For centuries new technology has helped streamline processes to improve efficiencies, and modern businesses are no different. New advancements in technology lead to new challenges to overcome.
Businesses are more interconnected than ever before; where humans and technology have blurred the lines of business.
But being ‘connected’ is more complex than what might be obvious, especially when it comes to business. Small business owners are in a unique and pivotal position of managing the overlap of social connectivity and technology connectivity.
Consumers are presented with more options and have the ability to communicate ‘louder’ and easier than ever before. If a business is not active on social media platforms it does not mean that their customers are not. Every owner should regularly do some research on their business (Google or popular review sites like Yelp).
Social media can be an astoundingly powerful tool that can improve the success of a business. Many businesses are choosing to create Facebook pages instead of building company websites. It is more cost efficient and easier to maintain. Pâtissez is a small café in Canberra that skyrocketed to international fame for their milkshakes, purely by the power of social media. Images of their now famous ‘Freakshakes’ have circulated the globe off the back of their Instagram and Facebook accounts, creating such a demand for their business that customers often have to wait three hours to be seated.
While Pâtissez is a ‘Cinderella story’ for social media success, there are countless other examples of social media empowering businesses in terms of attracting new customers and retaining their business. Social platforms like Facebook make it easier than ever to interact with the public and give business owners insights into the mindset of their customers, which is an invaluable asset.
Yelp/FourSquare (or other business attendance/experience platforms) host comments and reviews that are usually from very happy customers or very unhappy customers. While very happy customers are what all businesses strive for, it is the unhappy customers that provide the best insights into areas for necessary change. Negative reviews that contain constructive feedback are the golden tickets to improvement, and every small business owner should be cashing them in.
For whatever reason a customer may complain, it is important to extract what part of their issue is ‘fixable’. Many customer problems actually stem from more complex issues. Business owners now have these insights into their business performance straight at their fingertips, either through online customer engagement or software tools that help streamline and improve their business.
Small business software tools are a cost effective way to give businesses an extra finger on the pulse of their performance across different areas of their business. Cloud technology has allowed for powerful business tools to be affordable for some of the smallest businesses.
On a basic level, a cloud accounting system like QuickBooks Online can show a business owner timely reports or changes that are happening in real-time for their business. A cloud accounting system allows you to send an invoice straight from a mobile phone, or check what money customers have left to pay on outstanding payments from anywhere on any device.
QuickBooks Online was designed to be easy enough for a business owner who doesn’t know much about accounting, but powerful enough to satisfy a picky accountant or bookkeeper. Interacting with accountants and bookkeepers is easier and more affordable now that accounting tools are designed to help business owners understand their finances with ease.
Another cloud-system called Shoeboxed makes it easier to keep track of invoices/receipts by scanning, data-entering and storing invoices digitally. They are ATO compliant and are an easy way to reconcile business transactions automatically with QuickBooks Online—saving time on data entry whilst avoiding payments to a bookkeeper or admin for the same work. Even better, Shoeboxed users no longer have to store hard copies of invoices for 7 years for the ATO, Shoeboxed does it for them.
Making sure your employees are at work is also an important task to keep your customers happy. QuickBooks Time (formerly TSheets) can show you where employees are clocking in—at the job site/office or twenty minutes away on the bus to work. QuickBooks Time makes payroll and invoicing a breeze, while making sure a business is effectively managing their staff and their hours accurately. Tracking pay rates and holiday time effectively keeps employees happy as well!
Once a business makes the decision to start using cloud-based software tools the options are (almost) endless. Losing track of stock can be solved with a cloud-based inventory system that syncs with sales figures so owners can receive notifications when stock levels are low. No missed sales opportunities again. Cloud-based Point of Sale (POS) systems can show retail and hospitality businesses when peak sales are happening so scheduling employees is easier and more cost-effectively. They can also show you patterns in your sales, or the most popular products across different times of the year.
Implementing all of these systems might sound daunting, but there is a cloud-based platform that makes it easy—Maestrano. This is a business dashboard that makes it a breeze to connect platforms from one insightful and customisable place. Maestrano allows multiple systems like QuickBooks Online to securely integrate without a hassle or hiring a developer or IT consultant.
Apps.com is another great place for business owners to start their ‘cloud journey’. There are helpful reviews and insights for which software tools might be best for your business. If a customer complains about a fixable issue, businesses can drill down into inefficiencies and solve the problem to help their customers. Technology allows them to do this faster, so their customer problem is resolved, and they can spend less time/money resolving it.
Connectivity can be boundless with the power of technology. But businesses still work with people and relationships between people and technology will only become more complex and advanced. Integrated systems give business owners the power to make proactive decisions for their business, which in turn benefits both the customer and the business. The customers can get more of what they want, and small business owners can spend more time doing what they love.