Automating essential office tasks can save you time, money, and frustration. The amount of work that can be automated continues to grow. Whether you’re trying to improve communication, record-keeping, or finances, automation can be your friend. You can save time, reduce human error, increase consistency, and keep better records, by using automation. Here are a few areas where we feel automation will bring the small business the most bang for the buck.
Automating the Hiring Process
Finding a new employee requires many steps and a lot of time. From creating the job description to posting the job, sorting through resumes, screening candidates, setting up, and conducting interviews, the process can become quite daunting. Unfortunately, in a company with fewer than 15 people, human resources tasks fall on the owner, supervisor, or manager. All these tasks, added to a full workload, can put quite a strain on the individual.
Today’s recruiting automation and application tracking software (ATS) makes the job faster and less stressful. Modern recruiting software can help you create the perfect job description, and advertise it on hundreds of job boards. It can help sort, manage, and contact applicants. Some offer collaboration tools so that you can get your entire team involved in the hiring decision.
Best of all, new-generation recruiting automation tools geared to small businesses are popping up online. They won’t break the bank, and they promise to match you only with qualified people and proven skills. Look for an online process that lets you incorporate skills testing or other methods that can show you a candidate’s potential before you meet.
Simplifying Management With Automation
Up until recently, managing the small office relied on email: an overwhelming number of emails. Unfortunately, email clients are not set up to keep track of deadlines, assign recurring tasks, or oversee the status of multiple projects. Forgetting to copy someone, or worse, an ill-fated “reply all” can lead to poor communication, misinterpretation, and misunderstandings. Plus, email clients offer no help in planning multi-step projects. Luckily, collaboration tools created for large manufacturing corporations have now been streamlined and repackaged for small-business use.
Collaboration tools help you manage teams by automating task assignments and customizing workflows. This type of software lets everyone track the progress of a project from start to finish, promoting teamwork and transparency. Many online versions include a calendar and an inter-office chat tool to help keep everyone in the loop.
Collaboration software comes in so many flavors, that picking one can be difficult. Searching for features that solve current problems is the obvious first step. The next step in narrowing the playing field might be to lean towards user interfaces that are easy to learn. And finally, consider tools that connect to your existing software to increase productivity.
Any small-business owner can attest that processing payroll can, on some days, be a considerable time sink. If all processing is manual, it can take an entire day to do payroll for just a few employees. Let’s face it, adding up time cards, calculating pay and overtime, and processing deductions (without making mistakes) takes time. Add some slight changes to payroll laws, and the entire process becomes a daunting task.
Luckily, there are ways to automate the process. One option is enhanced payroll software. It reduces and automates some of the steps needed to pay employees, calculate taxes, and fill out necessary forms. Another option is to use online payroll services. These let your employees and accountant take over the lion’s share of generating paychecks and tax payments. Finally, there are affordable full-service options. These allow small businesses to outsource payroll and payroll tax processing altogether! All of these options reduce human errors that can lead to hefty penalties. For many, the time saved plus the peace of mind make up for the extra cost.
Automatic Information Flow
Customer Relationship Management systems (CRM), and industry-specific, related software, can increase efficiency for many daily tasks. For example, if you’re in healthcare, Electronic Health Management systems (ERM) can increase automation by generating pre-populated orders for laboratory tests and prescriptions. They increase speed through the ability to document care with shorthand entries. Such systems offer a variety of automation opportunities.
Plus, these types of systems increase efficiency and decrease human error by centralizing all the data. Having a data warehouse for all clients’ contact information, records, and history promotes rapid and accurate retrieval. When an entire office can automate centralizing data, workflows significantly improve.
Because a CRM, or a similar industry-specific tool, touches so many systems, it has the potential to become the center of your transactions. Therefore, it is important to choose one wisely. We recommend taking inventory of what features and functionality you need before you start shopping. Then, see if you can take advantage of any connections a potential tool may already have with other applications that you use. Finally, request a demo and a free trial before you buy.
Automate Appointment Reminders
Here is one area where we, at Reminder Services, can attest that automation works. How much time do you spend making outbound calls reminding your customers about an upcoming appointment or interview? How expensive is a missed appointment? Automating your appointment reminders can reduce the cost of missed appointments and eliminate the time your staff spends calling, texting, and emailing clients or patients.
Automating appointment reminders reduces the number of no-shows on your schedule and is very effective. Take it from one of our customer reviews on Capterra:
“We purchased this product to help reduce cancellations and no-show appointments. It has helped immensely! We are able to alert patients via text or call that they have an appointment in 24hrs, and they are able to confirm with their schedules. They are also able to respond, which comes through via our email, and enables a quick re-schedule if we see it fast enough! It has also reduced no-show appointments to less than 1%. Patients also love the messages and calls! They compliment the timeliness of them and consistency of the receipt of the messages and content.”
A feature-rich automated reminder service such as ReminderCall.com, allows customers to confirm their appointments or request a change. It can integrate with your appointment calendar and be used to send out relevant notifications (such as closures). Automated appointment reminders are so inexpensive and easy to set up; using them is a no-brainer. To see what they’re like, try our live demo.
Automatic Document Signatures
Many business transactions still require signed documents. Unfortunately, paperwork is very labor-intensive and requires time and space. Therefore, we feel that one of the greatest inventions of the digital age is the ability to sign documents using a digital signature! Consider digitizing your forms and agreements with a document management package. Then you can automate getting your documents signed and returned to you.
An electronic link between the document and the signing party is required for an e-signature to be legal. Document Management software handles this task and more. Plus, new features are added to document-signature software every day, giving users many innovative ways to leverage these tools. Archiving, team management, templates, branding, and workflows are just some of the few new features being offered.
An excellent industry-specific package can create time-saving automation opportunities for many transactions. When selecting an electronic-signature package, be sure to read reviews and to make sure they work well on all browsers and operating systems as this is a customer-facing tool.
Automate Your Invoices
If you find that billing gets to be a hassle every time you do it, automating your invoicing might be the way to go. Some benefits of billing automation are apparent, while others are less so. One obvious benefit is speed. Automated billing increases efficiency, allowing you to spend less time on accounting and more time running your business. Not only can you create, manage, and track invoices much more quickly, but you can remind customers if their bill is overdue.
Other benefits are less noticeable. Billing automation offers easier access and monitoring, which leads to better insight. Overhead costs go down as employees responsible for tedious billing tasks can now work on other tasks. Finally, fewer billing errors often translate to improved business relationships. When selecting a system, be sure it can connect to other tools such as your existing banking software.
Set Up Automatic Data Backups
In many small offices, data is mission-critical. Information needs to be secure and available. If your data is on-site, automated backup tools should be an essential part of your data management strategy. Data backup and system monitoring tools work best when they are automated, as they are repetitive tasks that demand accuracy.
An automated service runs in the background, generating alerts if issues arise. An early warning allows for troubleshooting before any problems impact productivity.
There are a variety of tools you can utilize to automate the backing up of your data. Some tools back up and store your data to external servers in case of data loss in your system. Others store your data in the cloud, such as Google Drive, or Apple iCloud. It would be a shame to lose your data when there are so many options available to prevent just such an occurrence.
Advances in technology have created office automation tools that were once only available to the largest of companies. Now small and medium businesses can utilize some of the time-saving techniques that fortune 500 companies have been using for years. Remember to research your options carefully, start with a robust platform, and select technology partners that know your business. With a good strategy and some perseverance, you should be able to automate your most time-consuming tasks in no time. And again, if you’re still contacting all your customers manually, check out how ReminderCall helps businesses automate communications.