Automation tools are the next big thing in enterprise technology. These handy tools are quickly becoming a major part of every business’ tech stack. Small businesses need to adopt these automation tools in order to adapt to the changing business and technology landscape.
But what are these automation tools, and how can they benefit small businesses? In this guide, we’ll explain what these tools are, the benefits of using them, and the best tools on the market right now!
Table of contents
- What Are Automation Tools?
- Importance of Automation for Small Businesses
- Best Tips to Automate Your Process Workflow
- The Best Small Business Automation Tools of 2023
- Automate Your Small Business Processes!
What Are Automation Tools?
Automation tools and software are dedicated software and tools that can turn repetitive tasks into automated ones. Every business has menial tasks that are repeated on a regular basis. Tasks like data entry are repeated hundreds of times in a single day. Automation tools can create a process where these tasks happen on their own without the need for human intervention.
The business landscape is always changing, and the latest innovation is automation. Although human staff are capable of performing all of these duties, there is really no need to waste their time. When you can get one tool to perform these tasks every day, why would you dedicate precious human resources to them?
Small businesses are in even more dire need of these tools. They have limited budgets and resources. Small businesses need to be very careful about where they allocate resources, and these menial, repetitive tasks can be detrimental to their bottom line.
The automation space is constantly evolving, and we now have automation tools for almost every business department. These include human resources, marketing, finance, sales, customer support, and more.
If you want to improve the process workflow of your business, automation tools are the right investment. You only have to set them up once by giving them your processes and parameters, and they will automate them for you.
Importance of Automation for Small Businesses
Take a look at what your employees are doing every day and make a list of their daily tasks. How many of these tasks are repeated, and how many times in a single day? There are probably a lot of these tasks, and many of your employees are experiencing them. This report by McKinsey shows that about thirty percent of all business activity can be automated.
If your staff is doing the same mundane tasks over and over again, it only makes sense to automate them. Here are some of the benefits of automation for small businesses:
This is one of the most obvious and primary benefits of automation tools for small businesses. Every business wants to improve its profitability, and cost reduction is often the solution to that problem. Automation tools can help reduce their operational costs by eliminating the need to hire more staff.
When you automate your business processes, you don’t have to hire as many people. These tools are doing a lot of your work for you. Whether it’s as small as data entry or as big as robotic automation, you don’t need to hire more employees for these processes. Automation tools also help increase the efficiency of your processes, which reduces costs.
As we stated earlier, employees spend a lot of time on tasks like data entry. These tasks and processes aren’t strategic or require innovative or creative thinking. But they still take up a big portion of your day. This results in your employees being unproductive and unable to really give their best to strategic tasks.
By automating repetitive tasks, you’re setting your staff up for success. Free of the menial tasks, they can concentrate on their actual job and be more productive. Employees can work on revenue-generating tasks and be more useful, while administrative and supporting tasks can be left to automation tools.
Improved Customer Experience
A great benefit of business process automation is that you can significantly improve the customer experience. The latest automation technology includes chatbots that can emulate a human customer service agent and converse with your customers. These bots can provide instant replies and help customers with their queries in real-time. The smoother the support process, the better the experience your customers will have.
These chatbots and other automation tools can also collect a wide range of customer data for you. Automation tools for data analytics can generate excellent insights about what your customers want and their pain points. These insights will help you improve the customer experience journey.
If your business is in an industry that requires you to maintain standards and comply with regulations, these automation tools might be a good investment for you. Automating your processes will give you an additional layer of supervision over your processes and workflows.
Moreover, automation tools repeat the same tasks over and over again without any errors. These tools have very high accuracy and precision. So there is no room for errors. As such, your automated processes will always be in compliance with industry regulations and meet standards.
Better Employee Satisfaction
Every employee hates boring and repetitive tasks. These tasks don’t challenge them at all, and they don’t get a chance to showcase their skills. Automation tools solve this challenge by taking these tasks off their hands. With menial work gone, they can focus on their actual job and work much more productively.
