You don't need us to tell you that automation is key to business growth...
Just think about how ten or twenty years ago, if you wanted to advertise to your customers, you had to print flyers, put them in an envelope, go down to the post, and mail them.
You had no idea who they'll reach, you were spending large amounts of money, not to mention time. Nowadays, all you have to do is copy and paste your mailing list into a MailChimp account and hit send.
But if you're considering automating parts of your business, where do you start? This is what we asked our friends at naturalForms, so read on to find out!
Click on the title to jump to what matters most to you when it comes to starting your automation process:
1. Digitise your forms.
Yes, all of them. It’s only natural (pun intended!) to start your automation process with the easiest step. When it comes to management, many businesses have jumped from stacks of papers to spreadsheets, and we sure hope that they digitised their scheduling process, at least! However, many still keep to their old ways when it comes to the likes of generating certificates and estimates, purchase orders, or stock check-in/out sheets. The more you rely on pen and paper, the more room you make for human error, and that's without even going into the lack of accountability or perishable nature of the paper itself.
Automation brings to mind images of Fordist conveyor belts and robots, but its true meaning reveals itself in the little tasks, the repetitive chores that no one likes to do. Like filling forms by hand, risking delays caused by illegible handwriting, misplacing folders, and downright spilling coffee all over them. Digitising forms means that you can use auto-fill functions, search for and in a document by simply typing a word, eliminating the misunderstandings that come with poor penmanship, and creating a digital paper-trail that will cover any accountability questions.
Commusoft does this by using the information stored in the customer database to populate naturalForms fields, which the latter then converts into PDF for the former to save against specific job numbers. All without the hassle of pushing papers back-and-forth.
2. Customer relationship.
That database we mentioned earlier? It’s key to you starting your automation process and should be up there on your list of priorities. We’ve already talked about the best practices for your database, from understanding which information is worth keeping (not to mention legal to record) to make sure the quality of your data is on par with your needs. This is essential for automating your customer relationship.
Remember the example we started with, where in the past you had to post flyers to your customers? That’s only a small part of your customer relationship. Email workflows in general will improve the quality of your customer relationship but it’s hard to keep track of which customer has received which email manually. Even the best admin staff will get swamped at some point. By automating your customer relationship with the help of CRM software, you can set up a personalized conversation with each individual.
Imagine if a customer just received their (ideally, automated) invoice when you closed their job appointment. A few days later, another email goes out kindly requesting some feedback. The customer answers this and then another email thanks them and offers them a few links to review websites, like Google My Business or Checkatrade. After the review is published, a final email goes out with a discount on their next service. Think of how long it would take an office admin to keep track of the buyer journey and send these emails at the right time when they have to deal with hundreds if not thousands of customers. An automated CRM solution would take care of it all with a click.
3. Stock management.
At naturalForms, we often hear people complaining about their stock. It’s not a problem that’s easy to fix and you need to approach it from multiple angles. First and foremost, you need to eliminate check-in/out sheets. Engineers are often in a hurry so they don’t have time to sit down and fill out a detailed sheet every time they take out a part or bring it back.
This means that they’ll either scribble something that only they can understand or forget about it completely. This leaves you, your stock manager and your operations admin with parts that are unaccounted for and a stock system that’s not nearly as accurate as it should.
A stock management software paired up with a digital forms will ensure that every part is accounted for you always know where it is and who has taken it out. Engineers will be happy since they won’t have to fill in sheets anymore. With a few taps, their digital form will be automatically filled in (since the parts are already in the system) and they'll be on their way to the job site in no time.
How do you eliminate negative phases from your customer's journey and replace them with positive ones? Keep in mind that most people dread even the idea of a phone call these days...after all, we're sure you're familiar with frustrating calls, kept on hold with a robotic VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) system giving you suggestions that are of no use at all. It's not exactly a conversation, but it is communication and sorting this part out is a very good place to start when thinking about improving your customer's experience.
Turning it into a conversation is an easy thing to say but difficult to put in practice. The reason why VoIP solutions are still so popular is because it’s difficult to have someone immediately available to pick up the phone at all times, day and night. This is where chatbots come into play. Back when they first start showing up, chatbots were limited to asking simple questions and working much in the same way as a traditional form, albeit better looking.
Nowadays, there’s a wide range of chatbots you can use and they but you should go for one that supports a wide range of conversations, captures information about the customer and is able to qualify them as leads. If you want to have a look at CommuBot, just click on the icon to your right.
If it’s worth doing, it’s worth measuring! This is something that both Commusoft and naturalForms firmly believed in when they designed their individual software. Analytics should be the foundation on which you build your automation process. At first, it might be difficult because unless you’re transitioning from an older system to a newer, more advanced one, you won’t have access to that much data. But even a rudimentary business audit is better than no business audit.
Use your findings to inform your automation process and guide you. Where exactly do the numbers point to in terms of losing money or time? Perhaps it’s your social media taking too much of your time? Look into automating options like software that automatically generates posts when you update your blog or website.
Are your employees not productive enough because they spend too much time sifting through papers? Go back to point 1! But always remember that analytics are just as important after implementing new solutions. This is the only way to know if you’ve made the right decision and where to go from there. With a bit of care and preparation, the only way is up!
So what are you waiting for? Start your automation process now! Click below to download your FREE eBook and keep it close as it will be a great guide on your journey, courtesy of naturalForms and Commusoft. You’ll find even more information on areas of your business that are in desperate need of automation, real-life case studies, and a 7-step summary of everything you need to do!
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