Inbound marketing is no longer a novelty. It is a core component of an overall marketing strategy and is built upon providing outstanding, relevant content to people who may become customers. Having workflows that power an inbound marketing strategy is smart. It’s not always easy to keep straight who has what, who has been contacted, and who has opted into the email newsletter.
Because inbound marketing informs so many B2B and B2C purchase decisions, how you use online forms and automated workflows can make a measurable difference in how well your overall marketing strategy performs. You need a methodical approach to keeping leads “warm,” so that no potential customers fall through the cracks. With the right workflow software, it’s doable and practical for even a small business.
A Consistent Approach to Keeping Leads Warm
When someone accesses one of your blog posts, a whitepaper, or some other downloadable piece of marketing collateral, they are automatically “warmer” than any lead you contact cold. There are many things you can do to keep these leads warm and to nudge them further along the purchase path. Simply acknowledging their existence and thanking them for downloading a report, for example, helps establish a relationship.
But you can’t do it haphazardly. You don’t know up front which lead is likeliest to buy, or has the purchasing authority to do so. Therefore, it’s wise to develop an automated workflow that acknowledges each new lead, attempts to establish contact, and offers more personalized assistance. With all of your sales team members using a consistent workflow, you maximize your lead-cultivating activity and let fewer good leads slip away.
Benefits of Lead-Cultivating Workflows
How can your business benefit from automated workflows designed to cultivate leads? For one thing, you’ll have far less confusion. When someone enters their email address to download a report, for example, and this data is automatically routed to an online form and put into a centralized database, then the next time the lead accesses content, you know and can tailor your interactions based on the fact that they are perhaps a step closer to making a purchase decision.
With a consistent lead-cultivating workflow, if one team member is absent and a lead returns to learn more, whoever deals with them will know what they have already accessed, plus any other relevant information they may have entered when requesting information. Therefore, they’re treated with greater consistency and know their interest is important to you.
Smaller Businesses May Benefit Disproportionately
In smaller businesses, people often have to wear multiple hats, and they have less time to deal with manual or paper-oriented workflows. If you don’t have a strong clerical “back bench,” then automated workflows can make a huge difference in how efficiently your business operates. A smaller business, in other words, may benefit disproportionately from developing automated workflows and may see a quicker return on their workflow development investment.
The less personnel and time you have available to see to the completion of old-fashioned, manual lead-cultivation workflows, the more you’ll benefit from developing automated ones. The good news is, workflow software is available to make this task easier than you might expect.
Craft the Ideal Automated Workflow
PerfectForms is online form and workflow software with an intuitive, drag-and-drop interface that allows non-technical users to create custom-tailored online forms and workflows. You can begin with a number of included form and workflow templates, or you can design your own from scratch. The result is the ideal online form or workflow for your needs.
You can create lead-cultivating forms and workflows, or forms and workflows for an almost endless variety of business tasks. In fact, PerfectForms users often choose PerfectForms for one task, only to realize that it is perfect for many others, from IT help desk workflows to HR workflows. Check it out: we have a number of interesting case studies that spell out how PerfectForms helps businesses across industries work smarter and make the most of their resources. We’d love for you to have a look at some of them. Please contact us with any questions you may have.
The issue of automation can be a touchy one for many businesses. While people embrace the idea of having the technology tools they need to do their work with maximum efficiency, many of them are wary of the possibility of being automated out of a job altogether.
But in many cases, automation won’t replace human workers, and in fact will free them up to do their best work, by taking some of the repetitive drudgery out of certain tasks.
If your business is working toward automating some of your more repetitive or inefficient workflows, you should be aware of some of the most common challenges businesses face when adopting automated workflows. Here are five of them.
1. Workflow Steps That Are Taken for Granted
To create automated workflows, you have to understand them thoroughly, on a step-by-step basis. The entire process must be defined in discrete steps so that the right conditions trigger the right sequential actions. If one step in a current workflow is, for example, “Handing the folder to Brenda for processing,” then you must also break down every step that Brenda takes in processing that folder. Otherwise, automation can’t improve the “meat” of the business process.
