Do you hear complaints from your staff about how they’re drowning in paperwork? Perhaps you’ve also noticed your to-do list is full of mind-numbing tasks. It takes so long to make headway because you’re repeating the same processes over and over. You don’t have as much time as you’d like to connect with clients and strategize your company’s next move.
As every business owner soon finds out, time is money. And automating manual processes can lessen the burden of repetitive work for everyone in the office. Automation is an excellent time-saving strategy, but you might not know where to start. Let’s review four beneficial ways to automate manual “behind-the-scenes” processes.
1. Identify Cross-Functional Opportunities
Inside most companies are several departments with a mix of responsibilities. You might have 10 employees in sales, another 20 in IT, and a handful working as legal advisors. These staff members may have distinct expertise, but a closer look reveals the departments’ tasks overlap. Sales secures customer contracts for website development, while IT fulfills the business’s end of the bargain. Meanwhile, the legal department assists with writing the agreements.
Within this overlap are multiple interdependent procedures. And that’s where there are often opportunities to streamline time-sucking tasks. For instance, sales reps may excel at lining up meetings with potential clients. They know what to look for from a lead nurturing viewpoint. But they’re not so good at spotting the technical and legal implications of these prospective partnerships.
It’s too time-consuming to have everyone sit in on meetings and exchange version after version of contracts. Relying on manual editing and review processes also increases the possibility of mistakes. This is an opportunity to automate contract management procedures across multiple departments. Using contract management software instead makes it easier for cross-functional teams to collaborate. Everyone can iron out customer agreement details faster and more accurately.
2. Target Client Pain Points
If you survey your customers, you’ll probably find common themes among their comments. Some of the feedback will be positive, highlighting your company’s strengths. But some of those surveys will reveal shared frustrations and suggestions for improvement. More than likely, these irritations will point toward inefficient back-end processes.
For example, there’s a reason customer satisfaction ratings for internet service providers are so low. The 2021-2022 American Customer Satisfaction Index’s telecom study shows internet service providers come in last among more than 45 industries. And the overall rating for these providers is declining, with a 1.5% drop over the previous year’s results.
A failure to meet customers’ expectations is behind the persistent low ratings. Mishaps like not communicating about planned outages beforehand can be one of those shortcomings. Automated notifications to customers may prevent frustrations from reaching the boiling point. When someone schedules maintenance work in the system, it can notify impacted clients via email or text. Service reps don’t have to send notifications manually and can better handle spikes in call volume.
3. Ask Employees About Inefficiencies
Sometimes problems and opportunities are hiding in plain sight. Employees might notice inefficiencies with workflows but grow used to them. They find ways to adapt without voicing their concerns. Another possibility is that staff members have spoken up only to have their feedback dismissed.
Take an employee who notices the company’s customer data isn’t clean. There are several duplicates, discrepancies between databases, and inaccurate associations. The root of the problem is manual data entry across multiple departments. Plus, none of the databases sync correctly. But the person is responsible for targeting customers and leads for various email campaigns.
Automating database management with the right software applications could solve the issue. Integrations between the departments’ systems would also be a step in the right direction. With automated tools, a business can fix simple inaccuracies and duplications without manual intervention. Employees charged with segmenting contacts based on specific characteristics will have sufficiently clean data to work with. They can then send their email campaigns on time with confidence.
4. Eliminate Redundancies
When you examine manual processes, you often discover redundancies. An example is when employees take a day off. Does the request process involve more than one system or form? If the answer is yes, there’s a good chance it’s creating a needless headache.
On average, office workers say they waste around 4.5 hours a week on tasks they believe should be automated. These could include having to enter time off requests in multiple systems. Adding paper forms to the mix increases the amount of waste. If someone has to fill out a form for a supervisor to sign, more than one person gets bogged down. And if an admin assistant must review the forms and cross-reference them with another system, it’s adding more layers.
All those steps increase the risk of oversights, including incorrect paychecks. Converting to one system is the ideal solution. But if this isn’t feasible, automated platform integrations are the next best thing. Time off requests entered in one system automatically route to the others. Redundancies like paper forms and manual entries go away, freeing up everyone’s time.
Finding Ways to Automate the Routine
Office work isn’t always seamless. What starts as a useful process can become cumbersome over time. As companies grow and embark on new initiatives, redundancies and inefficiencies creep in. Employees spend more time on additional steps when they shouldn’t have to. Client service and staff productivity suffer, eventually impacting revenue.
By uncovering overlaps and points of frustration, business owners can identify processes to automate. Duplicate tasks are ideal targets, as are those prone to a lot of errors. Tools that streamline these actions help companies leverage resources more efficiently. Employees can then prioritize what impacts the bottom line.