By Cristina Maria
Competition is one of the biggest reasons businesses fail, particularly small ones. Why? There are a variety of factors, but a major influence is the fact that newer, smaller businesses simply can’t compete with larger enterprises when it comes to speed, flexibility, and accuracy—or can they?
Let’s say you provide field services like plumbing or HVAC. How could your 50 technicians hope to go up against a company of 300? By working smarter, that’s how! Look at the companies that started out only a few years ago and how they battled their way to the top: Uber went against thousands of taxi drivers, not by offering more but by offering better. It used technology to revolutionize the way people think about getting around a city.
Now, we’re not saying you have to be the next Uber. These are called business “unicorns” for a reason—they rarely happen—but it’s worth taking a look at their innovative mindset and applying it to your small business. Whether you’re in retail, e-commerce, food, or home services, there’s nothing to stop you from assessing how you can do better by your customers.
And what could be smarter than taking all the time-consuming, repetitive tasks that no one enjoys and automating them? Think sales funnels, newsletters, database management, and the likes. So read on to find out how business automation can help you win in the big leagues:
1. Business automation helps productivity skyrocket
The most obvious benefit of business automation is the increase in productivity. Managers can often underestimate just how much time is wasted on activities like recording customers or confirming emails. And if there’s one thing you lack in a small business, it’s time.
Increasing your productivity means you can do more tasks with the same number of people, whether it’s to serve more customers or install more appliances. Naturally, if you have a higher output with the same input (i.e., the same number of employees), your profits will increase while your costs stay the same.
The trick is finding the right automation software for your industry and for your business. This way, you might have to pay a small subscription fee, but if that saves you having to hire even one extra admin person, it’s still profit in your pocket.
2. Business automation facilitates scheduling
Is there any reason not to automate your scheduling? Maybe you just like spending two to three hours every Friday, staring at Excel spreadsheets and calling people to check they’re fine with their shifts. Then getting around to hearing everyone complain on Monday that their rota isn’t what they expected—and again on Wednesday when someone calls in sick. We reckon there aren’t too many people who enjoy this, as it’s obviously not an efficient way to grow a business.
Scheduling simply takes a lot of time and focus, but it’s essentially a repetitive task. Automation can easily save you from having to hire additional admin staff to handle it and open up your own schedule to actually working on growing your business. With a software to keep an eye on overlaps, number of hours, part-time or full-time staff, and even particular skills, scheduling can take mere minutes, instead of arduous hours.
3. Automation offers flexibility and attention to detail
One of the advantages your larger competitors have is their flexibility and ability to accommodate a wide variety of customers fast. But when you’re smaller, you’re much better at discerning customer needs and paying attention to the little details. It’s the reason why some customers will always trust a small business with a strong brand over a nameless corporation. With the help of digital tools, however, you can easily compete with larger companies on speed as well as capacity.
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4. Automation adds transparency and accountability
That paper trail we mentioned earlier? We should have added digital just to make sure the point comes across. No use having an actual stack of papers as they’re simply another thing that will hold you back from growing. A major benefit of business automation is all documentation is uploaded digitally and accessible to anyone who needs it.
Depending on the software you’re using, you should be able to set authority levels. This way, only employees with certain security clearances can see sensitive information, while others will only have access to the tasks that involve them directly.
No matter what type of business you’re running, it’s vital to make every effort to go paperless. Not only is it better for the environment, but your company will benefit from improved transparency (you will always know who edits a document) and accountability, in case there are any issues. You need to embrace full accountability if you want to be a true business leader.
Additionally, digital files are not susceptible to spilled coffee mugs, and they can’t be misplaced by forgetful employees. If you’re competing with larger businesses, you need to prove to your customers that you know what you’re doing. You can’t be seen rolling in with a file cabinet if they inquire about your processes.
5. Automation provides a superior customer experience
Studies have shown that by 2020, customer experience will overtake price as a key decision factor. The best customer experience is, of course, a matter of preference, but analyzing and optimizing your buyer’s journey is something anyone can do. Try to empathize with your customer; simply put yourself in their shoes and focus on what you think could be improved about every stage from their perspective, then assess if it’s something a software could do for you.
A customer could be put off by the fact they want to schedule an appointment, but it’s midnight so no one’s available to pick up the phone. Chatbots and digital calendars are the obvious solution here. Positive reviews are another area where companies struggle, specifically not having enough of them. An automated workflow where customers are emailed a review link after a purchase would be a good solution.
All in all, automation is more than a gimmick for Silicon Valley darlings. Any business, regardless of size, can implement software to see if it really improves their operations. And maybe automation won’t solve every problem you’ve ever had, but it will definitely make things easier and give you the time to think about the big picture.
As with any smart purchase, make sure you are not just buying software for the sake of buying it. Take time to assess your options properly and consult your team. You never know: business automation might just be your fast-track big leagues!
About the Author
Post by: Cristina Maria
Cristina Maria is a marketing executive at Commusoft, a premier job management software company, where she helps field service businesses discover the potential of digital solutions.
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