2. Taking on Too Much at Once
When you have outstanding workflow software, naturally you want to put it to work right away. But trying to overhaul all your business processes at once can lead to confusion and disappointment. It’s better to start with one clearly definable workflow, automate and test it, and then, once it proves its mettle, choose another workflow to automate. You’re better off starting by automating simple, standalone processes before attempting to automate complex business processes.
3. Failure to Set and Measure Progress Toward Goals
While “automated workflows” can itself be a goal, you have to be more specific. Successful automated workflows must be designed with clear goals in mind, such as, “Cutting the travel reimbursement process from a five-day process to a two-day process”. As you design the workflow, you must test it out along the way to ensure that progress is indeed being made toward that goal. Before your automated workflow goes live for all users, you need to run one or more test cases to see if any unforeseen issues will slow it down, and if so, fix them.
4. Workflow Automation Software That’s Inadequate or Difficult to Use
There was a time not that long ago when workflow automation required the input of trained programmers. Today that is not necessarily the case, but not all workflow software is equal. A software package that’s designed for ease of use may not be powerful enough to do what you need it to. Conversely, a software package that’s powerful enough may have an excessively steep learning curve. Evaluate workflow software carefully to ensure both that it does what you want, and that you can learn to use it in a reasonable amount of time.
5. Lack of Follow-Up
You have automated a workflow, and all appears to be going well. Now is not the time to forget about it, however. Longer-term follow-up is necessary to deal with unforeseen problems, and to apply metrics that help you determine ROI. How much faster is the new automated workflow than the old manual one? Have error rates dropped? They should have. What are people’s main “pain points” with the new workflow? Can they be addressed without unnecessary disruption?
Efficient business process management is a competitive differentiator for businesses, and for many businesses, the automated workflow is a key ingredient. With PerfectForms as your workflow software, you not only have power and flexibility to automate workflows across departments, you have a user-friendly interface that eliminates the need for programming.
If you want to find out for yourself, you can try PerfectForms for free by signing up for a trial. Automate a single workflow and see for yourself how efficient, automated workflows can change everything!
Automated workflows are hardly a new concept. What is new is the power and flexibility non-technical workers now have to design and implement workflows that make sense in context. It wasn’t that long ago that automating a workflow meant hiring programmers, briefing them thoroughly on needs, budget, and schedule, and hoping for the best once the automated workflow was launched.
While it was a huge improvement over the clunky, manual workflow, the first automated workflows had their limitations and were often devoid of friendly user interfaces. Not only is more understood about what should and should not be expected of automated workflows, workflow software has evolved into something truly useful for most businesses. Who should design automated workflows in today’s businesses?
Decision-Makers Must Understand Workflows
Ideally, the person or people who carry out workflows would be able to wave a magic wand and have an automated workflow spring to life, fully formed. In reality, however, it often starts with the decision-makers: the people who have the power to approve the resources necessary to automate business processes.
When decision-makers understand workflows thoroughly, they’re likelier to choose the automation solution that makes the most sense. When they don’t, they’re likelier to choose workflow software based on qualities that mean little when the rubber of a new workflow meets the road of actual implementation. Therefore, the first step to successful workflow automation is thorough understanding by the people who authorize the solutions.
Observing Workflows in Action
There is simply no substitute for observing a workflow in action. What is she doing to that file, and why does she have to print it out? How is he going to get all five signatures in that form by the close of business? Watch and learn. It may be quite the eye-opening experience!
If you are in charge of choosing workflow software, your best first step is to see the existing workflow as it happens and ask questions about steps you don’t understand. You are likely to find that some steps are holdovers from “the way we’ve always done it,” and others are unnecessarily manual or paper-based because it’s hard to overcome the inertia of old processes even when everyone knows improvement is possible.
