Small businesses, by definition, have limited staff and resources. In order to operate “big,” technology has provided some practical assistance. There’s a lot of talk these days about artificial intelligence (AI) and other sophisticated technology. There are many tools available for small businesses that won’t bust budgets. In addition to your basic tools, such as Microsoft 365 and G Suite, there are other ways to do things efficiently within your limitations.
Consider how you might use some automation tools in your company.
Despite the tough job market and the challenges in finding workers, you still want to be sure that anyone being considered for a position in your company meets your needs. You might, for example, use skills tests to assess worker competency. These tests measure general job readiness, verbal and math comprehension, and where needed, certain skills (e.g., data entry, Microsoft Office). There are a number of companies offering this technical assistance, including Criteria, Modern Hire, and Prevue.
Note: NYC enacted a new law to regulate automated employment decision tools by requiring an annual “bias audit” and other things. This takes effect on January 1, 2023. Will other cities and states follow suit?
If you want to set up phone calls or zoom meetings with prospects or others, you can automate the process, eliminating some back-and-forth with emails or phone calls. For example, Calendly automates scheduling. If you want to schedule emails to be sent later from your Gmail account, Boomerang can do this; just add to Gmail.
For employee scheduling, there is also an array of tools to simplify the task. The software can optimize how your staff is being used, so you don’t have more employees when not needed and fewer when needed.
What’s more, the tools can help comply with legal requirements. For example, some states, such as Oregon, require “predictive scheduling” by companies in the retail, hospitality, or food industries. They must provide schedules at least 14 days in advance or pay a penalty for scheduling changes. Other states with predictive scheduling laws include Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Rhode Island. Some cities, including Chicago, New York City, San Francisco, and Seattle, also have predictive scheduling laws. Check for a small business exemption, which varies with location. Some states, including Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, and Tennessee, have laws barring enactment of predictive scheduling laws.
If you want to automate employee scheduling for any reason, Sling has a list of the 14 best free employee scheduling software tools for 2022, but there are others that aren’t free but may still be cost effective for your business.
Tools for responding to inquires
Customers and prospects want immediate responses to their inquiries. Perhaps a customer wants to cancel and order or has a problem with one? Maybe a prospect wants some clarity on pricing before becoming a customer.
If you have limited staff but want to provide excellent customer response time, consider automating your actions with chatbots or other similar tools that can be integrated into your website, email, and social media platforms. Some options (check for free trials to determine which one is right for you):
Microsoft founder Bill Gates said: “Automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.”
I think the converse is true…automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. Hope this describes your business.