If you’re a business owner, you know maintaining a successful business is a huge job. You’re constantly thinking of ways to expand and improve your business while keeping costs low. While you could test out being open for different business hours, hiring a general office manager to oversee the day to day operations of your business for you, or trying to cut costs with suppliers, automating some of your processes already in place is one of the easiest and most cost efficient ways of helping your business grow.
Business process automation is the use of technology to automate repeatable, day-to-day tasks. Using software enables your business to maximize available resources and become more efficient and productive. Automation, while still a relatively new business integration tool, is highly valuable to business owners and employees alike, as it has several benefits all around.
While automation was once a luxury, it is now a necessity. Because these tools are so readily available, not using automation can put your business at a huge disadvantage since your competitors are likely automating their processes. In the near future when nearly every avenue of a business will be optimized by automation, you’ll want to make sure your business is able to keep up with the competition. Starting the automation of some of your business processes now, before it is a standard, will give you a leg up on the competition and will save your business time and money of having to train your employees to use several different forms of automation software all at once.
Automation is quickly becoming an essential strategy for business operations and the key to the long-term survival of your business. This article explores the ways automation can help streamline business processes, attain greater efficiency and minimize costs.
Benefits of Automation
One of the most important elements of automation is helping to streamline tasks and increase the efficiency of your business operations. Here are some of the key benefits you can attain by leveraging technology:
- Cost reduction – more employee hours available, enabling your business to have the same level of output with a reduced human workforce.
- Better allocation of your workforce – allows your employees to focus on more strategic work by automating repeated actions not needing human intervention as automation helps businesses avoid wasting about 22 hours per week on redundant tasks.
- Limiting human errors – eliminate the possibility of errors in business processes.
- Reliability – ensures tasks are not forgotten or run out of order and completed successfully.
- Enhanced collaboration – ensure proper flow of information to all team members
- Deeper insight into your business – provides data to give you a more thorough look at the different aspects of your business so you can identify any problem areas.
- Improve employee morale – most employees spend their time on menial tasks, which do not add much value to the business. Automation enables them to focus on more meaningful and valuable work, making employees feel valued.
Ways to Automate Your Business Processes
A process is a good candidate for automation if it is repeatable, important for consistency across the organization, needs to be error-free every time, and doesn’t require any type of human intervention. To help you understand your options, here are some of the processes you can automate to reduce the overall cost of running your business:
1. Manage Clients from a Bird’s Eye View
What if you could increase your customer pool without having to increase the number of employees you pay? Automated CRM tools make it easier to manage your client interactions and relationships. CRM software encompasses a wide range of functions and streamlines tasks including:
- Visual sales pipeline – Tracking and measuring inbound leads
- Contact management – includes a database for storing a record of contact information
- Order management – facilitates the purchase process
- Customer service – can include a customer portal or ticketing system
- Reporting – find out how you’re performing against KPIs at a granular or high-level
CRM tools are relatively inexpensive (some are even free) and allow your employees to concentrate on more strategic work.
2.Track Team Data
Workflow management automation software enables you to schedule tasks, manage employee workloads, collaborate with others, and evaluate progress. It helps you make important decisions about your business.
The software gives you insight into how efficient your team is and what tasks they spend the most time performing. Workflow management tools can be used to monitor deadlines on an individual employee level or to evaluate performance on a business or team level.
Data from these tools help employees be more productive by providing access to their monthly performance statistics and see where they need to improve in order to meet their goals. Business owners can use this data to mitigate risk by providing proof if you need to terminate an under performing employee.
3. Cut Down on In-House Marketing Efforts
Marketing is the lifeblood of every business because it helps build relationships with your prospective and current customers.
Marketing automation is the ideal solution for streamlining your marketing workflow to increase operational efficiency and grow revenue faster. It connects multiple marketing channels including social media, email marketing, and content marketing, and reduces your spending by eliminating the need to hire more in-house marketing staff.
As your business grows, maintaining a 1:1 relationship with your customers can be difficult. Managing customer relationships in Outlook, Excel or another spreadsheet software program becomes an impossible task.
With marketing automation tools, you can increase personalization to help nurture your customer relationships. You can focus more on the quality of the campaigns instead of spending time on executing the tasks.
Marketing automation enables you to collect information on a prospect or customer’s interests and tailor offers so they are more relevant. With automated email tools, you can automatically send out big batches of these targeted, personalized emails.
Other benefits of marketing automation include:
- Collecting marketing data in one place and providing analysis
- Establishing an automated social media schedule, eliminating the need to manually post updates on all your social media channels.