Talking to Workflow Users
As part of, and in addition to observing workflows, take the time to speak to workflow users. Ideally, you should speak with them individually and in a group, so you can see how one person’s inconvenience makes another person’s part of the workflow easier and vice versa. People are usually willing to tell you exactly where they experience bottlenecks and pain points, and what they wish would happen at those points instead. Good business process management depends on knowing the purpose of each and every step in a process and looking at all the possible ways for that step to be accomplished.
Designing Workflows with Input and Feedback of Workflow Users
Creating automated workflows and then inflicting them on unsuspecting workflow users is counterproductive. There is simply no reason not to design workflows based on the input and feedback of the people who actually use those workflows every day. No longer do we have to pay programmers to write the code to automate their vision of workflows, because workflow software exists for non-technical users.
Today’s workflow software also empowers workflow users to thoroughly test newly automated workflows before they’re officially implemented, to pick up on unforeseen problems and fix issues before everyone is using the new workflow. Thorough testing of proposed automated workflows can save significant time by understanding what problems can arise, and how to either prevent them or deal with them.
Business process management should be the concern of every business, because every business has business processes, whether they know it or not. The right workflow software enables decision-makers and workflow designers to customize workflows fully, rather than try to make do with a pre-designed workflow that may not be a great fit.
PerfectForms is online form and workflow software that does not require programming. Workflow users can design and implement workflows using a convenient drag-and-drop user interface, and it’s easy to modify forms and workflows when unforeseen problems arise. Automated workflows confer a major competitive advantage on businesses who make strategic use of them, and PerfectForms empowers companies of any size to automate workflows with ease. We invite you to watch the PerfectForms demo video and witness automated workflows and the many positive effects they have on business.
Documenting workflows is not the same as “red tape.” Red tape is time-consuming, onerous, and often unnecessary, whereas documenting workflows is good business.
Automated workflows can do much of the documenting process for you, so there’s no good reason to run a business with undocumented workflows. Documentation can take many different forms, and with automated workflows, it can be as simple as creating a triggering event that sends an automated, time and date-stamped message out to a relevant recipient: “Changes to the workflow titled ‘Employee Handbook’ have been approved.” Here’s how to be smart about documenting workflows so that you collect the data you need without slowing down the pace of business.
Most Common Reasons for Documenting Business Processes
Perhaps the most basic reason businesses document workflows is to show that a task was completed on time. In the old days, a printed copy of a report might be delivered to the boss’ inbox with a dated memo on top indicating that the report was completed on time.
Another common reason business process management often includes documentation steps is for reference in the event of a future audit. Software license audits, industry organization audits, and audits by governmental agencies depend on steps and processes being documented at key points. It’s oppressively hard to do by hand, and not doing it can open a company up to legal or regulatory scrutiny, which can grind business to a halt.
Risks of Not Documenting Workflows
Suppose someone prints a draft of a report to take to a meeting. Then, while that someone is away, someone else makes changes to the report that results in a different number of endnotes or footnotes. A phone call asking a project team member to locate the document referenced in footnote number 17 can easily result in major confusion if two people are unknowingly working from two different drafts of the same report.
In many industries, the risks of undocumented workflows are greater than having to deal with confusion, however. In the medical, financial, and legal fields, lack of documentation can result in a violation of laws, censure by governing bodies, and even the pursuit of legal action. There is simply too much to lose when a company is lax about documenting business processes.
Benefits of Ensuring All Workflows Are Documented
The main benefit of ensuring that all workflows are documented is that it keeps everyone on the same metaphorical page. If a screen of data looks longer than the same screen did yesterday, you can look at the workflow documentation and see who added the extra data, and when they did it. If departmental level approval is required before a job posting is listed, the person in charge of publishing the job posting can be notified the moment that approval is granted. In short, documentation of workflows, done appropriately, not only makes business progress faster, it makes it more accurate as well.
