Businesses are still struggling with technology. Whether it is how to use the tools available to them or finding ways to productively utilize the many tools already in place, the fact is that technology can improve how companies deliver their service or product when used effectively. No matter how small or large your company is, these top five technology tips will improve your company's productivity and how your customers relate with you.
1. Talk to me. Even for the smallest organization, getting all your software services, apps, and databases to talk to each other is critical to reduce rates of human error and time spent performing double entries. Some larger organizations have 20 or more databases that lack the ability to talk to each other, meaning staff must check multiple systems for one piece of information. Time wasted.
A talented IT consultant can easily create a merged database without the need of hiring data entry people to transfer information or a search function that will locate information in any database with just a simple click of a button, thereby reducing the amount of time your staff are searching for the information they need to do their job. This person can also set up communication routes between your customer database, inventory database, human resources database, accounting systems, and more.
2. Automation. Take advantage of automated communication as much as possible. Use automated text messaging or email for appointment reminders 24 hours in advance. Let customers reserve services, products and appointment times on your website. Incorporate online payment options into your invoices. Automate company communication amongst departments or people that need to know when a specific internal or external action is taken. Stay on top of industry news through automated feeds. Set up routine communication or reminders for your customers to add value to the relationship.
Really, many things can be automated to improve productivity and communication. If you can dream it, there is a way to make it happen. On a separate note: it is important not to automate the human out of the relationship. People do business with people. With the proper automation, your people can provide faster and better service to your customers.
3. Never (never, never) purchase a program that does not allow you to export your data. Your business owns and is responsible for the data you put into any system. There are many programs that use this information to sell lists, create statistics based upon your entries, or hold your information hostage forcing you to continue being a customer. Larger organizations that have 20+ database systems are in this predicament because they are unable to export the information placed into one or more systems. Do not let this be you.
Although, a talented IT person may be able to swipe most of your information out of these systems to integrate the data into a different system, it is highly likely that it will have errors and be incomplete. Always ensure, in writing, that you have full rights to the information that your business enters into the system and that you have the ability to export the data at any time.
4. If your current software program isn't covering all the bases, ask the provider if they have the ability to develop an add-on to your system. In specialized industries the plain software program is not a perfect fit. What most businesses do not know is that these software companies can often customize the system to meet your needs. It just takes a little planning on your end to effectively communicate what your company needs. Taking this approach may reduce your company's need for multiple systems and loss of productivity.
5. Get a good website already. It is amazing to me that businesses still do not have a website or have a website that does nothing for them. Getting a good website is easier than ever and there are really good options available at every price point. Websites can be developed in house for as little as $100 per year or externally for as little as $500 per year. There are developers that will do SEO, app updates, backups, and content edits for as little at $100 per month. There is simply no excuse for the lack of a website or a poorly developed website any longer.
Picture this: A customer searches for a service via the web and clicks on your website. It is a great website that draws them in immediately. They want more information so they have the option of:
- Placing a call from the website
- Scheduling an appointment from the website
- Having a live chat with your company from the website
- Filling out a contact form for follow up
Once the prospect has initiated an action, your system automatically alerts the sales, marketing, and customer service departments. Because your systems speak to each other, each department can see where the potential customer is in the process. Following the prospect's contact, an automated communication is sent out to the prospect thanking them and letting them know what to expect next.
Now the prospect is a customer and your system add-on is ensuring that your customer receives the proper service at the correct intervals. Your company continues to send communications to the customer thanking them and letting them know what to expect as they progress in the relationship.
Finally, your company is able to create and analyze very specific reports because you can export the data and use it in ways that the existing system does not allow. You use these reports to improve your business offerings, internal and external communications, marketing and sales strategies.
To sum it all up, this is an example of a (simplified) continuously smooth interface between a company's goals, the people making it happen, and the customer.
Now take a look at your systems and answer these questions:
1. Are your systems talking to each other?
2. Are your employees entering the same information more than once or into multiple programs?
3. Are your systems allowing your to be proactive in the customer relationship?
4. Do your customers and qualified prospects receive immediate communication after taking an action with your company?
5. Do your customers and qualified prospects know what to expect from your company?
6. Does your company have a process that is not incorporated into your existing system?
7. Does one team know where the other team is in the customer cycle?
8. Do you have a website?
9. Does your website tell visitors what value they receive by working with you?
10. Does your website allow multiple options for communicating with your company that can be tracked, documented, and followed up on using very few resources?
April Salsbury, MBA is a strategist, an analyst, an operational guru, a recognized leader and C-suite global healthcare executive with drive and focus for competitive markets. Co-host of The Business Forum Show and regular contributor to various business journals, she possess multi-functional and multi-national competencies with more than 15 years experience in business and healthcare. Her expertise is in invigorating revenue growth and infusing value of lean practices in growing companies through improvements to cash flow and operations management.
Fueling revenue, growth and profit, Salsbury & Co. is a consultancy firm focused on helping businesses and healthcare organizations achieve excellency. Our specialists have executive experience combined with deep functional expertise to provide our clients with services that drive real impact and results.
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