By Evelyn Long
Running a small business can be easier and more profitable with the help of robotic process automation (RPA). Survival can be tough, especially when keeping up with online commerce as well as brick-and-mortar operations.
More companies are realizing the potential of RPA for helping them stay afloat, as well as thrive and grow. There are five key areas where it comes in handy for small businesses, all without hurting human employees.
1. Any Repetitive, Formulaic Task
Robotic process automation is all about putting a computer to work simulating a task normally done by a human. Things machines are best at are structured and follow some sort of pattern. This makes RPA ideal for any kind of repetitive task, from processing orders to collecting data and even assembly line tasks — though these may require physical robots.
Virtually every industry has some set of tasks somewhere in the supply chain or production process that can benefit from robotics process automation, so finding ways to implement it should be easy.
2. Customer Service
One of the most popular applications of RPA is customer service. This may sound counterintuitive — after all, communicating with people is not a particularly predictable activity.
Howewer, many customer service queries don’t require human assistance. Commonly asked questions can be answered easily with a standard response or help guide. A chatbot can be programmed to answer these queries on its own or direct them to representatives if they need more help.
This frees up more time for customer service specialists to deal with only necessary questions and reduces the wait time for people to get the assistance they need. It’s a lifesaver for small businesses. Every dollar counts, so enabling employees to work as efficiently as possible is key to creating value.
3. Finance and Reducing Costs
Automation is famous for its ability to reduce costs, from operations to waste. This is due to the efficient nature of RPA. It can make customer service more efficient and effective, allowing small businesses to reach additional contacts, create better impressions and ultimately increase profits. Any operations process that can be automated will streamline the human workforce, making it less likely that companies need to hire extra employees to do miscellaneous or repetitive tasks. This saves money by making the most out of every worker’s abilities.
Additionally, automated processes virtually eliminate human error, resulting in less waste from mistakes and damages. While these might seem like minor cuts to spending, they add up, and saving money is critical for small businesses to operate at their best.
RPA can also be used to perform common, time-consuming financial tasks, such as processing orders, payments and employee payroll. Anything that concentrates on repetitive data input can be automated using RPA, increasing overall productivity.
4. Employee Assistance
Many businesses and employees alike are reluctant to embrace robotic process automation out of concern that it will eliminate human jobs or lower wages. This is the case with artificial intelligence, to a certain extent. RPA is different from AI, even if the two can work together.
RPA focuses on complementing the capabilities of human workers. In fact, a recent survey found that 70% of employees reported automation enabling the reduction of wasted time at work.
It is important to remember the limitations of RPA. Computers can’t understand human emotions or cement a new business partnership or think creatively. RPA assists humans by performing repetitive, tiring tasks, which aren’t rewarding or engaging for employees anyway. RPA can be a great assistant for small businesses that need more help but don’t have the budget for a bigger staff, larger facility, or greater infrastructure.
5. Research and Optimization
Research is important for all businesses, no matter how large or small. It is vital for analyzing how various aspects of the company are performing, such as operations or marketing. RPA can help with the research process since it can be highly effective at data collection.
A larger data pool will provide more accurate, in-depth information. It can then be used to identify areas in need of improvement or opportunities for optimization.
Robotic Process Automation for Small Businesses
Robotic process automation is highly versatile and accessible, capable of unlocking greater savings and productivity for small businesses. Integrating new technologies isn’t exclusively available to big chain companies anymore. With a little research and the right RPA strategy, small businesses can experience big gains for their staff and customers alike.
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About the Author
Evelyn Long is the editor-in-chief of Renovated and a writer with experience covering green technology and construction for publishers like NCCER and BUILD.