Automated Workflows Make It Easy
Documenting manual workflows is a hassle, and it’s how so many old-school processes ended up labeled as “red tape” or “excessive bureaucracy.” But automated workflows created with advanced workflow software help you build automatic documentation into the workflow steps exactly where it is needed, so no steps are missed. Moreover, it’s always easy to go back and track the progression of a business process. And when hard copies of approvals or other documentation are required, they can be printed out as-needed rather than someone having to cope with mountains of hand-completed documentation forms.
PerfectForms gives your business mastery over business process management because it is powerful, thorough, and has a user interface that non-technical users love. You can simply drag and drop form and workflow elements into place, and add documentation steps at critical junctures. If someone modifies the content of a form or report, the date, time, and initiator of the change can be automatically identified. Should an audit arise, gathering necessary documentation can be done quickly, easily, and accurately.
We invite you to look through some of the many PerfectForms case studies. Businesses of all sizes, across all industries, have used PerfectForms to manage processes better through the power of automated workflows. With PerfectForms, you can have the best of all worlds: excellent documentation of processes without the challenges of tracking workflows and documentation manually.
Workflows can transform productivity and efficiency. When as many steps as possible are automated, and when manual tasks like filling out forms are reduced significantly, a work team can accomplish more, and with higher accuracy levels.
But workflows aren’t entirely independent of their context. A beautifully designed workflow that greatly simplifies a procedure won’t make a department full of people who can’t stand each other suddenly get along.
A great workflow in a bad environment is better than a bad workflow in a bad environment, but ideally, you want a great workflow in a great environment for the best results and the best long-term prospects for your organization. Here’s how to get to that point.
What You Should and Should Not Expect from Automated Workflows
Workflows alone can’t save a toxic or failing business. Introduced at the right time, they may help to turn things around, but they can’t do everything on their own. You should expect workflows to increase efficiency and productivity, but you shouldn’t introduce them without thoroughly briefing the people who will be using them, or else you risk sparking rumors or alienating employees.
Likewise, you should expect automated workflows to save your business money, to reduce error rates, and to help people do their work with greater consistency and quality. But you can’t expect even the best workflow to make up for incompetent or apathetic workers. Here are some ways to ensure you create the most positive environment in which to introduce automated workflows.
Do a Walk-Through (or Two)
How much time do you spend on the front lines with your people who are carrying out everyday business tasks? Do you know what aspects of their work environment are good and what aspects are not-so-good? When you spend time in the main workspace, what do you notice? Do chairs squeak loudly on floors? Is direct sunlight coming through and annoying workers despite keeping the blinds closed? Is the climate control system doing its job properly? Any workflow – automated or not – will work better in an environment that minimizes annoying distractions and creates an atmosphere that is comfortable and conducive to productive work.
Talk to People
If you are considering automating parts of the customer service workflow, talk to the customer service team. Ask them what they have problems with the current way of doing things, and what would make their work more efficient and accurate. The same is true with IT workflows, HR workflows, or any other type of workflow: talk with the people who will actually be using it and find out what they need in a workflow. If you have the right workflow software, you should be able to tailor automated workflows exactly to your business’ and your workers’ needs. Introducing workflows without consulting with workflow users is asking for problems and conflict.
Create a Workflow for Feedback and Suggestions
While you’re at it, make sure your organization has a workable system for providing feedback and suggestions. Online forms can be terrific for this, and there are ways you can assure anonymity if you want your workforce to be candid with their feedback (which you should). Some companies may use an internal social network, and this may allow posting and commenting on anonymous feedback and suggestions to allow management to get a better feel for the general zeitgeist. Employees want to know that they are valued and listened to, and a well-designed automated workflow for providing feedback and suggestions is a terrific way to ensure they are.
PerfectForms is workflow software that allows you to create workflows that perfectly suit your team’s needs, rather than creating workflows that you have to force your teams to fit into. With PerfectForms, you can incorporate suggestions and ideas easily, and test out workflows with ease before they are officially deployed. Better still, non-technical users can create online forms and workflows with PerfectForms without knowing how to program, due to the easy, drag-and-drop interface. And best of all, you can try PerfectForms for free. It’s as easy as signing up for a trial. Great workflows in a great work environment: PerfectForms helps you make it a reality.
