Marketplace competition in this lackluster economy is cutthroat. You’ll need a distinct competitive advantage to stay in business, much less earn a comfortable profit, in the current climate.
One means of ensuring that you have the upper hand when it comes to operations is to practice automation whenever and wherever possible. A more efficient series of business processes will not only lead to superior customer outreach, but also boost the bottom line by saving money.
Here are 3 business automation tips that will help secure your position as a leader in your market.
1. Start small
A major, top-to-bottom overhaul of every single business process all at once is not a practical solution. If you try that, you’re likely to have multiple, concurrent problems to resolve and frustrated, demoralized employees who are having difficulty adapting to changes.
Instead, start small. Find a single business process that has the potential for automation and implement and automated system for that process. After it has been successfully implemented, get feedback from key players in the effort. Find out what went right and what went wrong so that you can learn from the experience. Incorporate the suggestions from your team into your next automation effort.
2. Create a culture of automation
As the leader in your business, you’re going to need to sell the concept of automation to your employees. The process of embracing automation will likely be a change management effort within your organization, which means that you will be responsible for its success or failure. As Ron Ashkenas notes, change management failures are usually a failure of leadership.
Here’s where you’ll need to put on your diplomacy hat. Some people may think that automation will put them out of a job because the tasks that they perform may become automated. However, behind every automated process there will always need to be humans supervising the integrity of the process, as well as ensuring that the goals are being met. Someone will also need to verify that current automation mechanisms are in line with market conditions. All of this typically requires human intervention.
3. Find the right high-tech partner
Most automation requires a business partnership. Unless you’re familiar with the logistics involved in automating even basic processes, you’ll need to find a company that specializes in the type of automation that you’re attempting to create. If you think that you can handle the automation yourself by building a network infrastructure, installing and configuring servers, and/or software development across multiple platforms in multiple languages, then feel free to attempt the automation yourself.
The fact of the matter is this: there is not shortage of great companies and online services available to assist you with streamlining your processes. You’ll find that investing your money, rather than your time, into automation will yield a better return on investment.
For example, if you offer a fee-for-subscription type of service, you should consider using an automated billing solution to handle the effort. You’re basically outsourcing the administrative tasks associated with billing to a third party, allowing you and your employees to focus more exclusively on the core purpose of the business.
You can also automate alerts and/or messages to your customers. Consider using a message system that allows your company to automatically update social media outlets or send text messages to people who have expressed an interest in your business. American Eagle, as an example, sends out text messages every Friday about weekend sales.
If you have an e-Commerce site, you should also contact your vendor to tweak your site so that it performs maximum marketing on your behalf. For example, does your e-Commerce site automatically e-mail everyone who has abandoned their shopping cart? If not, have someone update the software so that it does that. Does your e-Commerce software recommend like-item sales when a customer adds a particular item to the shopping cart? It should.