Small businesses can benefit from automation as well and this blog post will discuss what you need to know about how it could work for you!
The idea of automation is nothing new. It has been around for centuries, and there have always been those who are against the idea. Automation has helped me grow my own businesses but also my list of clients businesses benefit from systems automation as well.
I am a certified technology consultant.
What is business automation software?
In a nutshell automation software is used to map and execute repetitive tasks, which means that it can help you get more work done in less time.
In particular, jobs that involve you copying data between systems, manually typing stuff in, creating documents using the same template, creating invoices, sending emails and managing tasks on your todo list – they’re all the sort of tasks that software can take care of for you these days.
Automate Lead Generation
There is a software that I have used to help scale and grow businesses just like yours called Click Funnels that helps automate your leads and sales process. There is nothing like it. Try it free here.
Why automate your small business?
Automating your small business can be a great investment. It save time and money, both of which are precious resources to any owner or manager!
One often-overlooked advantage is avoiding mistakes. If you spend your days typing customer information into different systems, sooner or later you’ll make a mistake. That mistake could cause anything from embarrassment to a bodged delivery of even legal jeopardy – depending on your industry. Automation software makes sure repetitive tasks get done exactly the same way – correctly every time.
Finally, automation is a must if you’re scaling your business. Sure, you can always hire more people to get admin work done, but there will come a point where it’s simply cost-prohibitive, or there will be so much that even an army of workers can’t handle it in time.
How much time can automation save your business?
Businesses worldwide are realising that automation can save costs, eliminate boring tasks, and allow employees to focus on higher-value activities. But navigating the complexities of automation can be difficult for businesses big and small.
It’s difficult to know sometimes what can be automated, how much it will cost and what the specific benefits to your business will be.
What processes can my business automate?
To identify what tasks can be automated, break down the processes in your business into parts. These parts can then be broken into individual tasks. Each of these tasks is an opportunity for automation.
To decide which task to automate first, you as teh business owner must balance out the cost and difficulty of automating the task versus the potential increase in productivity.
I believe that most tasks can be ranked on 3 levels:
- Basic: These tasks are repetitive and follow simple rules. The data they need comes from structured data sources. For example, issuing invoices, initiating bank transfers, and sending notification emails.
- Advanced: These tasks recur regularly and require variable actions, but the outcomes are predefined. For example, creating a bespoke quote for a customer based on their requirements.
- Intelligent: These tasks are unpredictable and don’t follow simple rules. They require complex thinking to solve the task.
Using tools like Zapier, many tasks that are ranked as ‘Basic’ or ‘Advanced’ can be entirely or partially automated, saving significant time and money.
Examples of automatable ‘Basic’ and ‘Advanced’ processes include:
- Accountancy: Processing expenses, processing payroll, basic accountancy, and revenue reporting
- Business Development: Finding qualified leads, following up leads, managing the sales pipeline, onboarding new clients and managing contracts
- eCommerce: Automated upsell or restock emails, abandoned cart reminders, chasing failed billing charges and chasing unpaid invoices
- Customer Service: Triage support tickets, automatically answer FAQs, send appointment reminders, measure client satisfaction and request referrals
- Marketing: Social media management, ad budget alerts, and dynamic content generation
- Office Management: Resource booking and scheduling
- Logistics: Stock management, re-ordering, and dispatch management
- Human Resources: Job application process management, employee leave requests, and employer onboarding
What if I don’t automate?
Businesses that have failed to adopt new technologies have suffered as a result. Recent examples include Kodak, who missed the switch to digital media and Nokia, who missed the smartphone revolution. Blockbuster sold video cassette tapes where Netflix has ondemand streaming from your TV.
Companies miss out on new technologies for a wide range of reasons, including fear, technological pessimism, and the cost of adoption.
Put simply, if you don’t automate, your competitors will outpace you. At first, the improvements might be modest, but as the printing press example shows, these improvements compound dramatically over time.
So, how much money can you really save by automating?
To calculate how much you can save by automating, you should focus on 4 factors:
Automation reduces your payroll by either replacing, repurposing, or augmenting your staff.
With some types of automation, staff may no longer be needed, as the task is entirely completed by the automation. These staff can then be reassigned to higher-value work, driving growth in areas of your business that cannot be automated, such as sales, relationship management, or customer service.
To calculate how much labor cost could be saved:
- Calculate your current total labor expenditure for that position, including salary, benefits, and taxes.
- Calculate the hidden costs of the position, such as amenities, office space, utility usage, training, sick leave, holiday pay, and legal compliance.
- Add these values together and divide by the number of hours worked.
For example, one of your team might be responsible for entering invoices into your accounting system at $22 per hour, which takes them 10 hours every month, costing $2,640 per year.
Next, total up the fixed costs of running your offices and divide this by the number of staff.
Divide this by the number of hours worked each month to calculate an hourly cost. The automation you might choose for this would be to automate employees hourly cost againts business expenses or revenue toi determine the exacts of the P&L.
Automations work tirelessly 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with 100% accuracy.
