7 Ways Automation Can Improve Small Business Operations

October 12, 2020
12 min read
System Automation for SMB

The word “automation” is often associated with sci-fi robots and far away dystopian futures. However, if you’re a small business owner, likely, you’re already using automation tools in your everyday operations. 

Large businesses have been using automated technologies in their operations, marketing, and sales enablement strategies for years. Only recently have these technologies become more affordable for small businesses. This growing accessibility has opened up entirely new avenues for improvement and efficiency in small business operations. 

Contrary to popular belief, automation technologies aren’t just cheap substitutes for human labor! Instead, automation can work alongside humans to improve productivity, increase sales, boost engagement, and deliver an all-around better experience for your customers and employees.

We’re going to share 7 ways automation can improve small business operations, protect against revenue recognition risks, and deliver measurable results. But first, let’s go back to basics and find out what business process automation is exactly. 

What is Business Process Automation?

Automation involves using technology to automate time-consuming everyday tasks. This frees up valuable time and streamlines complicated processes, allowing businesses to dedicate time and resources to jobs that require more human engagement.

Areas of businesses that can be easily automated include:

  • Customer Support
  • Inventory Management
  • Financial Accounting
  • Marketing
  • Sales 

With that in mind, let’s dive into how automation technologies can improve small business operations.

1. Improve Customer Experience

Customer experience

Did you know that 86% of customers say that they’ll pay more for better customer experience? Customer expectations have changed. In 2020 consumers want fast service, immediate answers, and valuable information. 

Automation enables you to deliver a consistent customer experience (CX) that meets today’s on-demand expectations.

By standardizing customer support, marketing, and order processing, companies can focus their time and resources on delivering high quality, lasting CX. Moreover, automation gathers valuable data that’ll help you to streamline CX, resulting in satisfied customers and more sales. 

Let’s take a closer look at how automation processes can improve CX. 

Streamline Customer Service

Customer service is one aspect of running a small business that can quickly lead to customer dissatisfaction if done poorly. 

Automated customer support technologies can streamline customer service, reduce expenses, and enhance self-service for better customer experience. They allow support staff to focus on delivering high-quality service by using machines to take care of more simple interactions.

An automated receptionist can quickly greet and route customers to the department they need, saving valuable time for customers and your support team. Chatbots have also become increasingly popular in recent years as they offer quick solutions to basic queries 24/7.

AI-powered customer service technology provides customers with a level of reliability that humans simply cannot match. If they can’t provide the right service or answers for the customer, they can pass the query to a human agent along with all the required data without asking the customer to repeat themselves, saving time. This screening allows customer service agents to deal with the most complex queries as a priority, leaving basic ones in the hands of automated tools. 

Automation can also help with behind the scenes customer services operations like ordering, shipping, and after-sale follow-ups. Improving these operations with automation provides a more consistent CX, which keeps customers happy and builds brand loyalty. 

Enhance CX with Personalization

Personalization is the key to great CX. Many people might consider automation the exact opposite of personalization as it takes away the human interaction factor. However, this isn’t the case. Automation can provide businesses with critical data that enables marketing and sales teams to target customers with personalized emails, offers, content, and more. 

By combining big data, AI, and machine learning, companies can increase personalization throughout a customer’s journey with their business. Automation technology can analyze user behavior to suggest new products or give employees more information about their purchase history. This allows your team to provide personalized support at all times.

Personalizing the customer’s journey and experience with your business has many benefits. These include building trust, encouraging engagement, and increasing customer retention rates. After all, your customers want relevant and valuable information tailored to their needs, not generic information aimed at the masses. 

2. Improve Teamwork and Collaboration

Managing a team can be a difficult task. It requires team leaders to monitor responsibilities, track progress, and ensure effective workflows and communication strategies at all times.

For large businesses, an enterprise communication solution can provide a unified platform for monitoring productivity, data insights, and integrated tech tools. Luckily for small businesses, there are plenty of affordable automation tools on the market. 

Cloud collaboration tools allow businesses to keep clients, suppliers, and project communications in one place. Team members can access all the information they need at any time, no matter where they’re based. This reduces tedious back-and-forth emails and streamlines communication. It also reduces the scope for human error, as information is readily available to all team members via an accessible platform that is consistently updated with new developments.

Automation helps you track project progress, communicate critical dates and milestones, and keep team members up-to-date with the latest data, files, or project status for seamless collaboration. The result? Improved teamwork and collaboration and fewer misunderstandings and missed deadlines.

3. Leverage Your Remote Workforce

Remote workforce automation

Whether your business went partially or completely virtual or you recognized the benefits of hiring a remote workforce long ago, automation tools can be hugely beneficial for managing a team spread over the globe. 

Automation allows remote workers to communicate and collaborate on projects seamlessly by facilitating internal processes. Workflow collaboration tools enable team members working from home in different locations to share information and communicate in real-time. 

By making internal processes simpler, automation enables employees to work remotely and remain connected on various levels. What’s more, this dramatically expands the pool of employees that a small business can recruit from – often to include more highly skilled and better-qualified candidates. 

