Automation: tools to improve business efficiency
Do your managers process requests slowly, lost tasks and agreements in their correspondence, store the customer base in Excel? Do you know that any disgruntled leaving manager may use your Excel database? If you cannot control tasks, processes and bases you have losses. Automation can help to return control to you and your managers. This article will tell you about business process automation.
What is business process automation
An automation is a transfer of some manual operations to special services. For example, Managers use Facebook Ads every day to upload leads in spreadsheets. The integration of Facebook with CRM or Google Sheets will save their time on data transferring.
Both manager and company will benefit from automation. For example, automation will simplify the customer funnel workflow: from request and payment to transferring an order to the delivery department. Business automation helps to work faster and save time on internal communication. Managers do not need to pass requests information anymore — it happens automatically within one CRM system, or several systems that are integrated with each other. It helps managers to serve more customers properly. Automation in business also helps to respond to external changes quickly, identify weak points in processes and work on improving them.
Business automation goals
The goal of automation is to save managers from monotonous tasks, simplify workflow processes and help to scale the business. Automation also can improve the quality, reduce time and increase profits.
Business automation helps:
Save time. Assigning tasks between departments, sending emails or collecting expenses from ad offices and other fixed routines at work takes a lot of time. The business process automation gives managers time to solve strategic tasks.
Avoid mistakes. Regardless of managers proficiency, fatigue and the human factor can lead to such mistakes as incorrect address or phone number. Further it may cause customers claims or losses. The workflow will be easier for managers if the data is automatically transferred between systems with substituted preset values (zip code, city code or correct phone number).
Business to grow. One e-shop manager can easily handle 10 requests per day, but he will not be able to process 50 requests. The manager’s work can be simplified by automation: for example, immediately after the payment, the invoice automatically will be sent to the client, and the order will be sent to the delivery department. As a result: the manager’s workload is reduced, there is no need to recruit new people, and profit grows by increasing labor productivity and reducing costs.
What process to automate
What processes can be automated in marketing:
- Transferring leads from the website, social networks and ads to CRM automatically;
- Collecting customer data in order to use it in further communication;
- Dividing customers according to their readiness to purchase;
- Generating invoices and documents automatically;
- Using of several communication channels: email, sms, push, targeted and contextual advertising, professional communities and forums;
- Analysing communication channels and selecting with higher conversion.
What processes can be automated in sales:
- Automatically assign clients among managers;
- Automate purchase funnels;
- Remind you of calls, meetings, and stuck deals;
- Conduct correspondence in one viewport;
- Collect customer data in one place;
- Create clear reports.
What processes can be automated in production:
- Automatically pass orders to production managers;
- Track workloads and distribute tasks;
- Update data with the warehouse to replenish stocks on time;
- Set up notifications for equipment technical inspections.
What processes can be automated in accounting:
- Calculation of wages and vacation pay;
- Tasks notifications;
- Upcoming vacations notifications;
- Verify bank statements;
- Update data on expenses and income of the company.
What processes can be automated for human resources professionals:
- Response notifications;
- Collection of applicants database;
- Sending email templates to candidates;
- Creating appointments in calendars;
- Birthdays and important company’s dates notification.
Spreadsheets. Companies often manage projects, store data about customers, orders and expenses in Microsoft Excel and Google Sheet. These tools can automate calculations with formulas, generate reports, build charts and graphs.
Project management systems. Trello, Jira, Asana, Planfix — these tools help to automate work on projects and tasks in a team. It helps to monitor the workload of managers, deadlines for tasks and the results of departments.
Accounting systems. SAP, Visma eAccounting — can automate accounting and personnel records, work with salaries and retail stores.
Marketing and sales management systems. Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM, Bitrix24 CRM help to automate routine processes such as creating a new client card, email newsletters, keeping clients on the website using chatbots and pop-ups.
ESP systems. Companies use SendPulse, eSputnik, GetResponse to build direct marketing with clients. Such systems allow you to make mass and personalised email, sms, push, WhatsApp mailings.
CMS systems. Tilda, WordPress are builder platforms where you can create websites, add content and new sections without programming knowledge.
Choosing a system, pay attention to:
- System’s cost;
- Required functionality;
- Integrations with other systems;
- Simple interface;
- Ability to collect reports and build graphs;
- Various notifications of task changes;
- Ability to run processes together.
Remember that additional settings for specific business goals cost additional money and developer resources.
Set a goal
Why do you need to automate your business? Maybe you want to store data in one system or want to reduce managers’ mistakes in reports, or not to forget calling back the clients. Your main goal in this case will be to get rid of mistakes.
At the same step, decide how you will evaluate the effectiveness. For example, criteria can be:
- Less time to complete tasks.
