In competitive industries such as manufacturing, distribution, or wholesale businesses, continuing to rely on how things have always been done can be the fastest way to being left behind.
While operational change can be daunting – it can often involve a significant investment of time and finances – the benefit of updating your processes and leveraging the right technology, greatly outweigh such costs.
While working with many Australian businesses to help them take some innovative steps towards process automation, I’ve observed some impressive examples of how they are leveraging technology for competitive advantage by:
- Increasing staff productivity;
- Streamlining their reporting;
- Better managing suppliers; and
- Improving customer satisfaction.
I’ve compiled a few of them here, so you can find out how to spend less time on manual and administrative tasks, more time on income-generating activities, and also become more effective at driving revenue for your business.
Here are 4 clever ways businesses are using technology to their advantage:
1. Use systems that integrate rather than isolate
While I’ve just talked about how technology is the best way to improve efficiency in your business, it’s important to remember that the wrong technology can also be your downfall.
While it may be necessary to have a variety of different systems providing point solutions, having multiple systems working in isolation can create a range of inefficiencies, such as having to:
- Import and exporting data between systems;
- Enter the same data multiple times;
- Deal with errors and inconsistencies; and
- Make decisions without whole-picture visibility of your businesses.
Businesses that use software that integrates all aspects of the business (accounting, inventory management, customer service, eMarketing, etc.) can easily identify, and eliminate instances in which staff duplicate their efforts, make errors, or repeat data entry. It also provides staff the opportunity to use a single sign on. So you can minimise time wasted on these mundane and easily automated tasks.
Ask your software vendors if they can offer you the ability to automate the integration of your key business systems. While this is not the ideal solution – managing multiple integrations between solutions can become quite tedious as a business grows – it can make a real difference in the short term.
If your software vendors can’t deliver such integration, or you want to get it right from the word go, ensure that any business management system you implement provides a single platform for all your key functions to achieve optimum efficiency, visibility, and control.
2. Outsource your reporting – to your software!
Monitoring your KPIs through robust reporting is a great way to ensure your business stays on the right. But to do this, you often need to dedicate significant resources towards data compilation and analytics.
However, savvier businesses know that this doesn’t always have to be the case. You no longer require a full-time staffer to crunch the numbers, conduct analyses, and keep you on track. You can make your business management software do it for you!
By making full use of their reporting tools, leading businesses generate reports to ensure their financials are on track, to hold sales staff accountable for their targets, and to generate pipeline analytics. So not only do they track how they’ve done in the past, they also use data to plan intelligently for the future.
If you already have a business management system, make sure you’re fully utilising your range of reporting tools. If not, make sure that a strong reporting and analysis capability is part of what you demand in your next business management software investment.
3. Proactively encourage better service from your suppliers
In industries such as your own, it’s quite common to deal with numerous suppliers every day. And I’m sure you’ll agree it can be quite laborious to chase them up every time you’re out of stock, or they’re overdue on their deliveries.
Best-of-breed businesses have found ways to simplify this altogether. Here are a couple of examples of how businesses have leveraged their software to manage their suppliers more proactively:
- Whenever they are out of stock, the system will automatically trigger an email to the supplier, and can even send reminders if the shipment if not received by a certain date.
- Another solution is to set up a DIFOT (Delivery-In-Full-On-Time) report that ranks suppliers according to their performance. The right system should not only automate the generation of the report for you, but can also send a notification to your suppliers to keep them motivated to deliver the best service to you.
These are a few examples of set-it-and-forget-it tasks that can encourage improvements in the level of service you get from your suppliers, while also saving time for your staff. And of course, while this particular example relates to supplier relationships, this is far from the only application for such automation.
4. Keep your customers engaged with regular communication at minimal effort
Businesses frequently rely solely on staff to action follow-up tasks and respond to customer enquiries, but on occasion, a task will fall through the cracks, an opportunity will be missed, and your customer service record may be compromised as a result. In a situation where you depend heavily on referrals and return business, this can be a serious problem.
This is where I’ve seen businesses that use their CRMs (Customer Relationship Management systems) intelligently achieve significant advantage in customer satisfaction. Some examples of what they do:
- Automatic follow-ups to quotes;
- Targeted emails to touch base with existing customers every few months; and
- Prompt repeat business by triggering personalised follow-up emails to customers who have deviated from their usual buying habits.
By using a CRM to automate these tasks, you could be saving time and effort for your staff, while also continuing to maintain meaningful relationships with your customers and driving increased sales!
As strong advocates for automation, we’ve helped businesses leverage technology to increase their efficiency and profitability with our HARMONiQ Business Tuning Software.
HARMONiQ is a unique platform that gives you:
- Integration between various aspects of your business by incorporating accounting, inventory management, sales orders and customer relationship management modules into one easy-to-use solution;
- The ability to track key performance metrics, as well as pipeline analytics, allowing you to forecast your outcomes and make more informed decisions;
- Visibility over inventory and supplier performance, and allows you to automate tasks such as generating alerts for out-of-stock items or late deliveries; and
- Automation of simple selling and sales support tasks, such as sending follow up emails for quotes, or setting reminders for follow up calls.
These are just a few of the ways HARMONiQ can help you optimise your business processes. As a truly customisable and scalable software, you can leverage HARMONiQ to drive significant efficiencies, while also ensuring that the software will continue to grow alongside your business.
If you would like to discuss how you can start leveraging great technology to achieve significant efficiency improvements in your business, please call me on 02 9542 2000.
Drew Arthur is the Managing Director of Micronet Systems, and is focused on helping business leaders overcome inefficient sales, inventory, and customer relationship management practices by leveraging cutting edge technology. If you want to gain better control of the sales processes in your business, click here to see how HARMONiQ Business Tuning Software can make a difference to your business, or click here to get in touch.