Many companies with specialized requirements (particularly for specialty IT personnel) can tell you that even during the worst of the last recession, finding, hiring, and retaining top talent was a big challenge.
Whatever condition the overall employment market, avoiding hiring mistakes is absolutely critical for most professional positions because of the costs involved. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) estimates that a single bad hiring decision can cost a business up to 2.5 time the job’s annual salary due to the costs associated with recruiting, replacement, and onboarding.
Many companies use workflow software to create tailored automated workflows for the recruiting process. This way no critical steps are skipped, excellent communication is enabled, and the entire hiring process can move forward with confidence. Here’s how workflow software benefits the employee recruiting process.
By Helping You Create an Accurate Job Listing
Writing an effective job listing involves more than just listing qualifications and a basic job description. Before creating a job listing, it’s wise to examine the current job market and other comparable businesses in your industry to get an idea of what jobs are in greater supply and what compensation is being offered. Creating an automated workflow can ensure that these steps have been taken, and also ensure that the relevant department heads read and approve of job descriptions before they’re advertised. The last thing you need is an influx of resumes before learning from the department head that a particular certification or qualification is necessary.
By Helping You Screen and Interview Job Candidates
Using your workflow software to develop a process to sift through resumes or applications and only forward those worthy of short-listing is smart. When every resume or application goes through this process, you can be confident you haven’t left any applicant out, and you can also be confident that every candidate goes through the same screening process to determine if they should be brought in for an interview. A standardized screening process is fast, helps ensure your hiring is fair and unbiased, and that you choose interviewees based on consistent requirements.
By Tracking Candidates as They Move Through the System
Suppose someone in one of your departments knows someone who would be right for a job and encourages that person to apply. Once the application is in, authorized personnel can track where that application is in the recruiting process at any given time if you have an automated workflow for hiring. Your hiring manager could, for instance, tell the person who referred the applicant that the application has been received and is currently under review before determining if an interview is warranted. If you have an external interface that allows job applicants to check the status of their own application, so much the better.
By Connecting to an Outstanding On-Boarding Process Once the Job Is Filled
You have written the perfect job ad, interviewed several promising candidates, and have chosen the person you want to hire. As soon as that person accepts your offer of employment, it’s time to start thinking about the new employee onboarding process. The right workflow software will ensure that the onboarding process is every bit as efficient and thorough as the recruiting and hiring process. As a result, you can get your new employee up to speed as quickly as possible, so they can reach full productivity sooner. In fact, you may be able to create new employee accounts online, so that they can log in and begin filling out relevant forms before their first day at work.
PerfectForms is the workflow software that empowers users with the flexibility and capability they need to create automated workflows for countless business applications, including recruiting, hiring, and onboarding. With its intuitive interface, non-technical users can create online forms and workflows, test them out, and take them live in record time.
PerfectForms users have put PerfectForms to work creating recruiting and hiring workflows, HR workflows, IT service workflows, and innumerable other workflows that simply make businesses run better. We invite you to watch our demo video and see for yourself how powerful and usable PerfectForms is for businesses of any size, in any industry.
Some of you may be old enough to remember the multi-story department stores of yesteryear that were attended by well-dressed sales clerks who were in the know about ways they could go above and beyond when helping their best customers. Maybe they saved a particular dress “in the back” in the size of a good customer or knew to have certain orders gift-wrapped without being asked. They knew how to make the customer feel special.
Customers still want to feel special, even if they’re buying hardware to fix the dishwasher from an online supply house. Providing exceptional customer service in the era of eCommerce is different than it was during the department store era, but it is no less important. Fortunately, workflow software can help companies develop outstanding customer service protocols, whether they serve customers in person, online, or both.
eCommerce Has Revolutionized the Concept of Customer Service
As vast as the internet is, you can find customer service ranging from awful to terrific, regardless of what you want to purchase online. By and large, however, eCommerce has raised the stakes for customer service for everyone. A cultural shift from buying things in person to buying things online depended on people feeling secure that they could easily fix any problems that might arise with merchandise bought online, whether it was the wrong size, damaged, or what have you.
