Post Table of Contents
What is Business Automation?
In short, it refers to the process of using technology to streamline and optimise business operations, reducing manual processes, reducing human error and improving efficiency.
Business automation touches various aspects of a business operation ranging from routine tasks to complex inter-departmental system-driven automation and processes.
What's The Purpose of Business Automation?
Business automation isn’t about reducing business headcount. Its primary goals include improving productivity, reducing errors, streamlining internal and external communication, enhancing customer service and freeing up valuable resources.
By automating repetitive tasks and introducing smarter automation solutions, businesses become more flexible, adaptable and faster at delivering core business-critical objectives.
Examples of Business Automation.
Data management solutions like Amazon AWS, MS PowerBI, and SAP. Sales solutions like Pipedrive, Funnel, Zendesk, and Cognism.
Mailing solutions like Mailerlite (that I use), Convertkit (that I use), Brevo and Mailchimp.
Additionally, automated email marketing campaigns can deliver personalised content to thousands of customers simultaneously.
This post is built using WordPress, the world’s largest content management system (CMS) and I use an email client app called Mailerlite. The Mailerlite software has an API that lets me integrate its automated email solution into this WordPress CMS. So, when someone subscribes to the Guidance Newsletter for example, the website form is connected to the Mailerlite App and it knows because I’ve told it, to send a welcome email to the person that just subscribed.
Application Programming Interface – like an electronic handshake between two or more different software solutions. The handshake is highly secure and allows information to travel between the various software that have shaken hands. Technically, this is usually called third-party integration or API calls.
Every digital activity uses secure API calls to look up, transfer, confirm, action and reveal all sorts of front-end and back-end data – images, bank balances, locations, videos, and Google searches.
Zapier is the world’s largest API integrator and business automation solution, allowing thousands of different software solutions to securely shake hands and get along.
What Are The Benefits of Business Automation?
Automation reduces the time and effort required for repetitive tasks, streamlining manual interaction and enabling more time to focus on higher-value activities.
Automation minimizes the risk of human error, providing consistency and accuracy in multiple operational processes dealing with potentially billions of data points – Google, Amazon, and Oracle.
Automation can bring about significant operational efficiencies resulting in higher Opex margins.
Improved Customer Experience:
Automating multiple customer interactions, responses and touchpoints leads to higher levels of service and retention resulting in improved customer loyalty and word-of-mouth referral opportunities.
Channelling business data into a data warehousing structure provides stakeholders with business-critical data analysis and KPI reporting across the business enabling informed decision-making and predictive analytics.
Many mainstream automation solutions allow for growth and scale and can accommodate, in some cases, millions of simultaneous data access interactions.
What Are The Implementation Challenges?
One of the primary challenges in implementing business automation is the upfront and medium-term resource investment required. While acquiring automation tools and software can be a low cost of entry, the training and learning curve can be steep.
Integrating new systems can strain budgets, negatively affect customer service levels and create frustration across the business. Needless to say, effective project management is critical when introducing any business automation solution.
Resistance to Change:
Human beings often resist change, and the introduction of business automation can be met with scepticism or even resistance from staff. Some may fear job displacement or be uncomfortable with new technologies.
Effective change management, communication, and training programs are crucial in addressing this challenge. Communication and inclusive engagement are a must.
Selecting the Right Tools:
Choosing the appropriate automation tools and software may appear obvious but in a flooded market with so many choices, extensive research, pilot testing, and consultation with experts will avoid costly long-term scaling and or incompatibility issues.
Data Security and Privacy:
Automation usually involves the handling of sensitive data, which raises concerns about data security and privacy.
Businesses must ensure that their automation systems comply with relevant regulations and implement stringent and rock-solid security measures to protect customer and company data from privacy breaches and or cyberattacks. note that data protection breaches can be costly with fines north of 4% of annual turnover.
Integration with Existing Systems:
Many businesses already have legacy systems and software in place. Integrating new automation tools with these existing systems can be complex and may require custom solutions.
The potential for incompatibility issues should be identified at the initial project scope and pilot phase to avoid future business-impacting issues.
Proper, long-term training is essential to reap the full benefits of business automation. Insufficient training can lead to significant business performance issues and will cause pain and frustration for employees who are usually at the coal face dealing with the problem.
Existing Process Integration:
The introduction of new automation solutions often necessitates a re-evaluation and potential part or full redesign of existing systems and processes.
This can be quite a challenge and should not be underestimated. Again, effective project management is key to addressing such requirements.
As businesses grow, their automation needs will likely change. Ensuring that the chosen automation solutions can scale with the business’s growth is vital. Inflexible systems can become bottlenecks rather than facilitators. Bottlenecks usually have a direct impact on service and delivery.
User Adoption and Acceptance:
Beyond the probable initial resistance, achieving full user adoption and acceptance can be a challenge. It is common for staff to revert to manual processes or bypass automation altogether if they find the new solution to be time-consuming or counter-intuitive.
How Does Business Automation Improve Customer Service and Customer Experience?