Humans are not so perfect. We need regular breaks, sick days, holiday pay, and are occasionally unproductive at work.
To calculate the true benefits of automation:
- Calculate the time the automation would take to complete the task.
- Calculate the time a human would take to complete the task, minus any mistakes, breaks, or errors.
- Compare the two values.
For example, one of your team might follow-up with your customers to encourage them to re-order each quarter. This takes 4 hours to complete, but 20% of this time is wasted due to breaks and other time loss factors.
Take a look at your existing processes and map your workflows, starting at the end and working backward.
At each stage of this workflow, reflect on your past performance, and identify where slowdowns have occurred previously or could occur if your business grew.
For example, I have been a bottleneck in teh past as I begin to automate workflows so at the start of a new customer journey. For every new lead, 10-15 minutes of data entry is required. This meant only a fixed amount of leads could be onboarded each day, limiting the growth of my business business.
By automating this data entry, there is no limit to how many leads can be onboarded, clearing the bottleneck.
By applying automation where these bottlenecks occur, you increase productivity and reduce the likelihood of bottlenecks in the future.
The Oxford American Dictionary defines opportunity cost as “the loss of potential gain from other alternatives when one alternative is chosen.”
In the context of automation, this means what are you missing out on if you fail to automate:
- Reduced Costs: By adopting automation, you can produce goods or deliver services at a reduced cost in exchange for a one-time investment in automation. With reduced costs, you increase your profits, which can be reinvested in new opportunities.
- Reduce Lead Time: With automation, you might be able to serve customers quicker, leading to healthier cash flow. For businesses with physical products, this also reduces inventory and storage requirements.
- Reduce Errors: Automation guarantees that a task is completely accurate. Without errors, customer satisfaction will improve and labor costs are reduced.
Automation For Customer Service Teams
Trigger surveys after a support ticket is solved or closed.
While you’re measuring the number of tickets and the time taken for your customer service team to close tickets, it is also important to know if the Customer was satisfied with the resolution or not. An ideal way to do this is to trigger a CSAT Survey right after a ticket is solved or closed.
With Zapier, you can create a Zap with any Help desk tool you use like Zendesk, Freshdesk, Hubspot, Groove HQ, HelpScout and connect to your customer feedback tool to send an email survey right after a ticket is updated. This will help you gauge real-time customer feedback and know how well your customer service team is doing.
Add new support tickets for negative feedback
When you get negative feedback, you obviously want the team to take action on it. Studies suggest that 67% of customer churn can be avoided if customers’ issues are solved at first instance. Even if the issues are not completely resolved, 11% of customer churn can still be avoided if negative feedback or complaints are responded timely and properly.
Instead of manually adding tickets and tasks for your team, you can use Zapier to automate this. As soon as you receive low feedback on your online surveys or offline survey, a ticket will automatically be added to your helpdesk.
Include feedback questions in all customer service team emails
A great way to get feedback for your customer service team and members is to include a CSAT or NPS question right within their emails. When you send an email survey for feedback, there are more chances of your email not getting read or maybe the automatic movement of your email into the spam folders.
But when you send an important communication regarding your interaction with the customers, the customers tend to open it and read it through. You can utilize this opportunity to collect feedback by embedding your feedback survey in the email body at the end. Customers will not only read it but will get promoted to answer the displayed question and ultimately fill the short survey. This helps you gauge feedback at every interaction.
For sales & marketing teams
Sync your feedback to CRMs
For sales and marketing teams, it is important to know how satisfied the customers are. With powerful integrations, you can sync back your feedback data to your CRM. In this way, your teams will get the customer feedback data in real-time and thus would be able to view the customer insights and satisfaction levels in one place.
This will not only help to work on their feedback, but also make sales and marketing strategies for the future to attract prospective customers which will ultimately help to grow your business.
A customer journey comprises various touchpoints and crucial aspects. It is possible for customer feedback to be positive at one point, and negative for the other. So it is always better to collect feedback at every touchpoint rather than just asking for feedback on the overall experience.
With the help of this integration, you can trigger sending of Surveys automatically just after key events like a demo, onboarding, meeting, billing, purchase, or after a few days/weeks of usage. This will help to know in detail about the customer experiences and the factors affecting it in your business so that you can improve on the weak points and strengthen the positive aspects of your business.
Include feedback questions
You can also include feedback questions in your marketing and sales emails. Add CSAT or NPS questions to know the customer happiness and loyalty with their experience with your brand. This will help you know about their likeliness to make repurchases and recommend your brand to others.
With this, you can predict the sales and revenue to be generated in the near future. This information will be useful for you to do effective planning and forecasting for the coming days and eventually help you make better business decisions and grow your business.
Display popup surveys on the website after purchase
Website or online surveys are a great way of capturing Customer Feedback from the website users at the moment. With powerful integrations, you can display online surveys on your eCommerce website through pop-ups asking for customer feedback.
Pop-ups are really helpful to prompt your customers to take a survey. You can enable these customer feedback survey popups to appear on the customers’ screens as soon as they make a purchase. In this way, you can easily collect Customer Feedback data to measure customer satisfaction with the purchase experience the customers just had.