The eCommerce providers that don’t make things easy on customers are the providers that don’t remain in business for long. Shoppers have every expectation that their concerns will be addressed, and that they can receive customer service 24/7. High expectations for online customer service have raised the bar for customer service in bricks and mortar stores too.
Speed and Accuracy Are Table Stakes
Whether your business sells in retail stores or online (or both), speed and accuracy of customer service are expected, with very few exceptions. Having customer service agents who are well-trained is only the beginning now. Workflows that ensure consistently high-quality customer interactions are necessary, as are easy online options, like online forms that in-person customers can use once they get their merchandise home. Having an automated workflow that your customer service reps can use to ensure they dot every “i” and cross every “t” when addressing customer service issues promotes consistency, however, dispersed your customer service workforce is.
Exquisite Customer Service Is a Differentiator
Amazing customer service has been a competitive differentiator for a long time, and it will continue to be as long as human customers exist. When a person makes a purchase through a process that is easy and enjoyable, confident that if they experience problems they can get help readily, they’re far more likely to return to that provider if at all possible.
Upscale retailer Nordstrom has long known the goodwill that can be generated through prioritizing customer service, and they’re still using it as a differentiator with their new upscale boutiques that provide personal in-store shoppers, even while many bricks and mortar retailers struggle to compete with an online economy. There’s no reason to believe that customer service that goes above and beyond will cease to be a strong competitive advantage anytime soon.
Automated Workflows to Power Customer Service
Whether you operate a tiny online store or a huge retail conglomerate, excellent customer service training, undergirded with outstanding workflow software that guides customer service interactions is a key to success. Ideally, you should develop workflows that are custom tailored to your products and your customer base.
PerfectForms is workflow software that allows users to fully customize workflows, whether they’re workflows used in HR, the transportation pool, IT, or Customer Service. The intuitive interface PerfectForms offers eliminates the need for bringing in a programmer to create the ideal workflow, and the flexibility inherent in PerfectForms empowers users to get creative with their workflows, designing them for maximum utility and benefit. If you’re interested in stepping up your customer service approach, we invite you to watch the PerfectForms demo video. You’re sure to be inspired to envision workflows that serve multiple aspects of your business, including the all-important Customer Service.
Workflow software is one of the more versatile, practical tools that any company can have. The number of “traditional” uses to which workflow software can be put is almost infinite. It is used to manage IT help desks, to coordinate facilities management, and to onboard new employees, for a start.
In fact, having the power to create automated workflows throughout an organization is like having a Swiss Army Knife, in that it can help out in almost any situation imaginable. But workflow software doesn’t have to be restricted to typical organizational functions. In fact, with the right software, you can go outside the proverbial box. Here are a few examples of unorthodox uses for workflow software.
Workflows for Regular “Brain Breaks”
Working longer or harder doesn’t necessarily mean getting more done. In fact, regular “brain breaks” at work can paradoxically boost engagement and productivity. When a person works hard on a problem and then takes a break, they continue to ruminate on a subconscious level, which makes a breakthrough more likely once they return to their task.
Imagine creating an automated workflow that reminds everyone in your department, your building, or at your branch office to take a brain break for 15 minutes every hour and a half. That may seem like a lot of time spent doing nothing, but the occasional distraction causes people to access other parts of the brain than what they were using on their task. By giving analytical processing a break, they’re able to tackle their work with renewed energy once they resume it.
Workflows That Tap into In-Office Messaging
Some organizational workflows are used day-in and day-out. Others, however, may only be used occasionally, like the workflow for requesting paid time off. When you’re not used to a workflow, you may feel unsure of some steps. But if the workflow is designed to bring up a live chat window where you can ask questions of a person who knows the workflow intimately, it can save a lot of phone tag and email back-and-forth so the workflow can be completed more efficiently.
