Easy steps towards automation to future proof your small business

Boosting productivity, driving down costs and optimising processes are some of the common drivers behind automation. Automating business processes can free up resources and enable organisations to focus on achieving growth and improving customer experience.

To get the maximum benefit from automation, small businesses should consider which tasks and processes to prioritise. The first thing to establish is which processes could benefit from automation. Review complex processes that could be simplified. For example, one area that’s often overlooked is shipping and mailing. By automating this process, business can save time and money, and improve the overall customer experience.

There are four areas business should review for automation opportunities:

1. Automate to improve the customer experience

Improving the customer experience should be at the centre of the automation journey. Businesses that do this will reap the rewards, seeing measurable improvements in both customer retention and satisfaction.

Consumers are looking for a seamless experience across all channels they use to interact with a business. Investing in systems such as CRM can make a huge difference in delivering personalised and streamlined customer experience. Other improvements could be automating customer queries through a chatbot. This can remove frustration for customers, while internal teams can take care of personal interactions to build relationships and drive growth.

2. Automate to improve the employee experience

Engaged employees deliver a better customer experience, which has a positive impact on the bottom line. Research by Aberdeen has found that businesses with a formal engagement strategy in place are 67 per cent more likely to improve their revenue than those that do not.

Prioritising the automation of tedious and administrative tasks will improve productivity and boost motivation, generating cost savings and driving engagement. If employees are in different locations, automating processes to keep them connected can help them feel engaged and closer to their colleagues. Many automation technologies are easily accessible regardless of device or location, making them perfect for remote workers.

3. Automate processes which could pose a threat to the business

Human error is still one of the greatest risks for businesses today. Manual processes, such as data input for accounting, invoicing and reporting, are prone to mistakes. These errors can be costly and create a significant level of risk to a business and its employees.

For example, mailing the wrong billing information to the wrong customer contravenes personal data protection regulations. This risk can be eliminated by automating mail processes with technologies that automate folding, inserting and sealing, and use 2D barcode scanning to minimise the risk of error. Automating processes such as visitor management and incoming parcel management will also improve transparency and visibility across an organisation, reducing risk.

4. Automate areas likely to become pain points in the future

Many manual processes are coming under pressure as businesses and markets evolve. They may work now but face threats down the line. Identifying and optimising these processes early on means employees can be trained on new systems, allowing for a smooth transition to growth with minimal impact on the customer.

As e-commerce grows, businesses that are still using manual shipping processes should consider automating those. Global shipping is forecast to surpass 100 billion parcels by 2020; an integrated shipping and mailing platform can help businesses prepare for this surge and get ahead of their competition.

Stephen Darracott, Country Manager and Director Sending Technology Solutions, Pitney Bowes ANZ

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