As a result, your employees get to work on things that force them to think creatively and push themselves to their limits. This is an essential factor in professional growth. Automation tools help improve productivity and let your employees engage with their work. Eventually, you’ll realize a boost in their satisfaction and be able to retain them for longer.
Best Tips to Automate Your Process Workflow
Just like no two businesses are the same, no two software are the same as well. There are a wide variety of tools on the market that can help businesses of all sizes automate their workflow. But how do you choose the right tool for your company? There are a lot of things to consider before you decide on one.
Here are some of our best tips for choosing the right automation tools for your small business.
Choose Tasks To Automate
Before you get into looking at the various solutions available on the market, you have to review your own processes. It’s important to go through your own workflow with a keen eye and figure out which tasks can be automated and which ones still need to be done by your staff.
List out the daily tasks of every department. Find the tasks that are simple and repetitive. If there are any tasks among these that are strategic or require human staff, cross them out. You’ll only be left with tasks that can be automated. Repeat for every department or for those you want to automate.
Look At Features
This is the most important tip to consider when choosing any kind of technology for your business. These tools become a part of your tech stack and will have a crucial role to play in your daily workflow. So you would want to carefully assess the features each automation tool offers and how they can benefit you.
The list of tasks you’ve compiled will dictate which automation tool is best for you. When considering the different automation tools, look out for features that will help automate the tasks in your lists. Ideally, the tool you choose should be capable enough to automate all your tasks.
Consider Your Budget
Another critical factor to consider is your budget. With the advancing scope of technology, costs are rising as well. The SaaS pricing model has taken over the technology space. These monthly costs may seem low at first, but in the long-run they can be very draining. So it’s very important to choose a tool that fits your budget in the first place.
There’s a hidden cost associated with business process automation tools, and that is the maintenance cost. You may need help with your software at any time throughout the year. If you choose an on-premise solution, you’ll have to pay for the server cost and maintenance. This can be very expensive, so compare the prices of each software with your budget and eliminate options that don’t fit.
Navigation and User Interface
Put yourself in the shoes of the workers who will be using the tool. Your automation tool must be easy to navigate. If your workers are spending hours trying to figure out where a certain feature is, the tool is impeding their productivity. The tool should facilitate your staff, not make things more difficult for them.
The user interface of your automation tools should be very simple and user-friendly. It should be very easy to map out a process, set triggers and parameters, and start the automation. If your staff finds it difficult to set up an automation, the tool is a waste of time and resources for you. Go through user reviews of the tool and its parent company to find out about the experiences of other users.
Look For Integrations
Your small business automation tool must integrate well with other tools in your tech stack. In this technology-driven business world, we rely on multiple software for our workflow. As such, your automation tool must be able to support and facilitate your other tools.
For example, if you automate your scheduling process, the tool that you use should be able to convert emails into bookings and extract data from them. Integrations are very important if you want your new process workflow to be as seamless and smooth as possible. There’s no benefit to an automated process if you have to manually transfer information or tasks from one tool to another.
Review Multiple Options
Since you’re going to be investing hard-earned capital into business process automation, it’s vital that you spend some time studying multiple product options before selecting one. Research the market to find automation tools that meet your needs and start creating a tier list based on how closely they meet your requirements.
This is a time consuming process, and you’ll have to review each tool from multiple angles and collect information from many different sources. But the more research you do, the better equipped you are to make the final decision.
You’ll come across many tried-and-tested solutions on the market. It’s important to consider the fact that, as good as these are, they may not be the best for your business and its specific needs. So compare software features, benefits, and cost with your needs to make the best decision.
Establish Quality Control
After you’ve chosen the automation tool that suits your small business needs, it’s vital to establish quality control standards for the newly automated processes. Regardless of whether you have chosen an off-the-shelf solution or a customized solution, you need to keep a close eye on it to maintain quality standards.
Establish new standards for the automated process and review the results for potential bugs. Both types of solutions can have bugs, and you’re putting your business and its data at risk if you don’t maintain standards. If you catch these bugs in the early stages of product adoption, it will be much smoother sailing from then on.