Connecting Aerial Photos to Site Maps
Drones are increasingly being put to use in countless applications, and one of the most important is that of aerial photography. One drone software company is using automated workflows to achieve centimeter-level accuracy when performing site measurements during land surveys or construction projects. This way, site changes over time can be closely monitored. Additionally, drone imagery can be input to a workflow that blends it into maps and 3D model images to improve map accuracy without slower, manual “ground truthing” processes.
Workflows for Sensors and Critical Monitoring
Agricultural uses for business process management are increasing too, as individuals and ag corporations envision the possibilities for automated workflows. Imagine being able to monitor temperature, humidity, and other key variables so that tasks can be tailored to the environment. This is now possible when sensor technology is directly input into workflows with built-in trigger conditions. A landscaping company could, for instance, monitor conditions around an upscale venue and have their workflow software alert them to when sprinkler schedules need to be modified, or when pest control services are needed.
Workflows aren’t always about back-office procedures or other “typical” business process management tasks. In fact, with the right workflow software, they can accomplish things no one has thought of before. PerfectForms is workflow software that offers the level of power and flexibility that businesses and other organizations need to innovate with maximum efficiency.
PerfectForms empowers non-technical users with an intuitive drag-and-drop interface that allows them to create online forms and complex workflows to suit their needs exactly. No longer do organizations have to try to fit their unique workflows into workflow solutions that aren’t quite right.
With the power to create customized workflows comes the power to imagine innovative workflows that can put a business ahead of the competition. We encourage you to read through some of our case studies. You’ll see how PerfectForms can transform workflows, and you may be inspired to create new, innovative workflows of your own!
You don’t have to run a holiday-themed business to experience a stepped-up pace from October through New Years. Maybe your business has to gear up for increased sales, or maybe you simply have a workforce with more to do in their home and social lives.
Either way, good planning can help your business run smoothly despite increased social activity, employee scheduling challenges, and other holiday-related goings-on. Online forms can be an unexpected help in keeping things organized, ensuring leave is distributed fairly, and helping your team have some fun. Here are five ways online forms help your business cope with the holidays.
1. By Helping You Learn How People Want to Celebrate
Does your company or department usually have some sort of celebration around Thanksgiving or Christmas? If so, an online form containing a poll can help you determine what type of celebration your team would like most. A simple online form with choices like, “Catered lunch,” “Potluck,” or “Party with DJ” can let you know what the general sentiment is, and it’s far easier than distributing paper-based polls that are likely to be lost and whose results must be hand-calculated.
2. By Keeping the Paid Time Off Distribution Fair
Online forms that are part of a workflow designed to keep staffing levels optimal can help prevent hard feelings and ensure you always have enough employees on hand to accomplish what needs to be done. Online forms can incorporate calendars, drop-down menus with different shifts listed, and any other information necessary to ensure that paid time off is distributed in a fair manner. And online forms won’t be lost in the intra-office memos or end up on the wrong person’s desk the way paper forms can.
3. By Coordinating Contests and Other Fun Activities
Many workplaces have special holiday celebrations and events, like dress-up days, secret Santa programs, and cubicle decorating contests. Coordinating these fun activities is far easier when you use workflow software to keep all the details in order. People can sign up to participate using online forms, and simple workflows can be created to match up secret Santas or keep track of votes in various office contests you may set up around the holidays.
4. By Minimizing Mistakes and Back Office Administrative Work
Your form and workflow software is valuable year-round, of course, but it can prove especially useful the last quarter of the year, when more people take time off, when holidays change work schedules, and when closing times may be different than they are the rest of the year. Coordinating paid leave is just one area where online forms and workflows keep your business running smoothly. They can also be relied upon for functions like IT help requests, business travel coordination, and distribution of company fleet vehicles.
