4 Ways to Use Automation to Accelerate Your Small Business

Automation can make your business more efficient by taking manual, repetitive tasks off your employees’ plates. By automating recurring workflows and standard processes, you can increase your staff’s productivity and improve your operations. All of this can make it easier to convert prospects and keep your customers and team members happy.

But as a small business owner, you might think that many automation tools are out of your reach. You may have the perception that automated solutions will cost more or take too much time to implement. Time and money are two areas where small business owners can feel challenged, especially in comparison to larger enterprises.

Bigger competitors often rely on automated tools and solutions because it’s inefficient not to. Small businesses can take the same approach without having to invest a lot of money and training time. Here are four ways small businesses can use automation to speed up operations.

1. Convert to a Payroll Solution

Instead of calculating paychecks each period, switch to a payroll solution for small businesses that will do it for you. Payroll software tracks each of your staff member’s hours, pay rates, and deductions. You’ll no longer have to sort through multiple files and forms to verify you’ve cut the checks correctly.

A complete payroll solution can also take care of sending direct deposits or paper checks to your employees. They’ll get paid on time, and you’ll lower the chances there will be mistakes on the checks. Paycheck errors can negatively impact your trust and relationship with your staff. Just two payroll mistakes can prompt 49% of employees to start looking for a new job.

With widespread labor shortages and an increasingly competitive recruitment landscape, your business can’t afford to alienate its existing talent. Payroll solutions help you keep everything organized in a central location and manage changes to payroll taxes. You can also scale many of these software programs according to changing business needs. For example, you can add on self-service options so employees can manage their benefits and enroll, say, in the company’s 401(k).

2. Automate Customer Surveys and Feedback

A small business can get accustomed to hearing customers’ feedback in person, especially if the company has a physical storefront. However, it’s difficult to remember and analyze everything people tell you or your staff members. Some employees might not think to write down an insightful piece of feedback or tell someone else. Valuable suggestions and information can easily get lost in the day-to-day hustle.

Placing feedback cards in the store so customers can write down their perceptions and experiences can prevent some of this. Still, someone has to remember to collect the cards, record responses, and organize them in a software program. Why not use tools that automatically dispatch surveys to customers once they’ve made a purchase?

These tools not only send out surveys via email but also collect and organize customers’ responses. Built-in analysis features show you trends in clients’ sentiments, aggregate responses to questions, and responses from individual transactions. If you generate revenue through retail and e-commerce sales, automating your feedback process can ensure you don’t overlook online customers.

3. Quickly Address Poor or Negative Experiences

Poor service and negative customer experiences can immediately impact your bottom line. After one bad experience, 33% of consumers will look to switch to a competitor. Poor service can also impact whether a customer walks away in the middle of a sale. Over half of consumers will say they’ve changed their minds if the service doesn’t meet their expectations.

The same tools that automatically solicit feedback from your customers can help you follow up with customers who had negative experiences. You can set up workflows within the survey and feedback tools to create immediate follow-up tasks for negative responses. You or a member of your team can then contact the person to try to correct the problem. It’s also possible to create separate workflows for neutral responses that you might be able to turn around.

Reaching back out to customers who are at risk of leaving shows that your business accepts responsibility for its mistakes. By doing so, you’ll probably gain insights into how you can improve certain processes, policies, and services or products. You could also identify training needs or areas where your business could better meet consumer needs.

4. Communicate Better with Prospects

Would you keep trying to do business with a company that failed to respond to your initial inquiry? Every day, people contact different businesses for estimates and information about services or products they need. Unfortunately, some of them never hear back about a quote they’ve requested or the interest they’ve expressed in learning more.

Excessive workload, technology problems, and/or a lack of organizational skills can be to blame. However, the person on the other end doesn’t care what’s at fault. All they know is they reached out and didn’t get a reply. So they move on to another business that did get back in touch with them. They, too, have busy schedules and might need emergency or urgent work that can’t wait.

Using automation to send out communications, such as welcome emails and canned responses, can at least let prospects know you’re there. An automated workflow can send an email when prospects express initial interest in your business through an online contact form. If the lead is asking for a quote, the email can confirm you received their request. The email can specify when you’ll be in touch to schedule an appointment or talk about the customer’s needs.

Automated workflows in customer relationship management platforms can send welcome notices if a lead wants more information about your company. For instance, an email can summarize your company’s philosophy, the services and products you offer, and what makes your business unique.

You can also give leads the opportunity to opt in to newsletters or other content. This content can educate prospects on topics related to their pain points and your company’s solutions. You’ll be encouraging leads to convert instead of leaving them in the dark.

Conclusion

Small business owners face many challenges in competitive landscapes where their resources are often limited. Automation can make the most of the resources small business owners have at their disposal by streamlining operations. Tasks related to payroll, customer feedback, and lead and customer outreach will run more efficiently with automated solutions. With more time to focus on the big picture, small businesses can begin to gain an edge.

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