10 Clever Ways Office Managers Are Using Automation To Save Thousands
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Office managers are under immense pressure from all angles. They need to manage ever-increasing workloads, achieve (often stringent) targets, and boost performance and efficiency while reducing errors. It's no easy task.
However, automation, specifically robotic process automation (RPA), could be the answer, providing much-needed relief to those long and stressful days.
In plain English, RPA is the practice of using software robots to execute mundane, repetitive, and rules-based tasks. These tedious tasks often consume a considerable chunk of an employee's time, leaving less time for other, more creative, or higher-order thinking tasks. At the same time, repetitive tasks are naturally prone to errors, costing the company more money. So why do inconsistencies skyrocket with monotonous manual labor? Because these tasks are lulling - they encourage our minds to lose focus and wander.
With this in mind, let's dive into how automation technology can speed up work processes and save thousands of dollars for office managers.
What's the Difference Between Front Office and Back Office?
There's some crossover between front-office and back-office tasks, but these terms do have distinct meanings. And by familiarizing yourself with the difference between the two, you can begin to prioritize your automation journey.
Front-office staff are the people directly generating income for the company. Typically, the front office consists of client-facing roles like marketing, sales, customer service, public relations, and call centers.
By contrast, back office workers don't directly generate revenue for the company but still provide vital support and administration. Despite not being on the front line, the business couldn't run without these workers. Back-office staff ensure business operations are carried out seamlessly and efficiently. Examples of back office roles include human resources, finance and accounting, IT and data management, legal, compliance management, and maintenance (groundskeepers, custodians, facility managers).
Front Office Automations
The front office deals with repetitive tasks like data entry, validation, and extraction, which are prime candidates for RPA.
In the US, approximately 55 million meetings are held each week, and the average worker spends at least 3 hours a week in meetings. But before meetings can happen, they need to be scheduled. RPA bots can process meeting requests, check attendee schedules, pick an appropriate time, and schedule an appointment.
The same is true for booking appointments with clients. For example, the sales team often needs to attend demo meetings to showcase the company's product to potential new customers. In this scenario, the RPA bot can process and check the incoming request against the sales agents' availability.
And then there are reminders and follow-ups. Missed appointments can be very costly for businesses. No-shows represent missed opportunities twice - once when the client doesn't turn up and again for whoever else could have filled that spot.
Smart bots can help companies with customer onboarding. These RPA bots simplify and automate many of the manual aspects of the onboarding process. For example, the bot can take the customer's registration form, and extract the relevant information, sometimes using optical character recognition (OCR) in the case of unstructured data. Next, the bot can set up all of the teams, groups, applications, and processes associated with the new client. This saves many hours for admin employees who would otherwise have to manually create unique profiles for each customer across many business systems.
Various validation checks play a crucial role in how the front office functions. For example, a real estate company may need to conduct background checks and credit checks on potential new tenants before moving forward with the lease. Equally important, accounting teams need to verify invoice statuses before approving transactions. And then, there are the various verification checks in the healthcare industry. For example, the provider may need to check for Medicaid eligibility or insurance eligibility across multiple insurance providers. Luckily RPA bots can handle the vast majority of the admin involved in these processes.
RPA bots save sales agents hours of data entry work each day so they can focus on selling. For example, without human input, sales order bots can automatically receive, process, and extract data from email and fax orders. This allows sales orders to move immediately along the chain, vastly accelerating the orders process and ensuring customers get their items quickly, boosting customer satisfaction.
Invoicing is another major use case of automation in the front office. For example, invoicing bots can retrieve customer invoice information from a Google Sheet and generate a new invoice in the accounting application.
- Customer Concern and Service Management
Service management is a customer-focused approach to delivering quality services that customers will value, buy, and use. Despite companies' best efforts, sometimes, a product's quality often doesn't meet customer expectations. For example, a software product may contain bugs or have a too confusing user interface for some customers to wrap their heads around. Equally, product defects may occur during the manufacturing process for physical goods. When these scenarios happen, customers need to raise the complaint with the appropriate team.
RPA bots can help by processing incoming customer concerns. For example, a smart bot can extract relevant information from customer complaint emails and create a service ticket with the appropriate tags. It can then alert the relevant team to action the issue and log the entire process for auditing purposes.
Back Office Automations
There are many repetitive processes primed for automation disruption in the back office too. Let's take a look.
Human resources and payroll are leading candidates for automation. Why? According to one study, 93% of HR employees' time is spent on repetitive tasks, and nearly 65% of these tasks can be easily automated. Automation offers many benefits in HR and payroll, including higher accuracy, consistency, reliability, scalability, compliance, and increased productivity.
RPA bots can conduct a vast range of activities here, including:
- Processing payroll data - Reading specific forms and entering data into the payroll system.
- Checking for incomplete or overdue tasks.
- Employee onboarding.
- Timesheet entry.
2. Compliance & Audit Functions
Compliance and auditing are fundamental elements of doing business in the modern world. Falling short of compliance requirements can land companies in hot water - think fines, legal trouble, and reputation damage. However, managing these repetitive compliance tasks can be incredibly time-consuming.
Thankfully, RPA bots are on hand to help. For example, RPA bots can generate activity statements, ensure that critical data is consistent across systems, prepare backup reports, perform three-way trust account reconciliations, and more. In simple words, these smart bots automate various controls within business processes, boosting confidence around compliance and minimizing the risk of human error.
RPA can transform accounting workflows by combining different actions across systems into a smooth automated process. From automatically uploading documents to speeding up the rate at which accounts receivable and payable complete tasks, RPA means different things based on the specific use case. Here are some of the RPA bots you can find in accounting:
- Accounts payable approvals: The bot can send a list of vendor invoices for approval.
- Accounts payable discounts: An RPA bot can automatically apply a credit to a vendor bill.
- Invoice data capture: Smart bots can gather vendor invoice information using OCR or by extracting text from email, web portals, or other sources.
- Account reconciliation: RPA bots can reconcile balance sheets across statements.
And much, much more!
4. Claims Processing
Before actioning the request, companies must check claim requests for sufficient information, justification, and authenticity. Of course, this is a vital process, but it's also tedious and prone to error. RPA in claims processing reinvents the workflow to integrate different claim-processing information from multiple sources, offering colossal time and cost-saving benefits.
Robotic process automation helps combat many of the challenges associated with efficient and error-free claims processing, including:
- Manual inputs and data retrieval: Manual data entry is time-consuming and often leads to inconsistencies and errors. Similarly, data retrieval can be highly complex when dealing with many different software, processes, and applications. RPA makes this process straightforward.
- Disparate input media: Claim data can come in many forms, including paper, images, PDFs, emails, and electronic documents. RPA is capable of extracting data no matter the source.
- Legacy applications: Companies often have inflexible legacy systems that drive core processes but don't play well with other software. RPA can help bridge the gap without a massive technological overhaul.
5. Vendor Management & Bill Pay
The use cases for robotic process automation in vendor management are widespread. For example, RPA bots can automate the vendor onboarding process, manage up-to-date vendor catalogs, manage and maintain vendor contracts and insurance obligations, screen suppliers, and collect information from supplier databases. Moreover, RPA bots can handle the grunt work involved in paying vendors and logging the data for compliance checks.
Robotic process automation bots offer numerous benefits across front-office and back-office teams, allowing businesses to save time and money while abolishing errors. Whatsmore, by leveraging digital workers, office managers and the people who support them become liberated to work on more creative tasks that give the business a competitive edge.
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January 9, 2024