Failure rates of business are at an all-time high. In 2019, we saw yet another decline in high street stores as more brick-and-mortar shops closed their doors for the final time — the amount of empty physical retail space is now at record levels. At the same time, online sales are experiencing a slump. It doesn’t matter what area your business operates in — opportunities for profits are getting spread thinner and thinner.
It’s difficult to pin down a reason for dropping consumer interest in 2019. Brexit is the easy target and not a bad choice. Economic uncertainty brought about by negotiations with Europe has had an impact across several areas; everywhere from retail to housing. Yet, it isn’t just concern over Brexit that has consumers and investors worried. A global economic slowdown is making an impact too, as the cost of living continues to rise, along with unemployment, which matches a decline in the amount of expendable income families have.
For many businesses, as available sales avenues slip away, profitability is not about expansion to find new markets but instead optimisation of current opportunities. As markets shrink and areas of inbound revenue become lost, making the most of your current sales options becomes critical to keeping your head above water.
So what can you do to stop your business dipping beneath the waves? You need to secure a maximum return on investment for the resources you have now.
Automation in Modern Business
Automation has seen a meteoric rise in recent years as the technology behind new systems advances at a break-neck speed. The world is now home to self-drive cars, artificial intelligence that makes real choices, and smart technology that can repair itself. The age of automation is upon us, and the technology it brings with it is the stuff of science fiction.
Automation isn’t always about next-level concepts. It has been a part of our ever-evolving business landscape for years. Well-known for its adoption in the manufacturing industry, it’s made its way into smaller enterprises, as the technology has developed and adapted to meet commercial demand. Automated services now exist to handle a myriad of tasks your business might need to complete.
Of course, just as in manufacturing, where automation took over much of the production but not the more skilled or creative tasks such as design, so too is automation for businesses able to support essential basic tasks, but not entirely run the company.
As the late American writer Walter Lippmann said, “You cannot endow even the best machine with initiative.” Many businesses fear automation for what it may take away from them, but in reality, it’s really about what it can add. The introduction of automation isn’t ever going to overtake your business, but it can make it more productive.
What Automation Means for Businesses Success in 2020
Examples of automation available include generic tools that can be used by any business. Examples include virtual receptionist tools — software that manages your communication output, removing the need for staff hours and resources to be invested in menial tasks like taking messages or forwarding calls. They also cover more specific systems for specific industries, like claims management software.
Claims management software is designed for claims management companies and allows them to automate particular tasks. These tasks include gathering client data, managing claims progress, and creating template documents. It’s not what the automated systems do that we’re interested in for this article though, but the advances they represent. Some business tasks are incredibly simple, but without them, other work cannot proceed. They lay the foundations on which profits are built. Automated scheduling ensures that the process continues efficiently and effectively without the need for human intervention which can result in errors and delays.
For calls, this could mean making sure customers reach the right representative. For claims management, this could mean acquiring consumer details to process their claim. Both examples demonstrate the ability for businesses to take their current task load — whether the tasks apply to all types of industries or specific ones — and introduce methods of automated activity. In doing so, they achieve a simple goal: they enable the continued undertaking of essential tasks without the normal level of resource investment.
Automation allows you to optimise workflow because it removes the need for manual input that would otherwise be time-consuming and expensive. Instead, software systems manage these tasks for you, so your workforce can either focus on other more important tasks or be reduced to suit workload. Optimisation of workflow presents two opportunities for your business. It either lets you scale back to maintain current income at lower costs, or it enables you to get more work done on the same amount of resources you currently use.
The result of automation is that more efficient and sustainable practices are introduced, allowing you to capitalise on either what you already have, or cut back to only what you need. Using this methodology, you can hope to weather the storm of economic uncertainty as we move through 2020, and survive in an increasingly shrinking business market by making more from less.
Infographic created by Donnelley Financial Solutions, a financial compliance software company