How much time do your employees spend working in your business and not on it — doing tasks that are innovative, enhance productivity, drive growth and lead to increased profits?
Are they spending most of their time performing repetitive manual tasks instead of the tasks you hired them to do?
Do they spend their time searching, organizing, counterchecking, correcting, or organizing when they should really be engaged in high stakes tasks to build the business?
If your answer is yes, then it’s high time you adopt automation for your business processes.
Automation is not computers taking over jobs and eliminating the need to employ human labor. Automation is used to complement your team’s performance by freeing them to focus on other more important aspects of your business.
It basically frees your employees to do what you hired them to do. It simplifies most of the routine procedures and tasks the business performs. It makes them more efficient, faster and improves the productivity, creativity, and innovation of your employees.
What Is Automation?
Automation entails workflows, tasks, or processes that operate without constant human oversight. Automation can be used to handle single or complex tasks depending on the actions of users. It uses technology to reduce or eliminate human intervention. Automating repetitive tasks improves productivity and saves time.
According to McKinsey, 49 percent of activities employees perform have the potential to be automated. Sixty percent of the occupations that can be automated has 30 percent of activities that can technically be automated.
How to Make Automation Work for Your Business
To completely leverage the benefits of automation, you need a solid adoption and execution strategy. You need to know what processes you can automate to transform your business into an efficient, productive, and profitable enterprise.
1. Identify tasks you can automate
Identifying automatable tasks is the most crucial part and the one where most businesses fail in terms of automation. Automating all your processes may sound like a great idea but could turn out into a nightmare for your processes, employees, and even customers.
Take the time to understand how automation works and its capabilities. You want to go for activities that are time-consuming, repetitive and those that the algorithms can handle without manual input.
According to a survey by Social Media Today, some of the top three processes one can automate without reducing effectiveness, and audience connection, include social media post scheduling, email marketing, and social media advertising.
Other automatable activities include sending invoices, sales, customer service, task assignments, project management, finances, emails, and many others.
Avoid automating tasks that require extensive human interaction and creative thinking – for example, content creation, problem-solving or design.
2. Choose the right automation tools
Once you have decided on the tasks that you want to automate, choose the right tools you will use to automate your processes. Numerous platforms are available to help you automate most of your tasks.
These are some of the factors to consider when choosing the right software for your company:
- Is it possible to integrate the automation tool with your existing software packages?
- Can you expand coverage across process workflows in the organization?
- Can it handle both simple and complex tasks?
- Does it have machine learning capabilities?
- Can it customize applications according to your company’s needs?
- Can the employees access it from their mobile devices?
- Does it support mobile apps?
- Can both the technical and non-technical employees use it?
- Can it provide clarity and transparency to users at all levels?
3. Set automation targets and goals
Before enrolling any automated workflows, make sure there are KPIs to help you gauge success or refine current processes. For example, when you automate social media posts for your social media marketing team, then you free up time they can use elsewhere.
One of your goals may be to free up your employees so that they can spend time doing something else. These goals need to be defined clearly and should be measurable. You should see the impact of any minor automation your company rolls out.
4. Track results and improve processes
By setting the right target and measurable Key Performance Indicators, you can measure the impact of automation on your processes. It helps you pinpoint areas you need to improve on and opportunities to leverage.
According to marketers, some of the most useful marketing automation performance metrics include conversion rates, revenue generated and leads generated.
5. Build an automation culture
Robotics and computers power workflow automation but at the core of your company’s success is people. If you fail to engage your workforce from the get-go, then they will fail to implement automation properly.
Engage them early in the process, during the onboarding or training process and continue throughout the implementation. Your employees should always be up-to-date with the tools you wish to implement.
Understand their needs, fears, and concerns, then ensure that the automation tools you adopt will address these issues. Assign roles and responsibilities so that every user or stakeholder knows the capabilities of the tools and how to use them in their different roles.
Ensure that the hierarchy of roles and responsibilities is transparent and focuses on accountability, relevance, and honesty. The team members should own the respective workflows and give their input regarding the transition.
Build an automation culture so that everyone involved has an efficiency mindset. It will help your organization maximize results and make the most of the resources available when completing tasks. Your employees will then get in the habit of recognizing repetitive tasks and automating them to free up time.
8 Business Processes You Can Automate In An Hour
1. Lead generation automation
Sixty-one percent of marketers say that generating leads and traffic is one of their biggest challenges. How much time do your sales reps and marketing team spend generating and nurturing leads?
No matter what business you are in, you are competing with others to gain leads, nurture them, and guide them through the sales funnel. Manual lead nurturing and tracking takes time and you may end up losing sales-worthy leads along the way. Automation helps you by setting up some clever workflows.
To set up lead generation automation, you will need a good customer relationship management (CRM) tool. There are many out there, including Zoho, HubSpot, NetSuite, Salesforce, and others.
You will also need to choose an email marketing tool from the many platforms available in the market, including Active Campaign, Constant Contact, HubSpot, Get Response, Mailchimp, and others.
