One of the most discussed topics when it comes to starting up your own business is automation. The idea of automation is brilliant; you set up a system to do things for you automatically and then you let it run. It should save you a lot of time and money, and you’ll find it easier to run your company because some important tasks are now being handled automatically.
At least, that’s what most of us hope for from automation.
The reality is that automation isn’t as smart as you might think. Unless you invest a lot of money into AI-trained services and solutions, the reality is that most automation is fairly basic and rather simplistic in nature. In fact, most automation requires you to already have some kind of solution in mind or a couple of pre-programmed responses that your automated system can use. In short, it takes a lot more work than you think to set up some kind of automated system to help you run your business.
But with that said, there are still a couple of great ways to automate things in your business. The problem is that you need to figure out the best things to automate. Or rather, the things that should be automated versus the things that you should still do manually. So in this post, we’ll be covering how to really use automation to your advantage in order to make business processes more efficient and reliable.
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You shouldn’t automate things that require a human touch
A good rule of thumb to remember is that you really shouldn’t try to automate things that require a human touch. In most cases, speaking to a customer or client should be something that you or a member of staff does. Leaving this to an automated system usually isn’t a smart idea because it’s often easy to tell when you are given an automated response. When this happens, the customer or client that you’re speaking to won’t feel like their time or business is being appreciated.
While there are certain ways to start automating your emails, it’s important to understand that not every element is automated. It’s not just a case of receiving an email and then a system automatically sends back a response. Instead, automating emails usually means automating certain parts of the process. You’re still saving time, but it’s not a one-click solution. For example, you may have email templates ready so that you can quickly enter some information or details in, and you might have a system that pulls customer data from a cloud-based service so that you don’t need to manually search up a customer’s order number or name.
But simple tasks should be automated whenever possible
If there’s a repeated task that you do almost every day then it’s worth thinking about trying to automate it. This sounds like a complicated task, but it really depends on what you’re trying to automate and what the system needs to interface with in order to pull data that is required. For example, let’s say you want to automate parts of your bookkeeping processes by totalling all of your orders for the week. In most cases, this means that you’ll be taking data from some kind of ordering dashboard or system, outputting the data into a format that is readable by another program, and then linking the processes so that it’s automated.
The key here is combining the different types of software and hardware available to you by looking at the data that can be input and output. This sounds difficult at first, but many of these systems have common standards that are used across the industry to make these kinds of tasks a lot easier. For instance, many programs can output data in a spreadsheet format. This can then be imported into a variety of other programs and the information will be read in a specific way that makes it easy to present in other contexts.
In short, any process that can easily be repeated should be a candidate for automation. Whether it’s repeated tasks like copying data or calculating a set of figures, you should always keep an eye out for areas of your business that can be automated.
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How much should you automate as a new business?
When starting an online business or a new store, it’s common to think about areas that can easily be automated in order for you to save time that can be used for other growth-related business tasks. However, the problem here is that automating processes can be a lengthy process as well, meaning you might be spending a lot of time on fine-tuning certain processes. So before you start looking for ways to automate things, here are a couple of considerations to keep in mind.
Do your current tools have automation options?
Before you invest in new tools, make sure you examine your current options to see if your tools already have automation options. Many cloud software services come with features that help your tools connect with databases and other services, allowing for easy automation.
How much time will automation realistically save?
Automation can save you a considerable amount of time when used correctly, but you have to be realistic about what it can achieve. Spending several hours on automating a process that only takes a minute might not be worth it in the end. If it’s a task that you perform a hundred times a day and you’re saving a minute each time, then it has a much larger impact and should be a candidate for automation.
Will automation require more investment?
Some automation will require investment in new technologies such as hardware and software. However, more complex automation might even require a dedicated staff member to manage everything and develop new routines that are constantly monitored and improved upon.
So before you start automating things in your business, consider just how practical it is and how much time it’ll really save you.