Opportunities to automate common workplace processes are everywhere, which is why automation is becoming a common element of every business. This includes providing good customer service, streamlining the hiring process or managing marketing campaigns more efficiently. As technology improves, more tasks will become suitable for automation.
There’s a common misconception that automation involves towering robotics, but it can be as simple as a set of tools housed within common business software programs. At its core, automation is about implementing a system to complete repetitive and easily replicated tasks without the need for human labor.
These are some of the ways in which workplace automation is already being adopted by forward-thinking companies:
1. Email marketing
Many small business owners already use at least one form of automation: email marketing. Companies like Zoho and Constant Contact offer software that allows users to tailor the parameters of their email marketing campaign to their liking and then set it to run automatically.
An introductory email can be uploaded into the software and sent as soon as a contact is added. The software is configured to send a follow-up email a few days later, but only to those who opened the original email.
2. Talent acquisition and hiring
Machine learning automation is making inroads in talent acquisition and employee recruitment. For human resources departments, automating processes like tracking down potential candidates and scheduling interviews frees up time for workers to determine who is the best fit for their organization.
3. Customer service
Customer service departments are also getting an automation makeover with the introduction of tools like chatbots and automated text message marketing solutions. These consumer-facing tools automate typical customer service interactions by answering common enquiries immediately. They only refer customers to a representative when the chatbot is insufficient for handling their needs.
Did you know? According to Chatbots Magazine, up to 80% of customer service interactions could be handled by a chatbot alone, offering businesses the potential to significantly cut costs associated with conventional customer service.
An algorithm will never be able to take a client out for coffee or negotiate a deal as effectively as a trained salesperson. Yet automation can free up time for these human-centric interactions, since McKinsey estimates that a third of all sales tasks can be automated. Here are some examples of those tasks.
Searching leads: Predicting when customers might benefit from being contacted
Invoicing: Checking credit, and invoicing new and existing clients
Processing orders: Order processing, stock management and upselling queries
Tracking shipments: Dispatch, delivery, and return notifications; payment and refund acknowledgments
Managing clients: Account management, including regular check-in emails
5. Human resources
Given the predictable and repetitive nature of HR duties – like payroll and timesheets – digitization can transform the efficiency of a department. By reducing mistakes caused by human error, such as an HR employee forgetting to update submitted timesheets, it’s possible to automate performance management, paid holidays and absenteeism record keeping.
Software can raise flags if quotas are reached or missed, while maintaining accurate records updated in real time. There are even utilities that automate onboarding using Google forms, including prewritten emails, event scheduling and the distribution of training materials.
The steady march of workplace automation has prompted discussion about the future of a fully automated economy. Efficiency, convenience and profitability top the list, but so too do concerns about the fate of workers whose jobs are automated out of existence. There are several proposals to support those displaced in an increasingly automated world, such as retraining programs or a universal basic income.
Increased efficiency, productivity and lower costs all translate to healthier profit margins for businesses – both small and large. The extent to which automation transforms the economy at large remains to be seen, but it appears inevitable that we’re headed toward a future of more automation.
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