- Setting up A/B testing to optimize your marketing campaigns
4. Hire Efficiently
Hiring the right employees for your business is essential to the growth of your business. However, the wrong decision can have the opposite effect.
Hiring can be extremely time-consuming and costly. Automation can streamline your hiring process, making it more efficient, effective and consistent. It also shortens the time frame. Each day an open role goes unfilled, your business faces lost productivity and profitability.
A lengthy process can also result in losing top talent to other businesses. By automating certain hiring tasks, you greatly reduce the overall time to hire, giving you more time to focus on more meaningful efforts such as evaluating the candidates cultural fit.
Here are some ways automated tools can help transform your hiring efforts:
- Job posting – post open roles on free or low-cost online job boards along with screening questions to easily knock out candidates who are not a good fit. Examples of top job websites include Craigslist, Indeed, Monster, and Zip Recruiter. Also, use your social media channels to communicate the open role. LinkedIn is a great way to get the word out to your network about the opening.
- Screening candidates – automated screening systems scan cover letters and resumes for keywords matching the job description, further weeding out candidates before you even have to review a resume.
- Interview scheduling – Instead of wasting time going back and forth on email trying to schedule candidate interviews, automation saves time, streamlines the interviewing process and creates a better candidate experience.
- Candidate communication – use automated emails to communicate the status of the hiring process. You can let them know if they are still under consideration or have been eliminated.
- Background checks – after interviewing and selecting top candidates, it’s important to conduct a background check to ensure candidates were truthful about their education, criminal history and driving record. While manual background checks can take up to two weeks, automated background checks easily batch process the candidates you’ve selected to bring on to your team in minutes, confirming the information the candidate provided.
Hiring efficiently with the use of automation can help save you time and money. The wrong hire costs approximately six to nine months of the employee’s salary.
5. Expand outreach
Automation software can help widen your reach to your target market:
- Social media automation: increase engagement with customers and prospects on social media by scheduling and publishing your posts during peak audience times
- Phone calls: having an automated phone system to help direct customers to the appropriate department can save employees time on answering phones, leaving them more time for important tasks. In addition, an automated phone system can process customer requests even when you are out of the office.
- Chatbots: an automated chatbot on your site will help potential customers or clients navigate your site with ease 24/7 and respond to customer inquiries instantly eliminating the need for customers to wait for a response.
Automating your outreach efforts save your employees’ time by allowing them to focus on more meaningful tasks and can cost much less than hiring a full-time outreach employee.
6. Automate Payroll Functions
According to the American Payroll Association, automating payroll tasks reduces costs as much as 80% by reducing errors in invoices and paychecks. Automation can also help you cut down on printing costs as paychecks can be automatically deposited in the employee’s bank account and they can check their employees their payment information online.
Among the payroll functions you can automate by leveraging technology are:
- Timekeeping – system tracks hours and ensures hourly workers are paid accurately. Time clock data can be automatically imported into the time tracking system.
- Payment calculations:performs all types of payments including hourly, overtime, bonuses, raises and retroactive pay. The system automatically generates paychecks and stubs and enables direct deposit.
- Deduction calculations: tax rates hard-coded in the system so withholding tax for each employee is determined based on the data.
- Recordkeeping: The IRS requires employers to keep employment tax records for a minimum of four years and the U.S. Department of Labor requires payroll records to be kept at least three years. The payroll system can store the data.
While cutting costs is one main reason for automating payroll tasks, there are other important benefits including:
- Help business comply with regulatory responsibilities and avoid costly penalties.
- Ensure employees are paid accurately and timely, averting any legal ramifications for late or incorrect paychecks.
- Simplify the collection of necessary data.
- Instantly transfer information to linked systems.
- Mitigates business risk by preventing costly errors.
- Stay abreast of tax changes with automatic updates to tax tables. Tax tables are automatically updated.
- Makes the payroll process simpler with a user-friendly interface, which is easy to read for those employees with no prior training in accounting.
- Enable employees to focus on other tasks requiring human intervention.
In addition to reducing costs and limiting human errors, automating payroll functions ensures the daily, weekly, semi-monthly, and monthly time tracking and payroll processing tasks are completed quickly and accurately.
Being a business owner can be overwhelming at times. However, using automation in your business is the perfect way to optimize your processes while saving hundreds if not thousands of dollars.
If implemented correctly, automation can help increase efficiency, accuracy and transparency of your business processes. If you felt unsure about automation before, this article should serve as a starting point for you to see that automation is a fairly easy and hugely useful tool when looking for ways to improve your business processes.
Use the information in this article as your guide to review the different types of automation you can implement to help you when deciding which business processes to automate.