Every business has them: those little inefficiencies that seem insignificant until you add them up and start to realize their true cost.
Look hard enough, and you’ll spot these inefficiencies almost everywhere: for example, every time you search through a long email chain to decipher the status of a project or send several forms back and forth to bring on a new employee or approve a simple purchase.
These moments are frustrating, but they’re also often small enough to seem insignificant. Do not be fooled: over time, they add up. And you can bet that you and your employees will pay for those inefficiencies in terms of lost opportunities, increased frustration, and stalled momentum.
Fortunately, you can squash many of these inefficiencies with the right business automation tools. A few simple business automation upgrades can make a huge difference to your employees because they streamline redundant tasks and free up more time for the high-value work that really matters to your business.
To discover which business automation tools are right for your business, take a careful look at how you and your employees currently spend your time each day. If you discover a process that’s needlessly repetitive or demands a disproportionate amount of time for little return, you’ve found an opportunity to automate.
Every business is different, but here are some common automation upgrades that you may want to consider:
1. Make a great first impression with automated employee onboarding
Did you know that a well-structured onboarding process can make it 58% more likely that your employees will stick around for longer than three years? That’s a great target to aim for, especially since 22% of staff turnover happens within weeks of employment!
Successful employee onboarding can not only streamline all the paperwork that comes with the hiring process, but it can set the tone for what employees should expect of your organization—and what you, in turn, expect of them.
A great onboarding automation system should make it painless for new employees to access and fill out and sign important forms, like contracts and waivers. But it should also enable you to share important information about your workplace, culture, and expectations in a way that’s polished, thorough, and professional—and makes your new employee feel like a welcome part of your team.
2. Zap wasted time by streamlining communication and collaboration
If your business depends on multiple individuals or teams working together to make things happen—whether it’s planning a major event or implementing a big project—then you can’t depend on old-fashioned email back-and-forth, especially since better tools are now available.
A great project management system or collaboration tool can streamline group projects and tasks and keep progress from stalling. Collaboration tools like Slack can help employees break free from those never-ending email chains so they can work together simply and effectively in real time.
More robust project management tools like Asana, Basecamp and Trello can organize everyone’s work in one place so it’s easy to see where things stand at a glance. They can also keep track of tasks in progress as well as those that still need to be done—and who’s responsible for doing them.
3. Make it simpler for customers to pay you—without complicating your life
These days there are countless ways for customers to pay you for your products or services—whether it’s by checking out through your online store, paying in person via a credit card, setting up recurring monthly payments, setting up ACH payments, or even writing an old-fashioned check.
Naturally, you want to be able to meet your customers where they are and accept payments in a way that works best for them—but that doesn’t mean you have to create more work for yourself and your employees.
That’s where payment automation tools, like PaySimple, can help. Tools like these can help you meet customers’ payment needs flexibly and all in one place. Whether it’s a one-time payment or a monthly subscription, a credit card or an eCheck, an online purchase or a mobile transaction, it helps to have a system that can handle it all.
4. Book more business with automated appointment and meeting scheduling
Your employees may be happy to help customers book an appointment over the phone, but your customers may be even happier if they had the option to do it themselves online.
Simplify life for yourself and your team, and give customers the power to book appointments themselves if they prefer. An online booking system can fill up your calendar while freeing up your team’s time.
There are dozens of great scheduling options out there, so you’ll have to look for one that’s right for your business. A good option may be BookSimple, which gives you the power to generate appointments from almost anywhere—your website, your emails, or your social media pages—with an embeddable “Book Now” button. Calendly is also great for scheduling client meetings, which eliminates a lot of the back-and-forth and simply gets you on each others’ calendars.
5. Keep customers engaged with automated emails
If you depend on email to stay in touch with your customers, then automated emails can save you time while keeping customers engaged. There are a variety of services that can help you set up automated email campaigns, including the more popular options like Constant Contact, GetResponse, and MailChimp.
You may already be using email automation services like these for your marketing campaigns, but you can also leverage them to stay responsive to customer needs and eliminate a lot of the one-off emails your employees may be sending…again and again and again.
First, check with your employees to see which messages they tend to send over and over again. You may discover that they’re spending far too much time individually confirming a customer’s order or reservation, providing additional product or service information, or answering the same frequently-asked questions, especially if an automated email would work equally as well in those scenarios.
Many of these common, repetitive email tasks can be delegated to email automation tools. Perhaps you can create a set of customizable templates for company-wide use, or develop a small-scale email campaign that’s triggered when a customer asks a specific question or makes a specific request. An “if, then” automated campaign, for example, can trigger a series of relevant emails that reach the customer just when they’re most receptive.
Email automation tools can be customized to meet your needs, so this is an area where you can really get creative while also saving yourself and your employees a lot of time over the long run.
6. Save time and eliminate errors with purchase order automation
Depending on your business, you may order physical goods from various suppliers or outsource work to a number of service providers. If that’s the case, your operations or finance team most likely spends a lot of time creating, monitoring and processing purchase orders. Unfortunately, for a lot of businesses this is still a manual, error-prone, and inefficient process.
Automation software can help streamline a lot of that repetitive work and give your employees their time back—time which they can then spend on higher-value business activities.
For example, purchase order and invoice approval software can help your team stay on top of organizational spend, quickly approve purchase orders, and easily keep track of receipts and records for every invoice. A few options you may want to consider are Zahara, Procurify, and PurchaseControl.
7. Increase accountability with easy, online employee scheduling
Why spend hours creating employee schedules when you can use a solution like When I Work to do it for you in a fraction of the time? You can create templates for schedules that repeat, easily copy a shift, and automatically assign OpenShifts to employees for you to review later. When I Work can help you build the perfect work schedule in minutes, a feat that saves you an average of 8 hours per week!
Creating a schedule from scratch takes a lot of time, especially if you’re doing it yourself. And just when you’ve put all of the pieces in place, a random time-off or shift change request can knock everything out of balance and force you to start over.
But if you’re using an option like When I Work, those small changes and special requests don’t have to derail everything. An employee scheduling app means that you can review and approve requests in real time and send employees instant updates so they know exactly when to show up to work.
Your employees will appreciate being able to access scheduling information from their phones, as well as the ease with which time off requests and special changes can be accommodated. Meanwhile, you’ll enjoy greater employee accountability and a decrease in missed shifts.
The only problem left to solve? How you’ll spend those extra 8 hours you get back each week!