The CRM you choose should integrate easily with most marketing automation tools. Once set up, the integration will handle most of the lead generation and nurturing tasks.
The contact form on your website will mean numerous messages that you may not respond to immediately. Responding later is not an option as today’s customer gets tired of waiting after the 10th minute.
The more time you take to respond, the more you decrease your odds of qualifying a lead.
Automation allows you to respond immediately. Once the prospect enters their name and email on the contact us form, automation software sends them an email immediately. The prewritten response will thank the prospect for contacting you and inform them that someone will be in touch soon.
The prospective customer will appreciate that their email got a response while the software will assign a team member to get back to the client with a phone call.
Sometimes the potential lead calls the business instead. The automation software sets up an internal form for people who make calls.
It enters the client’s information, and then assigs a team member to follow up. The sales rep is alerted to the new lead as the software sends an introduction email to the potential customer.
Sometimes the sales lead finds a voicemail every time they contact the client via phone, and when the client calls back, the rep is not available. It’s very easy for the sales rep to forget to call back but this means a lost lead.
Automation removes the need for this back and forth action. You can send a message to the client after the voicemail and set a reminder to call them back. You will have no more lost leads.
Automation also allows you to follow up with new connections, either from a webinar you hosted or a conference. The CRM tool tags each contact depending on where you met them, and through automation, you can schedule follow up emails.
Another way to capture leads is by offering clients content. It could be an infographic, eBook, white paper, video, or any other type of resource. Those who download the resource, provide their emails using an automated web form, leading to more leads.
2. Lead nurturing automation
It takes time for a prospect to turn into a paying client, but if you are lucky, they may turn immediately. According to research, only 17 percent of those who visit your site for the first time making a purchase.
Getting the visitors to your site is, therefore, just the first step. They require nurturing until they become sales-ready. Sixty-nine percent of marketers consider converting leads to customers a top priority.
Automation helps you map this process so that the sales reps can guide the potential clients through the funnel with ease. Lead generation will get you lots of leads, but you must figure out who is interested in what you are offering.
Lead scoring assigns values to every lead you generate using numerical points. Depending on your product or service, you can score leads based on attributes like how they engaged with your website, the information provided, and their level of interest. When this is set up, your marketing and sales team can prioritize leads.
The software ranks lead in order to allow your team to focus on clients who are sales-ready. Lead scoring also helps you anticipate the needs of your target clients and tells you what the appropriate message to send is.
Most of the people visiting your website are not yet ready to purchase. It’s your job to establish trust and cultivate a relationship that leads to a sale.
Some of the CRM/ sales integration software you can use to assist you with that include Salesforce, Zoho, HubSpot, Infusionsoft, and Active Campaign.
3. Online sales and marketing automation
Automating the lead nurturing process ensures leads don’t fall through the cracks. The software sends regular emails and recommendations to leads identified as needing more time to convert.
According to research by Vidyard and Demand Gen, lead nurturing programs drive sale opportunities. Twenty-four percent of those who were using lead generation saw a 10 percent increase in sales opportunities, 23 percent realized a 20 percent increase, while 19 percent realized a 30 percent increase or more in sales opportunities.
Automation also helps you make a good first impression with clients using a series of emails. When a customer purchases or downloads your resources, they receive a welcome (or thank you) email and a brief introduction to the company.
You can then check in regularly with the client to enquire how they are doing. Provide helpful content like videos, tips or complementary products through triggered emails. Triggered emails have an open rate of 65.7 percent compared to normal emails and a 7.5 percent higher click-through rate.
Drip is one of the best automation tools when handling drip campaigns. It’s extremely easy to set up and integrates with other software.
Automation also helps you go after abandoned carts. In 2017 alone, over 78 percent (around ¾) of eCommerce site visitors abandon their carts. Now, such an abandonment rate is worrying for any business owner.
The good news is that you can transform these abandoned carts into sales using automation. Forty-five percent of cart abandonment emails get opened, 21 percent get clicked on, while 10.7 percent results in a purchase.
The automation software reminds the customer to follow through. You can schedule reminders without being annoying or intrusive.
4. Social media automation
Every business needs to be on social media to remain competitive and engage customers. Most of the businesses today maintain a presence on more than one social media platform.
However, consider this: in about a minute, about 87,500 people are tweeting, 1 million Facebook users are logged in, 347,222 people are scrolling on Instagram, 3.8 million search queries on Google happen, 41.6 million messages are sent, and 188 million emails are also sent.
These statistics show how hard it gets for businesses to keep up with customer needs and requests on social media. The customer, as we mentioned above, wants a response within 10 minutes of their mention, question or comment.
Managing accounts and posting new content regularly takes time. At some point, the social media management team will be overwhelmed.
Automation helps you take care of multiple accounts and listen to what customers and potential customers are saying about your brand. It keeps your audience engaged while your team stays updated on every mention on all platforms.