Send email surveys for feedback after delivery or use
Powerful integrations will enable you to automate sending of email surveys to the customers just after the delivery of products. These surveys will help you to know the delivery experience of the customers and the aspects like the condition of the products received, the behavior of the delivery staff and waiting time for the delivery.
You can also automate sending of these surveys with a time lag of some hours or some days of the delivery of products so that your customers get enough time to use your products and check their performance. This will help you to know whether your products and their experience provided lives up to their expectations or not.
How to get started with automating your business?
Consider automating the following aspects of your company: payroll, accounting, customer onboarding, new sales, marketing – in fact, every area of your business provides opportunities to streamline.
The key is to take it slow and be methodical just like SEO results. Target one part of your business at a time, thoroughly map its processes first and then plan automated workflows that will be effective for your companies needs.
These are some more ideas for you as your start analysing your business:
– Lead management
A marketing automation system can track prospects’ progress through the sales cycle and assign them a score based on their potential to become paying customers. Key communication touch points can be recorded and even sent automatically.
– Email campaigns
Marketing automation software can help coordinate marketing campaigns and increase their effectiveness with performance metrics. For example, it might track the date your customer purchased a refrigerator and send them maintenance reminders annually or notify them of complementary products currently on sale.
– Social media
A marketing automation software is a necessary asset for any small business with smart social media strategy in place. These systems help manage all of your posts across platforms and keep to a finely-tuned schedule that will provide your company with their best current engagement rates.
How to choose the right software for you
While most CRMs these days have some automation capabilities, you’ll likely want to turn to one of the major automation apps to get things working in your business.
The market leaders are Zapier, Integromat and n8n and there are dozens of other options that do very similar things.
Zapier is an automation platform that connects with thousands of other apps. The software uses what they call “zaps” – workflows that map out a process involving two or more connected apps.
Integromat is very powerful and has deep integrations, but focuses on visual programming to create workflows. The software connects with hundreds of popular apps and lets you quickly build some very advanced workflows.
Again – similar to Zapier and Integromat in that it allows you to build complex workflows visually, where it differs is that it can be self-hosted and run for free. The trade-off is a steeper learning curve.
Different types of software automation
Automation software is a tool that helps organizations create systems to handle repetitive manual tasks. Since they save time, improve efficiency, reduce operational costs, and help organizations save money, these automation tools are used in various industries and sectors, including financial institutions, medical fields, and manufacturing companies.
However, there’s no one-size-fits-all automation solution. Since every organization has varying needs and cultures, you will find different types of software automation to help you address those gaps.
Just to remind you I do this for a living.
Here are the three primary types of automation.
This type of software automation involves simple, rudimentary work that is easily understood, replicated, and organized. This level of automation is all about digitizing high-volume tasks that take time and are prone to human error. Basic automation uses tools to centralize and streamline processes. For example, your organization can take advantage of a shared messaging system to improve communication instead of having information in disconnected departments. Some types of basic automation include robotic process automation and business process management.
This next level of software automation involves more sophisticated and specialized processes. An example of a task where organizations can use enhanced automation is scanning business emails for specific information. Since it’s more advanced, this type of automation can be used in industries where complex tasks are more prone to human error. Some examples of work areas that require this level of automation include IT, finance, and accounting.
Cognitive automation is the most complex level of automation since it’s a subsection of Artificial Intelligence. This type of automation takes things a step further since the machines imitate human functions such as thinking and reasoning. Due to its analytical capabilities, cognitive automation tools can learn and make decisions based on past events they encountered and analyzed. An example of this is automated customer service and support.
How to successfully invest in business automation
While automation holds real business potential, not everyone experiences the advantages it offers. The answer lies in understanding the different types of automation software. With those tools, organizations must also develop and implement a strategy that fits their needs. Here are some steps you can use as a guide to successfully invest in business automation.
1. Prepare your company
If you’re starting your automation project, you must first understand your goals and determine what you want your business to achieve. Then, compare this to your capabilities and ensure you have the right people on board. It’s crucial that you developed a strategy for the initial steps and have rules to help you focus on your results.
2. Start small
Once you have defined your business goals and prepared your business, begin with a few pilot programs or basic automation. Although investing in basic programs will only give you some small wins, this will protect your company from massive losses until you get the hang of it. No organization is the same, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Take your time in implementing your first automation project correctly, and learn from the mistakes.
3. Expand your program continuously
Keep in mind that progress isn’t linear, and the needs of your business may often change. That’s why you need to look for opportunities where automation can help your business save money. Once your basic automation shows success, be prepared for the plethora of automation requests within your company. Use the lessons you learned from your pilot programs and adjust your business strategy accordingly. However, you need to re-define your rules and have a clear approach on which automation to prioritize.
Conclusion – take automation seriously in your business
Automation isn’t only for large enterprises, and there is a growing selection of tools to help you take advantage of automation.
With that in mind it’s never been easier to reap the benefits of automation in your business – and if you’re worried that you don’t have the time or resources to invest in it – you can also hire one growing number of experts in business automation.
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