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Map and Automate Your Way to Business Growth

Shifting From Manual to Automatic

Implementing effective business systems and processes is basic for any organization that wants to grow or in other words: to achieve consistency, repeatability, optimization, and automation. Recognizing how these systems translate into technology features, such as website functions, automated emails, and AI chat-bots, can be really important for modern businesses. This article will guide you through understanding these systems, their significance, and how to practically apply them in a technology context.

Breaking Down Business Functions

Business functions can be categorized into three main pillars: strategic management, product development and production, and business operations. Each pillar has several functions, including marketing, sales, after-sales, research and development, production, fulfillment, operations management, administration, human resources, legal, and finance. Look at your business as a collection of systems within these pillars. It helps in identifying where automation and systematization can be applied for efficiency and growth.

Essential Systems for Every Business

The core systems every business needs include:

  • Legal and Finance: Ensuring compliance and financial health.
  • Purchasing: Having the things you need to make your systems work.
  • Marketing and Sales: Generating leads and converting them into customers.
  • After-Sales: Maintaining customer satisfaction and loyalty.

These systems might contain sub-systems or workflows specific to different processes within the business. For instance, the sales system may have workflows for lead generation, qualification, conversion, and customer feedback.

Mapping Customer and Client Journeys

To identify necessary systems and workflows, start by mapping out the customer or client journey. This journey extends from lead attraction to onboarding, production, fulfillment, and retention. Each stage requires its own set of systems and sub-systems. For example, in the onboarding process, automated emails can welcome new clients, provide them with necessary information, and guide them to the next steps.

  1. Understand Your Customer’s Needs and Expectations:
    • Start by gathering data through surveys, feedback, and interviews to understand what your customers or clients expect at each stage of their journey.
    • Create buyer personas to represent different segments of your audience, which will help tailor the journey to their specific needs.
  2. Outline Each Stage of the Journey:
    • Break down the journey into key phases: lead attraction, onboarding, production, fulfillment, and retention.
    • Identify the goals and actions customers should achieve in each phase, like learning about your product, making a purchase, or receiving support.
  3. Identify Touchpoints and Opportunities for Engagement:
    • Map out every point where customers interact with your business, such as social media, your website, customer service calls, or email communications.
    • Look for opportunities to enhance these touchpoints with technology, like implementing chatbots for instant customer service or using CRM tools to personalize interactions.
  4. Implement Automation and Self-Service Options:
    • Use automation to streamline repetitive tasks, like sending welcome emails during the onboarding process or setting up reminders for recurring purchases.
    • Provide self-service options for common customer inquiries and tasks, enabling them to find solutions quickly and independently.
  5. Test and Optimize the Journey:
    • Create a prototype or beta version of the customer journey and test it with a select group of users.
    • Gather feedback on their experience and identify any pain points or areas for improvement.
  6. Monitor and Continuously Improve:
    • Once implemented, continuously monitor the customer journey through analytics and customer feedback.
    • Use this data to refine and optimize the journey, ensuring it meets evolving customer needs and expectations.
  7. Train Your Team:
    • Ensure that every team member understands their role in the customer journey and is equipped with the tools and knowledge to execute it effectively.
    • Regular training sessions can help keep everyone updated on new systems and best practices.

Turn Business Functions into Tech Features

Once the necessary systems and workflows are identified, the next step is to translate these into technology features:

  • Website Functions: For instance, a customer journey on the website should reflect the sales and after-sales process, with features like online ordering, customer support chat-bots, and access to user accounts for order tracking.
  • Automated Emails: These should be set up for various stages of the customer journey, such as order confirmations, shipping notifications, and satisfaction surveys post-purchase.
  • AI Chat-bots: Implementing AI chat-bots can automate common inquiries, providing instant support and freeing up human resources for more complex issues.

Streamlining and Automating Processes

Focus on streamlining and automating one system at a time, beginning with simpler ones like client on-boarding. Develop standard operating procedures (SOPs) for each system and continuously optimize them. Automation tools can be employed to handle repetitive tasks, reducing human error and increasing efficiency.

Evaluate Your Current Processes:

  • Map Out the Process: Draw a diagram for client onboarding (or any other system you’re starting with). Document each step, no matter how small.
  • Identify Bottlenecks: Pinpoint where delays or backlogs occur in the process to target efficiency improvements.
  • Spot Redundancies: Find repetitive tasks or duplicated efforts that can be streamlined or eliminated.
  • Detect Error-Prone Areas: Identify steps where mistakes frequently happen, indicating potential for automated solutions to enhance accuracy.
  • Prioritize Impact: Focus on areas where automation can significantly improve speed, accuracy, and overall process quality.

Set Clear Objectives:

  • Define what you aim to achieve through automation. Is it faster turnaround times, reduced errors, improved customer satisfaction, or all the above?
  • Set Specific Targets: Define precise, quantifiable objectives like reducing onboarding time by 30% or cutting manual data entry by 50%.
  • Establish KPIs: Identify key performance indicators (KPIs) related to process efficiency, cost savings, and customer satisfaction to measure the success of automation.
  • Monitor Progress: Regularly track and analyze performance against these goals to assess the impact of automation and identify areas for further improvement.
  • Adjust Objectives: Be prepared to revise goals as you learn from automation outcomes and as business needs evolve.

