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Automation Saves You Time And Money

30th September 2014
We spend a lot of time filling in forms online. Name, address, town, post code, date of birth... The same information is asked of us time and again, but how much more satisfying is it when you come to a form that recognises those first few letters, and a quick tap of the tab key later, the vast majority of the fields are populated with your information?

This concept (known as Dynamic Population) is a clear winner with time-strapped surfers, and dramatically increases the likelihood of the end user completing the action you want them to achieve, which is likely to be a registration, an application of some sort, or in the most profitable cases, filling out delivery or billing details to facilitate an order. Leave this idea out, and how do you think it will increase your exit rate? It's partly because of the inherent laziness (or sheer frustration) of human beings that ideas like this are a sure-fire winner for those looking to create successful online operations, and there are many other examples of why reducing admin or metaphorical red tape could turn a nice idea into a great idea, or take a failing operation and turn it into something capable of breaking even or turning in a profit.

Ergo, it's not just end users that stand to benefit from automating online procedures. Adding a web-based CRM to a site creates a perfect online database for any company; be it potential group members, customers, prospects, etc. Allowing visitors to populate the information for themselves saves countless hours of manual data entry, and can create a sizeable quantity of data that grows without having to lift a finger of staff time.

There are a number of examples of how we've been able to turn this data into something very useful for companies. Once organised or structured as required by your organisation, you can attribute various reminders or settings to the various users. We've made this work to customers' advantage by:
  • Setting up payment structures so that customers can enter their card details and money can then be taken as required at regular intervals via the details that are held securely. This works brilliantly if you require payments for monthly memberships (i.e. gyms, clubs) or subscriptions.

  • If payments tend to fluctuate, the same system could be utilised to invite a customer to make a payment or even take it automatically. Using the software to chase or take the payment rather than a member of staff with a ledger significantly reduces the number of man hours needed to try and secure payments.

  • Distributing email or SMS reminders about key messages that customers need to know. This could be something along the lines of a reminder about the sort of payment you're about to take, messages warning of planned closures/exceptional openings or a notification of a membership that's about to expire and needs an action to follow it up.

  • Building numerous forms and calculators that help interpret customer's requirements to supply them with anything from price quotations to actual orders.
Foam CalculatorMastercraft Upholstery's Foam Calculator gives customers a price quotation instantly
We've even worked on projects that allow end users to input data and then get a response without any member of staff having to get involved in the process. Using the right combination of drop down menus and closed fields, you can allow potential customers to specify their requirements for a particular customisable product, and then the automatic element of the system does the rest, potentially offering prices, lead times and availability for the chosen combination of elements required. Configure the form to send a copy to your sales staff, and not only will they see that a potential customer already has the price, they also have all the information they need to make a considered and informed follow up, either by email, phone, or whatever suits your company or client's particular needs.

A great (albeit extreme) example of how you can make automated processes work is to look at eBay. The vast majority of content (text, video, figures) is all user generated, and whilst there's plenty to keep their own staff occupied in terms of resolving disputes, coming up with marketing strategy and dominating the world (or as good as!), the man power needed to make it work is far smaller than the sum of all of its parts. The automated way in which so much of it works (re-sizing photos, processing payments, adjusting prices based on bids received) keeps the site vibrant and dynamic, without much of it having to be of concern to eBay's employees.

Can you take the concept behind their site and make it work for you, with third parties or other elements of automation contributing to the success of your overall operation? Such additions can notably increase your efficiency, resulting in what can be significant time and cost savings. If you've got an idea, we'd love to help out.

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