supposed to make their lives easier. They will do anything to avoid using them and this will slow your business down.
You will have invested money on the tool, but your employees will still be using old methods. This means you can kiss your ROI goodbye.
Instead of wasting money, get your employees involved and ask THEM what they would need automated. Better yet, you can ask them to test a few tools and make the choice. After all, they will be the ones using it, right?
- Maintain it Properly
Ensure that the system you buy keeps detailed logs. This way, in case something goes wrong, the IT team can easily sort out the issue. Taking screenshots of errors also helps to debug the error if it ever happens again.
Make sure that there is a process in place to solve any technical issues that may appear with your automation tool. Hey, no one’s perfect, right? Not even AI.
The automation tool vendor should provide enough training to keep the systems going even when they are not around. But don’t just rely on this. Make sure their support system is also top-notch.
- Involve More People
Make sure that more than one person is running the project and that everyone is involved in the implementation. This comes in handy, especially if one employee leaves the organization.
Train the teams so that everyone knows how to use the system and complete tasks. This also ensures that your employees can train new recruits without having to hire outside help.
A Changed Automation Mindset Ensures that Your Business Thrives
Automation is no longer a luxury for business; it’s part of how processes need to run. Companies must change their mindsets and go beyond traditional operational strategies if they want to stay competitive or even relevant.
Having an automation mindset will help your company redefine and rethink its customer service, sales and marketing approach.
With the help of automation, companies can design solutions that deliver quality and efficient services. On their part, employees also become efficient, productive, creative, and innovative whenever their workload gets reduced.
An automation mindset allows for a different kind of thinking. The possibilities with automation are limitless. Businesses can articulate their operational requirements in a new way.
Automation, however, only works if people spearhead the process. Automation is an opportunity to improve your employees’ skill sets and also create new roles. Involving them from the get-go makes them enthusiastic about it. They embrace the technology without looking for excuses to avoid it.
For automation to work, implement it in stages. If the first stage is successful, then move to the next with the complete involvement of the whole team.
Removing mundane and repetitive tasks from your employees’ workflow improves job satisfaction and will increase your company’s retention rate.
It will also help your company get rid of hindrances, redundancies, and roadblocks that were preventing the company from moving forward. You gain critical insight into areas that need improvement and over time, they get refined.
With a changed mindset on automation, you streamline your business processes, reduce clutter, improve efficiency, and give your employees enough time to focus on achieving the company goals. It also ensures your company remains competitive in your industry and improves employees’ wellbeing, a study reveals.