6 Benefits of Workflow Automation For Small Businesses
It can often be difficult for small businesses and start-ups to break through and compete in their respective industries. All successful small businesses have one thing in common. They are constantly adapting and improving their practices. Optimizing your workflow through automation is crucial for company success. This can include onboarding, managing leads, creating invoices, etc.
This article will discuss the main advantages of automating your workflow and how it can benefit both your business and employees.
WHAT IS WORKFLOW AUTOMATION?
A variety of linked tasks with a shared goal is the definition of business process and workflow. Such a workflow includes these specific tasks and objectives to be completed in a specific order to ensure a business’s success. Workflows can be individual or rely on a variety of team members’ and departments’ cooperation. Let’s have a look at two examples.
Consider this scenario. You’re a freelance writer at a content marketing agency. You have been asked to write an article with the title “Web conferencing vs video conferencing: what’s the diff?”. Here is what your workflow could look like:
- SEO optimize
- Grammar and spell check
- Submit to editors for approval
- Revise article based on the editor’s suggestions
Now that you have completed the article, you’ll want to invoice the agency for your work. Here’s what that workflow would look like:
- Create the invoice
- Finance and accounts receive it and send a confirmation
- The invoice is processed and paid
- A receipt is issued to you and stored in the company records.
Both of these workflows are incredibly different. But, the main similarity here is that specific steps can be automated to increase efficiency. For example, grammar and spell checking can be automated using AI software, and the invoice receipt can also be automatically generated.
Workflow automation uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning software to carry out some of these tasks automatically.
Let’s have a look at the main benefits.
1. Reduce the amount of human error and cost
Mistakes are common in business. They can occur for many reasons, such as a lack of communication and information. Major issues arise when mistakes are made continuously. This can be very costly for businesses.
Many workflow tasks are meticulous and require total, undivided attention—for example, data entry. One data point mistype can have a drastic effect on the validity and conclusions of your research. In this scenario, acquiring automation software that enables your data scientists to focus more on the outcomes than the process can significantly reduce errors.
Not only that, workflow automation reduces the number of tasks that need to be completed. This is advantageous as it increases transparency. The fewer tasks there are, the easier it is to monitor each employee’s progress and mistakes. This will also increase accountability and allow you to identify the weaknesses in your business. The best way to take full advantage of workflow automation is to integrate it with your project management software to ensure that every employee is aware of what is expected of them.
Another benefit is that your overhead costs will be significantly reduced with tasks like data entry automated. Given that employees will no longer be needed in these laborious roles, you’ll free up your budget to improve your business elsewhere.
2. Increase your employee satisfaction
As mentioned above, tasks like data entry can be time-consuming, prone to human error, and crucially, they are incredibly mundane, unengaging, and unfulfilling.
Research shows that over 30% of employees don’t feel engaged in their workplace. Having an engaged workforce is crucial to the success of your organization. Engaged employees are more productive, collaborative, and more likely to stay at the company. This is vital because acquiring new employees can be an expensive and time-consuming process.
Such mundane tasks in retail management, for example, include counting stock and reordering low inventory. These can now all be automated via retailer inventory management automation strategies and software.
There is a misconception that automation and AI will ‘steal’ people’s jobs. However, once you begin to eliminate these mind-numbing tasks and reassign employees to more meaningful endeavors, engagement and innovation will increase. Workflow automation is there to free up your employees and allow them to use their creativity, not simply replace them.
As previously stated, workflows can often involve individuals from various teams and even departments. Automation of specific workflow tasks allows for much easier multi-tasking. This is because employees can monitor each objective’s progress through the automation software without relying on interdepartmental emailing.
3. Improve your customer experience
One of the most influential aspects of customer experience is your business’s customer service strategy. Your customer service agents can transform a dissatisfied customer into a loyal life-long fan. Customers who have a positive experience are far more likely to repeat purchases and spread the word to their friends and family.
This is why providing your customer service agents with as much support as possible is crucial to your small business’s prosperity. This can include acquiring the best voip phone, but more essentially, automating as many workflow tasks as possible.
The more your business grows, the greater the number of customers you will have to interact with. To prevent your customer support team from being overwhelmed with customer information and queries, you must acquire workflow automation software.
Here are the main advantages of workflow automation in customer support:
- Live chat – AI chatbots can replicate customer and support agent interactions and provide immediate resolutions to customers 24/7. They act as an initial point of contact to filter out easy-to-solve queries and leave the more complicated questions to the agents.
- Personalization – customers expect agents to know their information, name, and purchase history. Constantly having to look up this data would waste a lot of valuable customer support agent time. This is why workflow automation tools can send automatically personalized emails and tailored responses that make customers feel valued.
- Delight your customers – workflow automation allows you to carry out proactive communication instead of reactive communication. This means that from the moment a customer orders a product or service, they can be kept up-to-date with any changes or delays. This will increase your customer retention.
4. Improve your team communication
Having clear and effective communication pathways and practices is an essential part of good business. Effective communication allows every team member or employee to understand their’s and everyone else’s role in the company. This level of connectivity ensures that employees are engaged, productive, and can adapt to any challenges thrown their way.