Some great automation tools like Hootsuite, Buffer, Mention, and Brandwatch allow you to listen. Social media listening is crucial because, according to research, 30.72 percent of tweets don’t include companies twitter handles.
You may end up missing 30 percent of positive and negative feedback from customers if you don’t monitor posts without the @. Some customers also misspell company names by mistake, while others do it intentionally.
5. E-commerce automation
If you run an online business, you need to keep up with inventory, payment processing, logistics, shipping, and customer support. You must also handle marketing and retargeting.
Ecommerce platforms allow you to automate most of these processes. They offer you speed, flexibility, support, and ease of use.
eCommerce platforms allow you to:
- Offer secure direct payment processing and multiple payment gateways
- Offer flexible shipping options and rates
- Adjust tax rates automatically
- Create abandoned shopping cart emails
- Create an easy to update product catalog
- Offer flexible pricing options for customers
- Personalize customer experiences
- Get insightful eCommerce analytics
- Integrate with Google merchant
- Integrate your social media profiles
- Get a unique customer review system
- Create a single customer view to track customer communication across channels and purchases made
- Run headless commerce (customers can receive blog posts, products, or reviews on any screen, including on smartwatches, voice assistant devices, etc.)
Some of the best eCommerce platforms to choose from include Shopify, Volusion, and Squarespace.
6. Customer service automation
Customer support takes up a lot of staff time and without an organized system, you get lots of annoyed customers on your hands. Automation of your customer support streamlines customer service and support tasks.
Some of the best customer service automation tools include Zendesk, HubSpot’s service hub, Zoho Desk, and Salesforce service cloud. They offer features such as:
- Self-service portals and knowledge base: customers want speed when they contact your business. A self-service option increases customer satisfaction and reduces support volume. Eighty-eight percent of customers expect brands to have an online self-service support portal.
- Live chats and chatbots: Fifty-two percent of consumers are likely to repurchase from companies that offer live chat support. Seventy-nine percent of businesses say it has a positive effect on sales, customer loyalty, and revenue. Forty-one percent of customers also prefer to talk to live chat support.
- Canned responses and preloaded emails
- Streamlined support dashboards with automated workflows, triggers, and ticket views
- Assigning request to correct salesperson
- Machine learning and AI capabilities
7. Human resource automation
Some of the activities you can automate in the human resource department include time tracking, applicant tracking, payroll reporting, time-off approvals, licensing and certification dates, benefits enrolment, policy change notifications, and others.
A human resource automation tool that integrates with your applicant tracking and payroll vendor systems will help you streamline your human resource department.
8. Finance automation
Money managing tasks are tedious and time-consuming. Businesses have to track expenses, revenue, pay bills, manage money and deposit funds. They also have to prepare financial documents and pay taxes.
Automation in accounting improves productivity, saves on cost and improves the customer experience. The automation tools also reduce errors, ensure real-time reporting and reduce internal fraud. The finance team can also resolve problems before they escalate.
According to research, most of the finance activities can automate. They include accounting, payroll, accounts payable, accounts receivable, financial planning and analysis, and others (wire transfer requests, transactional audits, etc.)
Some of the finance automation tools include QuickBooks, Xero, NetSuite and Zoho Books
Benefits of Automating Your Business Processes
1. Save time
Manual tasks take time. By automating them, you free up time your employees can use to innovate and become productive.
They are motivated and work on tasks that add value to the business.
2. Quality and consistency
Every action performed is identical, meaning that you get high-quality results. Errors that were mostly caused by human error are greatly reduced.
Customers get consistent customer service.
3. Monitoring and analysis
For sustainability, your business needs to monitor, evaluate and modify your strategy regularly. This ensures that you improve on what is not working.
Automation provides real-time data and analytics. Key metrics are reported and analyzed to provide the information you need to improve processes.
4. Operational efficiency
Automation reduces the time, cost, and effort taken to achieve goals. It ensures that business processes run smoothly and efficiently. It reduces errors and leverages all your resources.
When your operations run efficiently, you can rely on them to help you maintain a competitive advantage. You get rid of unnecessary tasks, optimize workflows, improve communication, and encourage the collaboration of teams.
5. Reduced costs
Automation reduces costs and increases profits. It allows you to do more using fewer resources.
6. Improved customer experiences
Companies are now competing at customer experience levels, according to Gartner. Automation allows you to offer fast, accurate and efficient services at a lower cost.
It helps you reduce response time, keep customers engaged, predict customer needs, and provide real-time support using chatbots.
7. Improve employee morale
Reducing the time spent on manual work by employees motivates them. They develop a sense of purpose an improve productivity.
As you can see, automation doesn’t need to be overly complicated, time-consuming and expensive. You can implement all these automation processes in less than a day and significantly improve your business processes in the long run.
Once you know what tasks need automation, choose the right tool(s) that is right for your business and easily carry out implementation.
Start by implementing one function at a time and observe how it works and the return on investment. Pick another, implement and measure. With time, you will have built a culture of automation and your employees will adopt the technologies with ease.