Looking for ways to cut your small budget while providing the same (or better) customer service? Using automation software to complete tasks that you typically perform manually may be the answer.
While you may have assumed that automating processes was for larger companies with bigger operating budgets, many small businesses are successfully saving money through automation, even with limited technical expertise. And if you decide to bring in or even customize automation software that’s beyond your skill level, you can hire a freelance IT specialist to complete the job.
What are the budget benefits of automation?
As a small business, you must be mindful of your budget and make sure you’re investing in software that will provide a high return on your investment, not technology you will use only once in a while.
Even though it takes an initial investment, bringing in software solutions can help your business realize savings and related benefits like these:
- Increased productivity for employees
- High job satisfaction, as employees can focus on meaningful tasks
- Reduced errors, which improves efficiency and customer satisfaction
- Increased revenue, as employees have more time to focus on growing the business
- High customer satisfaction with reduced wait times
- Ability for managers to see real-time status of tasks and data analytics
Many business owners struggle to show the ROI of automation in their businesses because they don’t have before-and-after metrics to compare.
By collecting data on processes and error rates before as well as after the new automation is deployed, you can measure key performance indicators (KPIs) that show the business value of the automation.
You can then use this data to determine additional areas to automate or further ways to improve current automations.
What can I automate?
Many business owners wonder where the best place is to start with automation. Making that determination doesn’t have to be difficult. Businesses use automation to create self-service options for employees and customers, such as employees updating their personal information and customers receiving real-time information regarding their order from a chatbot.
Make a list of all the tasks you and your employees perform daily. Then review the list and note which processes have high error rates or are time consuming. By starting with one of these processes in a high-impact area, you can quickly see benefits and savings. With a successful implementation, you can begin automating additional tasks and use integrations to connect applications.
For example, you can use an integration from your CRM to your email automation program to automatically send emails to customers whose renewal period is approaching soon.
The final step to automation is to create a dashboard that allows you to see a full view of your business in one place—no matter where you are or what device you’re using.
You can also find software platforms that provide solutions designed specifically for the needs of small businesses, such as:
- Zapier – Easy to create thousands of automations, ranging from creating a tweet when you publish a blog post, to multiple steps, such as each time you get a new lead in your CRM, sending an email to the prospect, notifying marketing and assigning a sales member.
- Shopify – Allows businesses to create automations for their e-commerce site, such as drop shipping or creating product recommendations.
- HubSpot – A range of customer relationship software platforms, from chatbots that help provide 24/7 customer service to sales tools to marketing solutions.
Common areas of automation:
- Logistics – Tasks involving shipping products, such as labels and customer shipping notifications, as well as tracking the supply chain
- Financial/accounting – Reconciling accounts payable, W-2s, 1099s and vendor management
- Human resources – Tasks involved with onboarding, performance reviews and terminations
- Customer service – Chatbots that respond to customer questions, voice automation
- Marketing – Product recommendations, automated email messages based on trigger events
- Productivity – Calendars, to-do lists, emails
- Remote-work facilitation – Providing access to documents and servers
What technology should I use?
While many small business owners assume automation is complex and requires vast technical skills, many types of easy-to-use software are available with no extensive training. Most require no long-term commitment with yearly or even monthly subscriptions. You can start simple and add more types of automation as you go.
Although complex automation is possible using custom software, most small business owners find that packaged software meets most of their basic needs, especially if those products integrate with other applications they use for tasks and data.
When deciding which software to buy, consider the following:
- Support options (included or extra)
- Setup time
Creating the fiber connection foundation for automation
Regardless of the processes you automate and the software you purchase, you need to start with the proper connectivity to power the automation. With automation, you’ll be uploading more data to the cloud—storage systems, video and files. The best possible connectivity is always a smart investment. It helps get work done faster, more efficiently and more economically.
A fiber connection, if it’s available to you, is the best solution for integrating new technology into your business. By investing in fiber technology, you can ensure that your automations will reliably and quickly complete the tasks and processes you assign to them.
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