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The Importance Of Business Automation
January 11, 2020
The Importance Of Business Automation

The Importance Of Business Automation

Most likely, you’ve experienced some form of business automation during your career. Perhaps you set up a macro in a spreadsheet or had someone else do it for you. Macros are relatively easy to create as users record the actions they want automated.

Automation can also be as complex as multiple types of robots on a manufacturing floor. Most major manufacturers implement automation via robotics or some other artificial intelligence machines.

There’s no sign that the trend toward automation will slow. In fact, it’s expected to grow rapidly as newer and faster technologies emerge. This will be a boon for small business owners.

Automation Is The Future of Small Business

Automation once was exclusive to big businesses. The costs involved were prohibitive for all but a few companies that could afford it. The internet and cloud technologies have changed to landscape to allow all businesses to participate.

When done right, automation will help companies become more productive. Although people fear the unknown concerning automation, it’s likely most will benefit by shifting to work that’s more satisfying. The automation machines and routines will handle the mundane tasks.

Companies can expect to increase the accuracy of mundane tasks, as well. Machines don’t often make mistakes unless they were programmed incorrectly, and that’s fixable. Automation tasks don’t require breaks, vacations, or even food. They won’t have a bad attitude, either.

As automation can reduce mistakes made by humans, this lowers the likelihood of lawsuits and compliance issues. In fact, machine learning algorithms can be used to detect when certain anomalies are occurring, which companies can react to quickly.

Automation allows for better coordination of tasks. For instance, when a process is finished, a trigger can be generated for the next process to begin. Or, the trigger can alert the shipping team that the product is ready for delivery. Before automation, bottlenecks were common.

Analyzing trends in the reports generated by automated processes can help to streamline those processes. Machine learning can be used to optimize operations. In turn, the automation will become more efficient over time, saving on electricity, use of materials, and more. The algorithms may even point to areas that managers would never think to optimize.

Automation also frees up staff to work on the creative aspects of the business. They’ll have time to imagine new use cases for their products and services and implement them in vertical markets. 

The Top Methods to Improve Business Automation

When businesses discover automation, some attempt to automate everything. The best practice is to start small and automate the tasks that will show the most benefit. 

Therefore, we’ve determined some methods that can help improve business automation for your company. As your business automation efforts mature, you can add further tasks to the list.

Most likely, you’ve heard or read about a concept called business process automation (BPA). While business automation falls within this category, BPA is usually a more formal process with high-end solutions. The steps involved are useful to any automation project, however.

1. Automating Customer Service Processes

Have you heard of chatbots? If you haven’t, you will soon. They come in different formats, but the concept is the same for all.

These are effective methods of providing information to customers and answering many of their questions. Chatbots gives customers much of what they need without companies having to dedicate as many staff hours.

Backend automation for customer service reps can help when answering customer requests. These services can make recommendations based on the information provided by the customer service rep. It can cross-reference customer history to provide the best feedback possible.

Automating Customer Service Processes

2. Allowing Customers To Schedule Meetings With You

Have you ever tried to schedule meetings with customers? They often tell you they want to set up meetings but will do so at a later date. Every business owner knows that action will never occur.

When you allow customers to schedule meetings, however, they commit to the timeslot. Due to this commitment, they’ll likely keep the appointment. You have a captive audience at that point. Most of these methods are centered around customers, which can help serve them better.

Most scheduling solutions are offered as web-based packages. When choosing a platform for scheduling, look for support mobile and smart devices. 

3. Triggers and Filters For Email Automation

The functionality offered with email services is sophisticated. These solutions can take your small business marketing automation to a higher level. Many providers allow triggers and filters to be set up based on information regarding the people on your lists. For instance, you can trigger events based on actions your subscribers take from previous emails.

Filters can be set up to prevent sending emails to people on your list. For instance, if some subscribers have already bought the product you’re emailing about, they likely don’t need information about it.

4. Hiring Out Call Center Work

To receive further gains in automation marketing, consider hiring out call center work. As a small business owner, you may not have a dedicated customer service team. Your employees take on that role, which can cause too much time spent on calls that others could handle.

Make sure the call center company you choose will represent your company properly. A growing trend is to require U.S. based call center operators, as that can be a preference for customers. Companies offer this feature. The services offered by these companies vary based on the needs of the companies they serve. 

Hiring Out Call Center Work

5. Embracing Macros in Your Daily Life

If you’ve been working with Microsoft Excel for any length of time, you probably have used macros. These time-saving gems can help you automate many tasks associated with your spreadsheets. 

One big advantage of macros is that you don’t need to be a coder to work with them. Only specialized tasks would require digging into and learning the code. The code generated by macros is intuitive, and people pick it up quickly.

Google Sheets macros work off the same principle as Excel macros. The user presses the record button and performs the sequence of events. Then, the automation task is ready to use for the future.

Pros of Business Automation

  • Automation frees up staff from mundane tasks. They can work on creative business development and other challenging tasks.
  • Errors are reduced with automation. Automation can fail, but this is resolved once someone fixes the problem.
  • Automation software increases productivity. 
  • Businesses can coordinate activities easier between departments.
  • Overall, automation will lower costs. This will depend on how well the automation is implemented, however.
  • Automated reports can tie together the activities of departments. For instance, sales and shipping work together. Managers can look for areas of improvement.
  • Automated reports can also help alert management to locate discrepancies and anomalies sooner than manual reporting. In many cases, automation tools can trigger alerts in real-time.
  • Automation of some of your customer activities is available 24/7. Customers can leave emails for questions not answered by the automated processes.
  • For regulated industries, automated tasks may satisfy authorities, assuming the automation is robust and complete.
  • Companies may experience an improvement in workflow with customers and suppliers. For instance, automation could create invoices for customers upon demand. Ordering from suppliers could be automated, as well.
  • Due to automation, companies can do more with the staff they have. They may not need to hire new staff, which saves money.

Cons of Business Automation

  • Employees fear losing jobs to automation. They could become apathetic or leave as a result. 
  • If employees are going to be shifted into different jobs, they may require training, which takes time and costs. These costs will add up if there are several employees.
  • The success of one automation project leads to the belief that everything should be automated. This is not always the case.
  • The person responsible for creating the automation leaves the company, and there’s no documentation to handle changes or process failures.
  • Companies may haphazardly approach the implementation of automation. This could cause incompatible systems when trying to integrate with other automation projects. 
  • Costs for automation may be higher than planned. Sometimes, companies don’t account for the implementation of such systems.
  • As systems grow, the need for IT groups may grow as well.
  • Security can be a factor, especially if automation was not implemented correctly.
  • Workflows may lose flexibility when automated. As they must follow the tasks defined by the automation, changes would require redesigning the workflow. This also requires staff qualified to make those changes.

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Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Fora Financial is a working capital provider to small business owners nationwide. In addition, the Fora Financial team provides educational information to the small business community through their blog, which covers topics such as business financing, marketing, technology, and much more. If you’d like to see a topic covered on the Fora Financial blog, or want to submit a guest post, please email us at [email protected].