The Internet is flooded with real life examples discussing the benefits of standardizing and automating processes for small business. Among the most common are reduced errors with your bills and increased accuracy with your accounting data. Improved data accuracy not only helps to improve relations with your customers, but it makes decision making easier for you and your staff. It is hard to grow your business when your numbers are wrong. These automation tools supercharge both profitability and cash flow. At the same time, automation tools allow you to make the relationship you have with customers stronger. Automation is one of the best things you can do to prepare your business to grow big in the future.
What is Automation
You will find many articles, blog posts and e-books on the Internet telling you why automation is the holy grail of business operations, but they don’t tell you what automation really is, especially what it means for small businesses. For small businesses automation represents an opportunity to compete against some of the largest companies in the world.
The word automation sounds robotic. In a way, it is. Each feature provided by automation software is like your own personal robot that's been programmed to do certain jobs based on your own specific instructions. One example of automation is invoice automation.
What is invoice automation? Invoice automation is the process of automating the invoicing or billing cycle for your customers. When the invoice is created, it automatically triggers payment reminders for your customers. If the invoice is still outstanding after all payment reminders have been sent out to the customer, the invoice is automatically sent to a credit or collections specialist. All of these actions are triggered with the creation of the first invoice. You don't have to worry about anything. This frees up time for you and your staff while making your invoice process easier. The end result is faster payments and less worry on your end.
Invoice automation is just one example that helps to grow cash inflows. Another example is automated payment to suppliers. When you receive an invoice from suppliers, automated payment services allow you to pay suppliers on time. You don't have to worry about paying the bill late and you can also benefit from early payment options that may be available.
What Functions Can Be Automated?
Running a business can be overwhelming. Thankfully, automation is giving small business owners the ability to grow without having to hire additional people. Automation software is available for many functions like communications, handling customer complaints and basic accounting. By automating your email communications you ensure the same level of customer service with every person you do business with. By automating customer disputes, you increase customer loyalty. Using programs to automate processes not only standardizes the process to take advantage of cost savings internally, but it improves the customer experience which adds value to your product or service. Ultimately, by automating functions you give yourself the ability to focus on growing your business and automation tools give you the ability to scale that growth without adding headcount.
Common Automation Systems
In general, there are three main types of automation systems. They are accounts receivable, accounts payable and customer relationship management. Good accounts receivable software gives you the ability to include the invoice within the email or communication. The best accounts receivable software gives your customers the ability to pay directly from within the email. Good accounts payable software helps you to pay bills on time. The best accounts payable software helps you to take advantage of your customer's early payment discount. Customer relationship management software helps you to understand the needs of your customers. Good customer relationship management software uses your customer's buying trends to recommend purchase ideas.
There are many more functions that can be automated including: legal, treasury, data storage, security, human resources, financial reporting and sales & marketing. Functions that once required teams of people and months of planning can now be automated with a few clicks. This is the magic of automation and why it's such a powerful tool for small business owners like yourself.
Selecting The Best Automation Tools For Your Business
Deciding to invest in automation software is one thing, but deciding which company is the right one to partner with is another. Selecting an automation partner is a marriage of sorts. You are trusting the vendor with the safekeeping of your account information and there are hundreds of vendors on the market. Any disruptions could lead to interruptions in your business or a loss of customers. This is a very important decision for you to make and there are many things to consider.
In general, there are three different pricing models: pay-per account, pay-per user or pay-per feature. Each one has its advantages and disadvantages depending on your needs. There are also single or one-time charge pricing models for businesses with many customers. Pricing is just one thing you need to think about. Other considerations include: ease of integration, compliance and scalability. For example, if your primary concern is figuring out how to pull money out of old invoices, you can concentrate on automation software that specializes in accounts receivables. Also, be sure to research the length of time the company has been in service and look over customer reviews.
Running a small business can be hard, but automation tools can help you and your staff grow to the next level without the need to hire teams of people to do it.