4 Ways Robotic Process Automation Can Give Your Small Biz a Boost

Need an assistant to help with your more menial tasks? Consider robotic process automation.
robot-at-work
Free up your employees' time by using a robot for simple, routine tasks. (Photo: Bas/Natassia)

You’re busy (to say the least) and your staff is small. So why not farm out repetitive, computer-based tasks to a resource that’s available 24/7, is immune to human error and doesn’t need coffee to keep going — in other words, to a robot?

The growing field of robotic process automation (RPA) is opening up a new possibilities to businesses of all sizes.

Mina Deckard

Use RPAs for any type of repetitive, data intensive, rules-based task, according to Mina Deckard, analyst for UiPath. (Photo: Mina Deckard)

According to Mina Deckard, analyst for RPA platform UiPath, RPA can help with “any type of repetitive, data intensive, rules-based task.” From data entry and order processing to job postings, RPAs can take over tasks otherwise done by human employees, freeing them up for other work.

Related: 3 Disruptive Technologies that Are Making Their Way to Small Business

What’s more, you don’t have to be a developer to build your own bot. Several RPA providers, such as UiPath and WorkFusion, provide free versions of their product, which are easy for anyone to use.

Here are four ways small businesses are leveraging RPA technology to save time and money.

Improving back-office data entry

“For small businesses like cafes, restaurants, small retail stores, etc., who have to deal with orders, payroll and invoices on a daily basis, data entry has proven to be the most time-consuming task,” said Deckard.

While data entry is critical to running a business and impossible to avoid, RPA can be programmed to handle much of the labor for you. Simple processes can be fully automated without needing input from you or another employee, but RPA also allows for “attended” tasks, which require input from a human.

Related: Is it Time to Use Big Data to Run Your Small Business?

When you’re onboarding new employees, RPA can grab handwritten information — their social security number, home address, etc. — from PDFs and put it into a spreadsheet. The RPA can prompt a human to confirm that the information in the PDF was read and entered correctly.

And, said Deckard, “with RPA, the workday doesn’t end at quitting time. Software robots continue working throughout the night, setting aside any exceptions for human attention the following morning.”

Speeding up order processing

Online art gallery Rise Art uses RPA to speed up its sales and order processing, said Marcos Steverlynck, the company’s cofounder and CTO. “As we receive orders from both rentals and sales, each one needs to be fed into a specific spreadsheet and then migrated to another before the data is cleaned up and sent through to our accounting software.” Before using RPA, Rise Art was having to perform all these processes manually.

RPA automation has freed up time in both operations and bookkeeping. Now, Steverlynck said, his employees can process more orders with less manpower and focus on more value-added tasks and long-term projects.

According to Deckard, the number of transactions RPA can get through in an hour is several times what a human can do. Ultimately, this speeds up forward-facing services, leading to happier customers.

Streamlining job postings

job-posting

Bots can be helpful for data entry on job postings. (Photo: 24Novembers/Shutterstock)

Another way businesses are using RPA is by helping promote open job opportunities.

Liu Siyong, managing director of RPA provider CFB Bots, said his firm works with many clients in the food and beverage and retail industries to automate recruitment of both fulltime and seasonal employees. Because of the high turnover rate in these industries, these businesses are perpetually on the lookout for workers.

Posting available positions on multiple job boards can be time consuming. “For example,” Siyong said, “if a business is looking to fill five positions and they post on 10 different job portals, the staff will have to repeat the data entry 50 times.” But RPA can automate the task. Job details can be entered into a spreadsheet, leaving the bots to log in to the various job portals and create the postings. Additionally, RPA can help with scheduling interviews with the candidates based on your open slots in your calendar.

Related: Why Small Business Owners Should Try Facebook to Recruit Hires

Boosting customer (and employee) satisfaction

“Sure, your processes will become more efficient with RPA, but so will your employees when they’re freed from work they hate,” said Deckard. “Mindless clicking does not make a satisfied employee.”

Related: Three Keys to Retaining Your Best Employees

Deckard noted that when repetitive tasks are taken off employees’ plates, they feel a greater sense of mastery and purpose in their work and also have more time to focus on providing customers with an excellent and memorable experience with your brand. “That way, client service becomes a much more consistent and effective tool to meet customer expectations and increase the pool of clients.”

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