Small businesses often face challenges. They have to compete in a market with large corporations, have reduced budgets, and, most importantly, less staff, resulting in time constraints. This is why any start-up or small business should constantly be looking at available tools to aid and improve their overall productivity. One of the best methods is utilizing automation.

Automation is the process of using machine learning and AI technology to replace a manual business process. Automation tools are incredibly diverse and can help with many company tasks, such as data entry and analysis. 

The key question for any small business owner should be this: “what is intelligent automation?” In this article, we’ll explore the seven best automation techniques you can use to improve your company’s efficiency.

1. Workflow

The goal of any business should be to optimize its practices. Your company workflow is the specific tasks you have set out to reach your business goals. This can include anything from internal company communication to sales.

Automating specific aspects of your workflow can have significant advantages. Let’s take a look at a couple:

  1. Reduces human error. As we mentioned above, automation uses robotic learning and machines to carry out tasks. This is especially beneficial for mundane jobs such as data entry. One mistake from an employee can have drastic effects on your company data analysis, but automation can significantly increase task accuracy levels.
  1. Increases engagement. Not only are these workflow tasks prone to error, but they are often unengaging and mundane. This reduces employee morale. Using automation allows your employees to switch their focus to more meaningful tasks. This will engage them and increase employee retention.

2. Social media

Social media platforms are one of the most vital tools for small businesses. They’re a source of free marketing that can be exploited for the company’s benefit. A business that produces high-quality and consistent social media posts will garner attention and amass a large following that translates directly into sales.

The key element here is quality and consistency, but remembering to post on various social media platforms daily can be an overwhelming and time-consuming task. Social media automation tools allow you to create your social media posts in bulk and set the times you want them to be published.

This is crucial as it allows you to block off a specific slot for creating high-quality posts and then enables you to forget about them while they’re automatically posted. Of course, it’s also advisable to keep track of performance and customer engagement and to optimize posts for the future.

3. Customer service chat

Successful small businesses make customers feel like they’re part of a family that cares about them through their exceptional customer service. But, unfortunately, due to time constraints and lack of staff, you’re not always available to reply to clients.

This is why small businesses should use online chatbots. A chatbot is like your very own AI-powered digital worker, and it can be made available on your website. Online chatbots use machine learning and recognize keywords in the customer’s typed question to formulate a specific personalized answer.

This is a valuable tool as it’s available 24/7 and can act as the first point of contact, freeing up time for your customer service agents to handle more complex issues.

4. Office management 

As well as improving customer support, small businesses should look to upgrade their in-office practices. Office management software allows companies to keep track of everything that needs to be completed in the workflow. This is a great time management tool that ensures employees are aware of their jobs and everyone else’s roles in the team.

The most useful thing about this is that it creates transparency. This increases employee accountability and enables you to pinpoint potential bottlenecks. Not only that, but office management software reduces the amount of paperwork required as it performs its role digitally.

5. Lead nurturing

Consider this scenario. You’re a company that creates accounting software, representing one of the many small businesses that act as Quickbooks alternatives. A client has expressed interest in your product by signing up for your mailing list. Unfortunately, you’re swamped with work and don’t send them a welcome email.

In this case, the likelihood of you converting that lead is significantly reduced. Email automation tools are therefore vital in both marketing and sales. They allow you to automatically send well-timed emails to customers at specific stages of the sales pipeline, increasing the chance of a conversion.

6. Cart abandonment

Cart abandonment is another major concern for small businesses. This is the process of the customer reaching the final stage of the checkout process and then bouncing. This can occur due to several reasons, including high shipping costs or an unfavorable returns policy.

Getting a customer to reach this stage has already cost your business money, and you shouldn’t give up on them. Cart abandonment automation emails can automatically send these customers a notification later on in the day to remind them of their cart or send them a discount code to increase the probability of them completing the transaction.

7. Feedback

The only way a business will improve is by listening to feedback. Customer feedback can be invaluable as it can tell you precisely what you should change. But, if there isn’t a direct and straightforward feedback collection method, businesses may unknowingly continue with their bad practices.

Setting up feedback automation tools like post-transaction surveys or mobile phone questionnaires can help you collect useful data that will benefit your business in the long run.

In summary

Efficient and effective automation should include all the points mentioned above. This means combining robotic processes with AI and data collection automation, which is also known as hyper automation. Any small business looking to survive and thrive in its industry should continually look for innovative ways to improve its practices.

Sunjay Randhawa is the Head of Global & Demand Generation for Automation Anywhere. A seasoned marketing leader with over eighteen years of experience leading and scaling demand generation and digital marketing strategy initiatives (Paid and Organic Search, Lead Generation, Display, Social, Affiliate, Mobile) from small to large companies globally. Here is his LinkedIn.

Automation stock photo by Alexander Supertramp/Shutterstock