Ever since the first machines were rolled out on the factory floor, automation has promised to radically transform the way that you manage business growth and serve your customers. Using automation through custom software development can both help you grow by getting more customers and also get more revenue from your existing customers.
These days, too many companies experience growing pains when they aren't prepared for an unexpected upturn in their business fortunes. Automation can help you harness this newfound energy and use it for your own benefit, thereby unlocking opportunities for your organization and growing your revenue as your business grows.
The Pain Points of Traditional Business Processes
Manual business processes have stood the test of time, but they also suffer from a few major issues. To start with, they have the potential to be highly error-prone. For example, various studies have shown that 88 percent of non-trivial spreadsheets contain significant mistakes or typos.
Another problem is that manual business processes can be excruciatingly slow or even come to a standstill, especially those processes that have many links in the chain. If your workflows require manual approval at certain stages, documents can languish on people's desks for days or weeks just because they were busy or forgot about them.
On a related note, manual business processes also give you very little visibility into their progress. When a document needs to be passed around for approval, finding out whose desk it's on involves a protracted game of telephone to see who currently has it.
All of these issues — and more — are the reasons why a growing number of companies are turning to automation to speed up and streamline their business processes. The next few sections will examine the different ways that automation can benefit your business.
Producing More Output
Your ability to manage business growth by providing more products and services is often inversely proportional to the amount of time that you spend on repetitive tasks like data entry. The best candidates for automation are those that are very predictable, follow a consistent sequence of steps, require little higher-level input and need a high degree of accuracy.
If your business involves sending reports at regular intervals to customers, then you'll be happy to know that much of the data collection and report generation process can be automated. Manually generating reports, especially those that must be individually tailored to specific customers, is an extremely time-intensive process that requires a highly technical skill set and strong research abilities. Instead, you can use software for collecting and analyzing data in order to extract metrics and key performance indicators about the health and performance of your customers' business. These automatically generated reports, full of valuable insights, can then be sent directly to your customers' email inboxes.
Building Your Customer Base
By increasing the size of your customer base or your ability to serve your customers, automation plays an important role in expanding your company's audience. For example, as mentioned in the previous section, automation helps your employees rely less on data entry and focus more on higher-level tasks that make use of their specialized skills.
One of the most important uses of automation these days is in sales and marketing. Choosing the right customer relationship management (CRM) software can mean the difference between converting or losing a significant percentage of your prospective customers. CRM software with automated functionality can help you do things like:
- Automatically following up with leads that have indicated interest in your business
- Plumbing your sales and marketing data to find the most promising customer segments and profiles
- Nurturing prospects throughout their journey through the sales funnel
Custom development can help tie together all of the disparate automation tools you currently use to reach prospects and convert customers. Automating as many functions as possible for your sales and marketing teams frees them up to focus on what they do best.
Automation can also be used to develop features that demonstrate the value of your business to new and existing customers alike. Speeding up onboarding or streamlining the purchase process for customers can make it much easier to bring on larger numbers of new customers, potentially without having to change the amount of staff needed to serve them.
Although the day is still very far off when you'll be able to fully automate your customer interactions, automation can nevertheless play a valuable support role in customer service, especially when your business is scaling upwards and outwards. For example, you can use live chat agents that speak with customers when they first have a problem or question, so that they can then route the customer to a human representative who can help. Automated processes can also monitor your IT environment for issues and preemptively address them even before customers notice or complain about them.
Increasing Revenue With Existing Customers
Not only can automation help you bring new customers into the fold, it can also help you see more revenue from your existing customers. For example, automation can add customer service functionality to your business that you currently aren't providing at all.
One way of doing so is with self-service portals for your customers, allowing them to perform activities like making payments, generating reports and viewing inventory lists. Before, many of these things would have required making a phone call or mailing a check. These days, however, customers can log onto a portal and do things like pay bills, view sales reports and get pricing information. By stepping out of the picture, you give your customers the power to be self-sufficient. In turn, this increases your business transparency, creating more positive impressions and strengthening your customer relationships.
Improving relationships is one way that automation can benefit your existing customers; providing more value is another. For example, your customers might also want to take advantage of automation for themselves by using an API connection directly into your ordering system, rather than having to log in and place an order manually. This helps your customers streamline their processes and, as an added bonus, makes it easier for them to order from you.
Consider building a system that allows your customers to seamlessly integrate their own processes with an order system, a payment portal or an inventory management system. This will make doing business with you as simple and straightforward a task as possible.
Although your business might be booming, that doesn't mean that you also have to scale up the number of employees that you hire or the amount of work that each one has to do. Instead, consider leveraging the power of business process automation for your organization.
By using automation, your workers will be freed from performing tedious, repetitive tasks so that they can focus on interactions with customers or activities that require higher-level thinking. As such, you can service more customers without necessarily hiring more staff. In addition, your workflows will be more efficient and productive, the quality of your products and services will become more consistent, and their time to market will generally be lower. By streamlining your processes, you'll make your business not only more scalable but also more flexible and responsive, able to respond to quick changes in market conditions.