Communication between your business and the outside world can be a significant part of your operation depending on your business model, and therefore can require a significant amount of your efforts. I advocate business automation, and am striving for it myself, and on this automation journey, communications must be dealt with properly. This includes understanding, streamlining, and automating your communication processes – the first two items we’ll cover below.
Define your Communication Processes
Once you have convinced yourself that automating, or at least >>>optimising your business communications is worth it<<<, the next step is to define and thoroughly understand your communication processes. For this, I recommend getting a pen and a few sheets of paper, and actually drawing out simple flow charts of your communications. There should be a flow chart for each process you use or support today, for each combination of: -Medium> email, text, Facebook public message, Facebook private message, contact form, order form, change request form, phone call, text message, Linkedin message, face to face, etc.
-Purpose > question, make an order, complaint, change request, cancel order, make a payment, collaboration on a design, etc.
You might end up with 10, 20, 30+ different communication flow charts. When I did this process, I had about 20, and I was pretty shocked with this. It seemed highly inefficient, and I thought what I should do next is not directly automate, but first remove the waste, and optimize these flow charts. If you’re unsure exactly how to do this step, check out my case study.
PS If you can already see that it’s likely you’ll remove some of these processes, don’t draw them out, read on, and perhaps it will become immediately obvious that you can start ignoring them already.
Describe Each Communication Processs
Now that you have several pages of flow charts, you should know from your own practical experience which ones are most efficient for you and your business, and which ones waste time and could be replaced/merged.
You should go through each one, write notes beside them, and consider the following properties
– How often do you use this communication process? Every day? Once several moths ago? Never?
– How much effort does this process require? Practically none? A lot?
– What’s the success rate of this process? Do your clients follow through with it or do you keep on having to chase after them?
– Is this method expensive for you, or almost free?
– Can this communication process be automated somehow? >>> more on this later!
Hopefully, you’re starting to better understand each process, and noticing which ones are wasting your time, and which ones could serve you well in the future, especially if you can optimize them and automate them.
Select the Winners, Losers, and Required Processes.
In my case, I found that emails, text messages, and contact forms seemed favorable for me, and would support most of my clients and leads – if I can somehow make it so that most of my business communications use these methods, I’ll minimize my time spent on this aspect of the business. There were some channels which I might as well ditch entirely, such as Skype, and some which I must continue to support like phone calls, but I knew of ways to automate (such as a Python script with Twilio) this.
Remove the Losers
Now that you understand your communications, make a decision to stop supporting the channels which are giving you a low return, and are draining your resources. Make note of whatever steps are necessary to stop supporting this – perhaps removing these details from your website and advertisements, cancel a subscription from a service provider, close your account or uninstall the program. You can completely forget about these processes now – of course you may loose out on a small number of clients, but the time gained will make up for it if you have taken everything into account.
Favor the Winners
In this step, you must do whatever you can to try to push your communications to happen with the winner processes – the most efficient methods which can be highly automated and cost you little resources. This could involve highlighting these contact details on your website or marketing materials, either with a visual highlight, including them on the homepage, or with a message such as “for a prompt response, please use X to contact us” – but have Y and Z also on the page.
This will lead to more and more communications happening with your desired communication process, saving you resources so you can optimize and automate further, or work on another aspect of your business. This is a very practical example of how optimizing and automating your business model can lead to growth which is otherwise stifled.
Automate the Winners & Required Processes
Now that you have stopped supporting the wasteful , low returning processes, and are favoring the winners, you’re ready to start thinking about automating both the winners, and any non-winners which you must continue to support (perhaps because your clients prefer this method for example). There are many ways you could automate communications such as
– Contact forms, order forms, change request forms
– A “Call me back” button beside a phone number, so you can batch process phone calls
– A dynamic form so you can automatically categorize orders, instead of reading through them and sorting manually
More on automating communications in a later article.
Another Step on the Path to Maximum Automation
So, equipped with the above guidelines you are now ready to optimize the communications of your business. I have done this already, and although there is still room for improvement, I can say that it has had a positive impact on my business. If you’re not convinced, perhaps you should do some research, data gathering, analysis, and perhaps split testing. I’m interested to learn how you approached this topic, and the sorts of results you saw from taking the above steps, or your own version of this general concept.