Another bonus is that hiring a remote workforce means you need less office space. Less office space = less rent to pay = more money to spend on improving your business! 

4. Improve Marketing Productivity and ROI

Marketing automation is one of the most effective ways to save time, boost sales, and improve marketing ROI. According to Marketo, 76% of companies that use marketing automation generate a return on their investment within the first year. Talk about results!

By automating repetitive tasks like email marketing, posting to social media, and ad campaigns, marketing departments can save valuable time and work more efficiently. There are plenty of affordable marketing automation tools on the market that cover these areas in addition to CRM, sales, audience targeting, and ecommerce. 

Automation helps marketing teams to process, analyze, and organize customer data. This data can then be used to create personalization strategies that can improve customer experience and increase results. 

Let’s take a closer look at how automation can improve marketing productivity and ROI.

Automated CRM 

An automated Customer Relations Management (CRM) system can improve the sales and marketing process. It allows businesses to stay connected with their prospects and customers at all stages of the buyer’s journey. There’s a reason why 91% of marketers say marketing automation software is “essential” for their business.

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An automated CRM can also let businesses know when a prospect is ready to make a purchase decision and send valuable material to potential customers at the right moment. If you’re a small business owner, then investing in an automated CRM is a no-brainer. By empowering your marketing team and streamlining the sales process, you can expect to see an increase in ROI and improved customer retention rates. 

Automate Lead Generation and Nurturing

When SocialMediaToday asked marketers what their most important strategic goal of marketing automation was, 61% responded ‘lead generation.’ 

Lead generation is the process of identifying new potential customers and getting them into your sales funnel. Most small businesses simply don’t have the time to collect and nurture leads; that’s where automated sales and marketing software becomes a valuable asset.

Generated leads need nurturing, much like flowers need watering. This is essential if businesses want to drive higher profits and increase ROI. By creating workflow automation, marketers can automatically follow up with leads, nurture them later down the funnel, and convert more leads into loyal customers. 

Email Marketing Automation

marketing automation stat

Email marketing is still one of the most popular forms of marketing out there, and it looks set to stay that way. Email workflow automation can make a huge difference in streamlining your outreach strategy

With an email workflow automation, you can:

  • Respond immediately to a contact request 
  • Create email templates for sending welcome emails to new contacts
  • Offer contacts free, valuable, and relevant content without having to send each email manually

By automating email marketing, you’ll be able to reach a wider audience, save time, and measure the results of your marketing efforts. With more than 70% of emails being viewed on mobile phones, email automation provides brands with an opportunity to engage with customers in real-time.

5. Increase Employee Satisfaction

Through automation, businesses can improve their employee experience. By automating time-consuming, tedious processes, you can give employees more freedom to use their creative problem-solving skills. 

For instance, an HR manager can automate a large part of their regular workload like filtering candidates, sending follow up emails, and handling leave requests. By automating these time-consuming tasks, the HR manager can focus on more important ones like building relationships with potential candidates, improving employee engagement, and addressing employee concerns. This allows them to develop, pursue exciting tasks, and increases their job satisfaction.

Moreover, automation provides employees with all the information they need to perform effectively and achieve results. For instance, an automation process like call record software can upgrade employee performance by ensuring they’re well equipped to meet a customer at the right point of their customer journey. 

6. Reduce Costs

One of the most significant benefits of using business automation technologies is reducing overall costs. 

Hiring and retaining dozens of employees across various departments is costly. Many small businesses spend a lot on hiring employees to perform labor-intensive tasks that provide little value. If you’re a small business owner, then automation tools can reduce your overhead, increase profitability, and save your existing employees valuable time. 

An automated order management system can benefit small businesses by reducing costs by increasing order accuracy. This can also improve customer experience by reducing wait time and delivering real-time order statuses after a purchase. Reducing the risk of human error is a cornerstone of automation and helps to save businesses from wasting time, energy, and resources.

Some automation technologies are expensive initially, but they can complete administrative tasks much quicker than human agents, saving costs in the long run. Small business owners can then focus on hiring skilled workers who will stick around for the long term.

7. Provide Measurable Results

The marketing automation software you choose will likely have built-in reporting for each campaign you undergo, making it much easier to view results. It also saves employees from pouring over Google Analytics dashboards and manually updating spreadsheets. 

Most kinds of automation software can be set up with A/B testing, which allows you to run identical campaigns while measuring the results of different variables. A/B tests are an easy way to optimize your marketing campaigns and measure your success. 

Getting Started With Business Automation

If you want to realize the benefits that automation can bring to your business, you need to outline clear goals. It’s not just about increasing revenue. Think about how you want your customers to interact with your brand. Consider the areas of your everyday business processes that require the most time and resources. How do you want automation to help your small business operations run more smoothly?

Once you’ve pinpointed the areas that automation could help improve, consider the costs carefully. Throwing money away on expensive automation platforms in the hopes that they’ll fix all their problems is a common mistake that small businesses make all too often. 

Taking an open approach to business process automation will help you understand how it might improve your business operations by increasing employee productivity and efficiency, improving customer experience, and boosting sales.

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