- Decreasing % of errors in paperwork.
- Sales growth.
- Reduction of customer calls for technical support.
Select business processes to automate
Divide the business processes you want to automate into steps. For example, if you want to automate the requests processing, identify the sequence of steps:
- Client leaves a request on the website.
- Application gets into the CRM system.
- Manager receives a notification about the application by mail.
- Contact the client and clarify the details.
- After payment, the application goes into the “Paid” status.
- Delivery department gets the task.
Select a tool
What service do you need for your task: CRM to collect customer data in one place or ESP to send them messages and emails? Examples of automation tools are given above.
Make a technical requirement
When you have selected the business processes to automate, make a technical requirement. It will help the developer or hired specialist to understand the tasks automation should solve, and make all the required settings.
Teach your team
After you have implemented a business automation system, your team should know how it works. Often, services provide free training, blogging, sending checklists to new customers, or helping in chats. Internal study with instructions and possible errors tutorials will also help.
Track the results
If the service does not work as planned in the technical requirement, or some feature is missing, make the necessary adjustments.
How to implement automation in your business
There are two ways to set up business process automation:
Saving budget. If you have programmers among your team, you do not have to hire an expert, and allocate a budget.
Saving time. Full-time specialists know specifics of the company, processes and departments. No time wasted on onboarding and business immersion.
Confidentiality. There is no need to sign an NDA with a contractor, prepare access and worry that he will see unnecessary information.
The lack of experience leads to mistakes. The programmer may not have enough experience in implementing automation services. Error’s fixing may take a long time.
Low motivation. If managers focus only on implementing automation, it will affect the efficiency of company workflow in general.
With expert help
Speed and quality. The specialists have experience in implementing services, so they will do their job without errors and quickly.
Staff members are not distracted from their duties. They will not be involved in the implementation, so their performance will not be affected.
Additional expenses. You need to buy not only a license or pay for a service account, but also allocate a budget for paying specialists.
Time to implement. Hired professionals need time to immerse in your business processes and specifics.
Possibility to hire non-professionals. You may face inefficient work and bad-quality service.
Business process automation examples
Example 1. Sales automation
The e-shop receives requests in WhatsApp and Instagram, and stores all data in Google Sheets. To automate the process, we integrate two services: Chat2desk — to collect all customer messages in one window. Bitrix24 — to collect all orders and sales.
The manager creates a deal in Bitrix24 => copies the deal ID to Chat2desk => after the dialogue is closed, the client’s data (name, city, address) is transferred to Bitrix24 => manager adds the goods to the order here and sends it.
There is no need to call the client, search for each product on the website, and manually add it into the spreadsheet.
Example 2. Set up end-to-end analytics and advertising costs
We use amoCRM, Google Analytics, Google Ads and Google Sheets to understand which sales channels bring more orders and set up analytics.
They helped collect and store:
- Visitors and leads data;
- Total advertising campaigns costs ;
- History of transactions and statuses, PBX calls and call tracking, summary reports;
- Create clear reports.
- All data was automatically transferred to the required systems.
- We set up end-to-end analytics for the client and helped him optimise advertising costs.
Automation trends and tendencies
Each company may need different automation, but there are some general trends:
The connection of online and offline channels where business interacts with customers. For example, a company knows that a customer made an offline purchase last week and got a coupon. In an SMS message, you can remind him that the coupon is about to expire and give a link to his personal account, where he can track promotions.
Increased automation in internal processes. Sometimes people cannot handle a large volume of tasks. Automating tasks can save time and avoid mistakes.
End-to-end analytics. It helps to analyse customer behaviour and channels efficiency (advertising, social networks, offline platforms, etc.) at each step of purchase funnel.
No-code services. It helps to connect different systems and cover business needs which ready-made solutions cannot cover. For example, when a company wants to transfer data between two services that do not have ready-made integration with each other.
After automation implementation, companies may face typical problems that affect expectations:
The automation system has an inconvenient interface. Managers continue to work as before, for example, instead of keeping customers data in a CRM system, they do it in Google Sheets.
Managers deny a new system. This happens when the system is difficult in use (see paragraph above) or managers do not understand the advantage of automation. It is important to explain the benefits of automation, how much time it will save, and how it will simplify their work. You also need to show your team how to use it.
The service cannot be scaled for non-standard tasks. It will be a problem if you need to change the workflow or add new steps. The system should be flexible and changeable.
It is impossible to track the efficiency and results. This happens when a company has automated a process that does not affect the company’s income.
Business process automation is an important step if the business plans to grow. It helps to avoid mistakes, save time and costs, and adapt to changing market conditions. Automation services and the correct goals will help you get a fully automated business and visible results.