The main benefit of excellent internal communication is that it enables collaboration. Here are some examples of teamwork in the workplace:
- Setting and achieving combined goals and objectives.
- Regularly updating each member on progress.
- Transferring knowledge to whoever requires it.
As mentioned earlier, workflows are very rarely completed by one individual from start to finish. They often require multiple employees across departments to work together. So, it can often be challenging to communicate effectively. Mundane tasks are unlikely to be prioritized, and the knock-on effect can cause entire project delays.
Here are the main ways workflow automation software and systems can benefit your internal communication:
- All tasks and goals are unified on one platform. This means that employees only have to monitor one centralized system instead of chasing each task individually.
- Workflow automation software can provide accurate time estimates for when a project or task will be completed. This allows employees to improve their scheduling.
- Data reports will be generated to enable employees to observe and monitor the effectiveness of the software and their own work. This allows employees to optimize their workflow even more.
- Workflow automation software can translate specific tasks into language that all departments can understand. For example, there is often a failure of communication between the back and front office. This can be due to different technical capabilities. The automation software will ensure that all staff can comprehend the tasks being carried out.
5. Ease the transition into remote work
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a variety of negative impacts on businesses. One advantage is that it has proven that remote work is a viable option for the masses in the future. Many small companies are now considering either remaining or fully transitioning into remote work.
When carried out effectively, working from home can benefit employers as much as employees. Your business can save employee commuting time, reduce its energy expenditure, and eliminate its rent for an office in a busy, expensive city. Companies that switch to remote work without the necessary tools risk creating a disjointed, disconnected, and disgruntled workforce that adversely affects its profit margins.
We have established that the key to successful remote work is an effective communication strategy. A lapse in communication in a remote setting can be even more detrimental than in an in-office environment, as it is often difficult to resolve the situation immediately.
So, you must obtain and implement workflow automation software and systems. Here’s why:
- They provide seamless communication and alerts for every task completed.
- Operating on just one platform allows disjointed employees separated by location to feel like a team.
- They allow for efficient document sharing.
- They free up communication channels like email, video calls, and in-app messaging, which are often already bombarded during remote work.
6. Enhance your marketing strategies
Start-ups and small businesses often have to compete with large companies that have access to far greater marketing budgets. The misconception about marketing is that it’s all TV adverts, billboards, and celebrity endorsements. Even though these methods are great, they are often not viable for small companies. But, there are still effective ways to stretch your budget using specific tools.
Remember, your marketing strategies form your direct contact with current and potential customers. This doesn’t have to mean alerting them to a new product but even just a feature. Let’s have a look at a typical workflow:
Consider this scenario. You’re a company that creates cloud-based communication applications for Apple devices, and you notice that no one is using your fax from iPhone features. So, you create a marketing workflow:
- Content strategists create the brief and title it: “can you fax from an iphone?”
- Copywriters create the written content.
- Graphic designers work on illustration.
- The marketing team and project manager review, approve, and distribute.
- The results are measured.
- A follow-up action plan is also developed.
Even though the first three stages of the workflow may seem the most vital to your marketing campaign’s success, the last two stages, testing, and follow-ups, are equally crucial. This part of the workflow, though, can be automated.
Using automation tools to test your marketing campaigns’ effectiveness will ensure that you’re spending your budget correctly and learning from your mistakes.
Here are some additional benefits to automating your marketing workflow:
- Lead nurturing – the software allows you to send emails to customers automatically at the right time to boost conversions. That can be early-stage emails or even notifications of cart abandonment.
- Social media – automation of social posting can be very effective for small businesses. It allows you to post on numerous platforms simultaneously without creating each post at that time manually. This means you can block out a certain period for creating social media posts, set your software to the times you want to post, and then forget about it.
- Personalization – customers want to feel special, and good marketing is targeted and specific. Workflow automation tools can use existing customer information to send well-timed personalized messages at each stage of the sales pipeline.
TO SUM UP
Small businesses need to optimize and adapt constantly to increase their chances of thriving. This doesn’t just mean improving their product or service, but every aspect of their business, from customer service to HR.
As much as there is room for creative innovation in each department, there are also many time-consuming and, often, mundane tasks that would benefit from automation. Workflow automation allows your workforce to focus on more engaging objectives that can benefit your business.
Let’s summarize the points above:
- Workflow automation reduces human error and the number of employees you need to hire.
- Workflow automation allows your workforce to focus on more meaningful tasks, which increases their satisfaction.
- Quick automation ensures customer needs are always met.
- Automation enables your employees to communicate and collaborate more effectively.
- Remote teams can also benefit from this efficient form of communication.
- Marketing workflows rely on well-timed automated communications.
Richard Conn is the Senior Director, Search Marketing for RingCentral, a global leader in unified communications.
He is passionate about connecting businesses and customers and has experience working with Fortune 500 companies such as Google, Experian, Target, Nordstrom, Kayak, Hilton, and Kia. Richard has written for sites such as Cincopa and Multibriefs.
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