The Best Small Business Automation Tools of 2023
Productivity tools are the basis of everything that happens at a workplace. Employees use tools like Office 365 on a regular basis to complete simple tasks and processes. While a lot of these tools have automation features, they’re not as effective. So you need dedicated automation tools for your productive software.
MeisterTask is a task management tool that has many automation features. One of the key benefits of this tool is that you can automatically convert emails into tasks. This is very useful for workers who receive a lot of emails.
MeisterTask will take your emails, extract important information from them, and convert them into tasks. You can view them on a Kanban board, where all your daily or project tasks will be visually displayed. With MeisterTask, you can save time and effort wasted copying information from emails and pasting it on your Kanban board.
MeisterTask has a free plan and three paid plans. Automation features are only available with paid plans. The Pro plan starts at $6.49 per month and offers unlimited projects and integrations on top of automation features.
If you have a service business and your customers have to make appointments with you, Calendly is the right solution. This is a scheduling automation tool that helps you create a seamless process for bookings. You’ve likely gone back and forth comparing schedules with your clients. There’s no need to do that anymore!
Calendly creates a dedicated webpage and syncs with your calendar. Your clients can view your calendar on this page and find a time that suits them best. By automating your calendar and scheduling, Calendly saves you a lot of time. It will also send you email notifications for each booking and reminders before an appointment. With Calendly managing your schedule, you won’t have to worry about getting into the grunt work at all.
Calendly has a free plan and three paid plans starting at $8 per seat per month. The Professional and Teams plans cost $12 and $16 per seat per month, respectively. With the Professional plan, you can customize the dedicated webpage according to your brand image. The Teams plan is specifically for larger teams that need more collaborative features.
This email management tool is your solution for automatic reminders, scheduling, and automating more email tasks. With Boomerang, you can convert your emails into bookings with a single click. Boomerang provides you with an easy way to set up different kinds of appointments without leaving your email app.
Boomerang has some very powerful email management features. It automatically cleans up your inbox and archives them. You can set it up to retrieve them when you need them. This eliminates the hassle of manually cleaning and sorting your emails. You can also automate reminders for your emails. If you haven’t heard back from someone, Boomerang will remind you at a given time to send a follow-up email.
Boomerang has multiple paid plans. To get scheduling features, you need the Pro plan, which costs $14.98 per month. Response tracking is available in all plans, including the free plan. The Premium plan costs $49.98 per month and has more integrations, such as with your CRM.
Zapier is one of the biggest names in the automation space. It’s the most simple form of automation that you can use in your business processes. With this tool, you can link most of your productivity tools and automate the workflow between them. Zapier integrates with over three thousand productivity apps and tools.
Do you want to back up all your email attachments from Gmail to your cloud storage in OneDrive? Zapier can do that for you. Do you want to automatically create new stories on Medium every time you post on WordPress? Zapier can create that workflow too. There are endless opportunities to connect the tools you use every day and create automatic workflows with this automation platform.
Zapier has a free plan and multiple paid plans, all depending on the number of automations you want. The free plan allows for 100 automations a month. The $19.99 Starter plan offers 750 automations and multi-step automations. The Professional plan costs $49 for 2000 automations and access to premium apps.
The Team plan costs $69 for 2000 automations and unlimited users. Lastly, the Company plan costs $99 for 2000 automations with access to advanced features. Each of the plans can be customized for the number of automations you require.
Automate Your Small Business Processes!
Automation is a complex concept, but that doesn’t mean it’s only for big companies. Small businesses and startups can definitely take advantage of this technology. There are more and more automation tools popping up on the market. Although some of these tools target enterprises and can be costly for SMBs, there is something for everyone in this space.
Small businesses can significantly reduce their costs by automating a lot of the processes that make up their daily operations. It will improve worker productivity and simplify their workflows. Keep your needs in mind when considering a good automation tool for your small business.
How have you automated your business processes? Let us know in the comments below!
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