Talk to any business owner today and the conversation quickly turns to painful staffing shortages brought on by the pandemic and the so-called “Great Resignation.” How bad is it?


A recent survey from the National Federation of Independent Businesses revealed that 49% of small business owners reported job openings in December that they couldn’t fill. The good news? Technology can help.


“By using technology—and there’s no shortage of it—businesses can remove unnecessary or redundant steps from their most common workflows while empowering current staff to complete more tasks in less time,” says Faith Kubicki, director of marketing for InTempo Software in Springfield, Massachusetts.


As a first step, Kubicki suggests identifying the most time-consuming tasks—like manual data entry—that technology can do instead of a person. Next, find one platform that can streamline your processes across multiple areas. “Choose a solution that can kill multiple birds with one stone,” she says. “What you’ll find is this won’t just help you out as a short-term solution for a crazy labor market; it can actually lead to considerable long-term efficiency gains.”


Here’s a look at how automation is being practiced successfully in four key areas:


1. Human resources

HR software, such as BambooHR, Gusto and Paylocity, can automate payroll, invoicing, employee scheduling and recruitment, among many other tasks—reducing the need for humans to perform those tasks manually.


Hari Kolam, CEO of Findem, a firm in Redwood City, California, that helps businesses find and hire talent, adds that artificial intelligence-based recruitment tools such as those offered through applicant tracking systems like Zoho Recruit and Breezy can scour public data sources for job candidates and, once a candidate is identified, they can make the initial contact through personalized messages. It would take a person countless hours to do the same.


“It helps companies from wasting time on the wrong candidates by helping you identify the right ones,” he says. “Even 10 years ago, there wasn’t a lot of recruitment and hiring technology within reach of small business. Luckily that’s changed and at just the right time because it’s been ages since we’ve seen such a tough talent market.”


2. Customer service

A pillar of any small business, customer service is crucial, but it can also require a lot of employee handholding to maintain. Two automated solutions that can help include a business phone service with automated features and chatbots.


For example, a business phone service that provides an auto attendant can provide callers with a menu of options—so they reach the right person or department without your business needing a receptionist to direct calls. Not only do customers today prefer being able to reach the right person quickly, but it also makes the business much more efficient. A chatbot can up the ante by handling basic customer inquiries, reducing the number of calls the business has to field.


“Efficiency is key in customer service.”


“Efficiency is key in customer service,” says Gabriel Dungan, CEO and founder of ViscoSoft, a bedding company in Charlotte, North Carolina. “No one wants to spend hours on the phone just to get a question answered, and chatbots are the best way to achieve that efficiency.”


He adds: “Obviously, you should still have at least one real body on your team to deal with any issues that are beyond the skill level of a bot, but overall, they will do wonders for productivity and allow you to invest in staff for more necessary departments.”


3. Marketing 

Automated marketing tools such as those offered by Keap and Thryv can help companies increase their reach across many different marketing channels while eliminating repetitive tasks like email bursts and social media posting.


During the pandemic, Illuminate Labs, an ecommerce business in Northampton, Massachusetts, pivoted from using paid ads to content marketing such as articles and blog posts. The firm invested under $10,000 in a proprietary software tool that automates the formatting and optimization of its content, saving more than 10 hours weekly in arduous data entry. That time is now spent on more creative tasks, like keyword research and article writing.


The company’s web traffic, meanwhile, has risen since last summer from 2,500 page views a month to over 80,000. “What we’ve done has been extremely successful and come at a much lower cost than hiring staff,” says Calloway Cook, president. “It’s been an incredible way to scale up our digital marketing efforts with no ongoing marketing costs.”


4. Project management

Small businesses can also streamline their internal communications—saving employees the time and agony of having to manage projects via email—by using project management solutions such as Basecamp or Asana.


As a result of the pandemic, New York City-based Home Grounds, an online coffee community, turned to an online collaboration tool to manage project workflow across the globe. As a result of the project management app, the time it takes to assign a task, check what’s been done and allocate new tasks has been reduced by 75%, says CEO Alex Mastin. Previously, a virtual assistant coordinated the team’s projects.


“It has allowed us to give our employees the freedom they craved while also keeping them accountable for their work,” Mastin says.


Spectrum Business Voice can provide your business with many automated features such as an auto attendant, sequential ring and voicemail-to-email that can enhance your customer experience while reducing pressure. To learn more, contact us at 855-299-9353.

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