9 back office inefficiencies worth automating
Your team works really hard. There’s no question about that.
But, here’s the big question: are they working smart?
As a leader, your team looks to you for guidance on what should (or shouldn’t) get done. Just because a task seemed prudent six months ago, there’s no guarantee that it still is. Therefore, it’s incumbent on you to continually refine how things get done at your organization.
If it’s been a while since you audited the many “back office” happenings, perhaps it’s time to hit the reset button. Here are nine common inefficiencies that I’ve seen in businesses like yours – and tips for fixing them.
1. Summarizing Every Conversation (in Too Much Detail)
There’s a difference between being thorough and being painstakingly scrupulous. As you dig around in your CRM’s notes, you may notice that some reps spend way too much time summarizing client conversations. Although you appreciate their attention to detail, you’re not looking for a novel. You want the basic facts, nothing more or less.
When dealing with team members who are overly detailed, it’s important to first confirm that they’re properly using your CRM’s email integration. For example, Insightly can serve as a repository of incoming and outgoing emails, automatically linking them to the correct records. With all of their emails saved securely in your CRM, reps should feel less necessity to provide too many details. After all, your reps usually send lead follow-up emails, summarizing what was discussed. Why not put those emails to better use in your CRM?
2. Frantically Capturing Meeting Minutes
While we’re on the topic of summarizing things, let’s hone in on your internal meetings. If you’re like most organizations, a typical meeting starts by someone saying:
“OK, let’s get started. Do we have a volunteer to jot down meeting minutes?”
This rarely works out well. Because the notetaker feels obligated to judiciously capture everything, he renders himself useless as a meeting participant. Rather than engaging in the discussion, his brainpower is reallocated to a relatively low-value activity. After the meeting ends, he must then clean everything up, format the document in a suitable way, and share it with the team.
A more streamlined approach involves the use of a meeting recording tool. There are countless webinar platforms on the market that provide this functionality. In addition, some CRMs, such as Insightly, also offer an intuitive way to capture meetings. By recording your meetings, you empower everyone to fully engage in the conversation. Furthermore, you’re able to create a transcript that is much more dynamic than a basic document.
(Note: If your team still sees value in a written summary document, you could send the recording to a freelancer or virtual assistant for transcription. Outsourcing this task could save you money and deliver a cleaner end product.)
3. Starting New Projects from Scratch
Not every project is the same. On the other hand, many projects are similar.
Take, for example, content marketing. Most businesses understand the importance of generating conversion-friendly website content. Unfortunately, some get bogged down with the production-related tasks, thereby slowing the realization of their marketing goals. Has the article been approved by all the stakeholders? Have graphics already been selected? Should the article go live today, or do we have other pieces in front of it?
Without an automated process, the questions can seem never-ending.
Content production is the perfect use case for project templates. Like your sales team, which always follows a predictable process (i.e., New, Interested, Quoting, Won, etc.), marketing could also benefit from a predefined workflow. As a work product advances in the pipeline, tasks can automatically fire via activity sets. Now, your team always knows exactly what needs to happen next.
What other projects follow a predictable pattern and might benefit from such an approach?
4. Manually Sharing New Content on Social Media
Speaking of content marketing, after an article goes live, who at your organization is responsible for sharing it? Even if a task is being assigned to someone, how much time passes before new content is visible on social media? If the answer is more than a few minutes, you’re probably missing out.
In today’s world of RSS feeds and APIs, there’s no reason to continue waiting on your social media manager.
Case in point, you’ve probably heard me mention the Zapier platform in prior blog posts. If you’re unfamiliar with Zapier, think of it as a way to connect and automate the many software apps you use each day. By building social media “Zaps” (examples here), you can get your content in front of your followers, faster.
5. Checking Multiple Systems for the “Whole Story”
Customers interact with your business in a variety of ways. Some send emails, while others pick up the phone and call your 1-800 number. Still others are quick to file support tickets for issues large and small. If you’re not careful, this situation can easily lead to data silos in your business. Data silos lead to inefficiency and poor customer service.
Although you can’t force customers to use a single line of communication, you can (and should) take steps to consolidate customer interactions into a single system. Granted, there’s not one software application that can fulfill your every need. Your CRM will never replace your support ticketing software, and your newsletter software will never replace your CRM. However, what you can do is harness your CRM provider’s out-of-the-box integrations.
Pushing events (such as newsletter clicks or support requests) into your CRM should make it much easier to understand each customer’s journey – and, ultimately, deliver better service.
6. Coordinating Calendars
How much time is wasted simply trying to coordinate calendars? Your company isn’t the first to suffer from this phenomenon. Luckily, there are a few simple ways to overcome both internal and customer scheduling headaches.
Internal calendars: Wouldn’t it be nice to have a central calendar to manage your team’s upcoming trade shows, conferences, and webinars – without cluttering up your personal calendar? Check to see if your CRM offers a team coordination feature, such as Insightly’s event calendar.
External calendars: “I’m interested, but let’s coordinate via email to regroup again next week.” For your sales team, hearing these words can be very aggravating. Why not give reps the ability to share their calendars with leads? Tools like the YouCanBook.me app (my personal favorite) will allow your sales team to schedule demos faster – and with much less effort.
7. Keying CRM Data into Your “Project System”
There are countless project management systems on the market today. In fact, I’ve used many of them. As enticing as a “project-focused” system might seem, there’s also something to be said for keeping everything under one roof.
Take, for example, a software company that uses Insightly to track new leads and opportunities. If the company uses a third-party project management system to track its onboarding, someone (or something, such as an API) must send data back and forth between the two systems. Conversely, if the company had simply converted the closed opportunity into a new Insightly project, the onboarding team could bypass the data entry. In addition, with the originating opportunity’s records preserved, everyone has a 360-degree view of each customer’s story.
In other words, by maximizing the use of your CRM with project management capabilities (rather than deploying “another system”), it may be possible to significantly reduce manual data entry and simultaneously boost customer satisfaction.
8. Pulling Sales Reports
“I’m tired of asking for the same reports every month!”
Your company has aggressive growth plans, which means you likely rely on dozens of KPIs. Projected sales, actual revenue, and pipeline value are just a few examples. There’s no doubt that the data is sitting somewhere in your CRM. Sadly, your team sometimes drops the ball and fails to feed you the info that you need.
You’ve tried assigning recurring tasks, but you can’t force people to do their jobs. It’s time to put your reporting on autopilot and free up your team to focus on pressing matters. Check to see if your CRM offers scheduled reports and/or alerting.
9. Gathering Social Profiles
In today’s interconnected world, it makes perfect sense to check a new lead’s social media profile(s) before reaching out. Is the prospect a good fit for your services or products? Would an email, phone call, or direct message be the most appropriate method of follow up? Checking social media can help answer these questions, thereby increasing the chance of engagement.
However, if your company receives hundreds (or thousands) of leads per year, manually gathering social media profiles is infeasible. Ideally, your CRM would automatically do the research for you (as Insightly does). If your current provider doesn’t offer this functionality, check to see if an integrated plugin exists that could ease your burden.
Workflow Automation, Not Elimination
One final note – as you begin automating certain tasks and increase workflow automation, you may receive pushback from some of your team. Change can be hard, especially when daily routines are interrupted. Be sure to overcommunicate that you’re not eliminating their jobs. Rather, you’re simply refining the company’s work to be even more value focused.
It’s truly a win-win!