Choose the Right Automation Tools:

  • Research tools that can automate aspects of your onboarding process, such as CRM systems, email automation software, or online form builders.
  • Select tools that integrate well with your existing systems and are scalable for future needs.

Develop Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs):

  • Based on the mapped process and the chosen tools, create SOPs for each step. This should include detailed instructions on how the process should be executed, who is responsible for each task, and how the automation tools will be used.
  • Ensure the SOPs are clear and concise, making them easy to follow for your team.

Review Examples of Common SOPs:

Weekly Task Prioritization

Purpose

  • To ensure the most critical tasks are identified and addressed each week, optimizing productivity and focus for sole proprietors and small NGOs.

Procedure

  1. List Tasks: Compile all pending tasks weekly.
  2. Prioritize: Rank tasks by urgency and importance.
  3. Schedule: Assign tasks to specific days or times.
  4. Review: At week’s end, evaluate task completion and adjust planning as needed.

Tools

  • Task management software or a simple to-do list

Review

  • End-of-week reflection to improve next week’s prioritization and efficiency.

Monthly Financial Overview

Purpose

  • To maintain financial health and transparency through regular monitoring and analysis of income and expenses.

Procedure

  1. Record Transactions: Update financial records with the month’s income and expenses.
  2. Analyze Budget: Compare actual spending against budgeted amounts.
  3. Adjust Finances: Identify areas for financial improvement or adjustment.
  4. Plan Ahead: Use insights to inform next month’s financial planning.

Tools

  • Accounting software or financial spreadsheets

Review

  • Monthly analysis to stay aligned with financial goals and adjust budgets as necessary.

Customer Interaction Log

Purpose

  • To track and analyze customer interactions for improved service and relationship management.

Procedure

  1. Log Interactions: Record details of all customer communications.
  2. Evaluate Feedback: Assess customer feedback for satisfaction and concerns.
  3. Identify Trends: Look for patterns in feedback to guide service improvements.
  4. Implement Changes: Use insights to enhance customer experience.

Tools

  • CRM system or interaction tracking spreadsheet

Review

  • Regular analysis of logs to refine customer engagement strategies.

Implement and Train:

  • Roll out the automation tools and SOPs to your team. Provide comprehensive training to ensure everyone understands the new processes and how to use the tools effectively.
  • Make sure the team knows who to approach for help if they encounter any issues. Feedback is crucial, especially at first.

Monitor and Optimize:

  • Once the automated processes are in place, monitor their performance against your objectives. Use data and feedback from your team and clients to identify areas for improvement.
  • Regularly review and update the SOPs to reflect any process changes or enhancements.

Expand Gradually:

  • After successfully automating the onboarding process, apply what you’ve learned to other areas of your business. Prioritize processes based on their impact on your operations and the potential benefits of automation.
  • Continue to refine and expand your automation efforts, leveraging the knowledge and experience gained from each implementation.

Consider Your Internal and External Relationships

When running a business, whether you’re a seasoned entrepreneur or new to the scene, understanding and nurturing your relationships is key. This means looking both inside your business, at your team and processes, and outside, at your partners, suppliers, and customers. Here’s how you can approach this:

Internal Relationship Mapping:

  • Start with your team: Understand each member’s role, how they contribute to the business, and their workflow. Skill mapping is a fantastic tool to help with this.
  • Identify if there are any gaps in communication or processes that make their work harder or slower. For instance, do they need quicker access to information, or are there repetitive tasks that could be automated to save time?

External Relationship Assessment:

  • Look at your partners or suppliers: How do they fit into your business operations, and how smooth is the interaction?
  • Consider your customers: What is their journey from discovering your product or service to post-purchase support? Are there touchpoints that could be enhanced for a better experience?

Optimize and Automate Processes:

  • Based on your mapping, pinpoint areas where changes can lead to significant improvements. This might mean setting up a shared digital workspace for your team to collaborate more efficiently or implementing a customer relationship management (CRM) system to better track customer interactions and feedback.

Engage and Communicate:

  • Keep the lines of communication open with regular check-ins and feedback sessions. This helps to continuously refine processes and relationships.
  • Transparency with external partners and customers builds trust and can lead to better service and business growth.

Understanding and improving these internal and external relationships will not only streamline your operations but also enhance the overall experience for everyone involved with your business.

Map and Automate to Grow a Smoother, Stronger Business

Get to work on making your business smoother and ready for growth. Start simple: map out how your customers and clients interact with your business. Then, see where you can use tech to make things easier and faster. Think about automating the routine stuff to free up time for the big decisions. This isn’t just about saving time today; it’s about setting up your business to grow and thrive tomorrow. Dive in now, and you’ll thank yourself later as you see your operations improve and your customer experiences get better.

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