Without doubt, delivering exceptional customer service is often the key differentiator for successful businesses. Business automation plays a pivotal role in delivering a superior customer experience. Here are several ways automation helps deliver great customer service:
With business automation, customer service can be available 24/7. Automated chatbots and virtual assistants can answer common customer queries, process orders, and provide support 24/7. Note that these solutions have to be perfect or they will end up hurting the customer experience journey.
Faster Response Times:
Automation tools can respond to customer inquiries and issues faster using tools like automated responders, data queries, order receipts, delivery times and much more. Faster response times lead to increased customer satisfaction.
Automation enables businesses to provide a personalised experience to each customer, even when dealing with a large customer base in the millions. By analysing customer data, key data metrics and customer behaviour data, businesses can provide custom solutions like product recommendations, marketing messages, and support interactions.
Efficient Ticketing Systems:
For most businesses, customer support ticketing systems are fairly standard. Through automation, customer data tickets can be automatically assigned to the appropriate resolution teams reducing manual workload and ensuring that customer issues are addressed and resolved quickly by the right people.
Responsive and Proactive Customer Comms:
Automation can be used to proactively reach out to customers with updates, reminders, or special offers. An e-commerce store for example can send automated shipping notifications, upsell products, offer loyalty discounts and maintain timely marketing touchpoints with all the heavy lifting done by the business automation solution.
By analysing customer data, businesses gain access to valuable insights into customer preferences and behaviour, business pain points and business KPI trends. This information can be invaluable for streamlining internal processes, reducing business costs, improving sales and marketing opportunities and optimising customer service strategies.
Consistency in Service:
Automation ensures a consistent level of service across all customer interactions. Whether a customer contacts support via email, chat, or phone, they receive the same quality of service and information, reinforcing trust, loyalty and referral opportunities.
Excellent customer service leads to higher customer satisfaction. Satisfied customers are more likely to remain loyal and refer others to the company.
Five Business Automation Software Applications.
Microsoft Power Automate: Seamless integration with various Microsoft applications, including Office 365, SharePoint, and Dynamics 365. It allows businesses to create automated workflows that streamline tasks, such as sending email notifications, updating spreadsheets, and automating approvals.
Zapier: Zapier is a versatile automation platform that connects over 5,000+ web apps. It enables businesses to create ‘Zaps,’ which are automated workflows that trigger actions in one app based on events in another. Whether it’s automating social media posts, lead generation, or data syncing, Zapier simplifies how independent software solutions work together for the good of the business needs.
UiPath: UiPath is a leading Robotic Process Automation (RPA) software that excels in automating repetitive, rule-based tasks. It employs software robots (or ‘bots’) to emulate human interactions with digital systems. UiPath is particularly useful in industries like finance, healthcare, and customer service.
QuickBooks: For small businesses, QuickBooks offers an automated accounting and financial management solution. It simplifies tasks like invoicing, expense tracking, and payroll processing, helping businesses stay organised and compliant with financial regulations.
Salesforce: Salesforce, a renowned Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform, automates sales, marketing, and customer service processes. It allows businesses to automate lead nurturing, track customer interactions, and create personalised marketing campaigns, improving customer relationships and driving revenue growth.
What Are The Cost Saving Benefits of Business Automation?
While the advantages of business automation extend far beyond cost savings, one of the most compelling benefits for any organisation is its direct impact on gross margins. Here’s how business automation contributes to cost-effectiveness and ultimately boosts profitability:
Labour Cost Reduction: One of the bigger costs for many businesses is labour. Automation can significantly reduce resource requirements connected to routine tasks, meaning fewer man-hours are spent on newly automated processes. By restructuring resources to more growth-focused roles, businesses can leverage the skills of their workforce more effectively.
Minimising Errors: Human errors can be costly. Automation systems are designed to provide accuracy and consistency. They perform tasks precisely the same way every time, drastically reducing the margin for error.
Improved Resource Allocation: Automation can optimise resource utilisation. In manufacturing, for example, automated production lines can adjust their manufacturing output based on real-time demand, preventing overproduction and material wastage.
Stock Management: Inventory management is crucial for businesses dealing with the selling and distribution of physical goods. Automation tools can monitor stock levels, predict demand, and automate re-ordering.
Less Downtime: Automated systems are far less prone to mechanical faults, breakdown or downtime due to resource availability or human error. Consistent and continual production or service delivery provides more reliable and consistent revenue streams.
Business Scaling: As businesses grow, they can scale their automated processes with relative ease. This scalability means that the benefits of automation continue to grow alongside the business, maintaining and in most cases, improving cost-efficiencies.
Wrapping Things Up.
Adopting business automation solutions is now firmly established across virtually every customer touchpoint irrespective of industry or customer interaction.
Business automation is no longer a luxury but a necessity. It allows companies to work smarter, not harder, by harnessing the power of technology to streamline operations, driving profitability and growth.
Lastly, do not underestimate the benefits of what business automation can bring to the table. Also, do not underestimate the challenges when introducing it. Effective communication and professional project management are key.