5. By Ensuring Your Social Media Strategy Remains on Track
When you create an electronic workflow to coordinate your company’s social media strategy, you can ensure your social media presence will not suffer because of workweek interruptions or lower-than-usual staffing levels. Workflows for editorial calendars, determining the dates and times to post information on social media, and to ensure that your social media accounts are monitored regularly will keep your social media pages from dropping off people’s radar when the holidays roll around.
Online forms and workflows are a snap when you have outstanding workflow software like PerfectForms. With PerfectForms, no programming is required, because online forms and workflows are created with a user-friendly, drag-and-drop interface. Creating and distributing an online form or poll can be done in just minutes, and workflows can be made to incorporate alerts and other failsafe measures to ensure no task slips through the cracks.
The final months of the calendar year usually involve less predictability and more employee leave than other times of the year. But if you use online forms and workflows, like the ones you can create with PerfectForms, you can manage this hectic time of year with ease. And if you want to see for yourself, you can test drive PerfectForms by signing up for a free trial today!
Ideas for automated workflows are easier to think of for some businesses than for others. For example, an e-commerce business would make extensive use of online forms and automated workflows. A business that makes reservations, matches clients with service providers, or schedules in-home services would almost require automated workflows for gaining a competitive edge.
Other businesses, however, aren’t obvious candidates for automation, but they could probably benefit from it anyway. For example, a catering business is very hands-on, and the core business process of providing food to customers can’t be done by an app. But with almost every business, there are back office and administrative tasks that benefit from automation. And hands-on businesses that bring in clients through a website need online forms for the greatest efficiency. In other words, there is a place for automation in even the most hands-on business. Here’s why.
Configuring Optimum Orders
You could pick products for a particular order yourself, and in some cases, you may have to. For instance, if you’re catering an event where you’ll serve seasonal local produce, you’ll probably pick it out yourself from a local supplier, or have one of your employees do so. But in other cases, you may frequently buy certain ingredients and need to order based on inventory levels, price, quality, and delivery options. An automated workflow that accounts for inventory levels and makes orders based on need and price from a curated selection of vendors can save massive amounts of time.
Managing a Digital Marketing Strategy
Every business wants to make its marketing budget stretch as far as possible to maximize marketing ROI. Using automated workflows to manage the various tasks involved in digital marketing helps you do exactly this. Say you want to release a video a day or two before a new product release. An automated digital marketing workflow can schedule the video for upload and promotion so that it appears on fans’ and followers’ news feeds at exactly the right time. You could also make an advertising purchase workflow that metes out your monthly marketing budget based on various social media analytics so you get the most bang for your advertising buck.
Small businesses may not have regular employees but may use contractors on an as-needed basis. Being able to plan ahead benefits both your business and the contractors you use. Suppose you created a workflow that would allow your contractors to input days of availability a month (or even a week) in advance. Or suppose you created a workflow outlining your contractor needs for the upcoming month or week and distributed it to your contractors to fill the slots on a first-come, first-serve basis. Either way, you can schedule ahead, and your contractors will have an easier time scheduling their workload, making them more likely to continue to work with you.
Obtaining Customer Feedback
Online forms for customer feedback have been around for a long time, and they always get better response rates than paper-based feedback forms. Whether you distribute feedback polls and forms via email or have them on your web page, you can easily collect the data from them and make sense of it much faster than you could with hand-completed surveys. Make your customer feedback forms mobile-friendly, by minimizing typing and maximizing things like radio buttons and drop-down menus, and you will be even more likely to get good response rates.
Some businesses are and always will be more hands-on than others. After all, they’ll probably never have an app that can shoe horses or produce an award-winning buttercream frosting. But even in the businesses where there’s a lot of hands-on work, many tasks benefit from being made into automated workflows. The right workflow software, like PerfectForms, can make all the difference.
PerfectForms allows you to create online forms and automated workflows from scratch or using a range of pre-built, customizable templates, all using an intuitive drag-and-drop interface. You don’t have to be (or hire!) a programmer to create the exact online forms and workflows you need to make your business run at its most efficient and productive. Interested in learning more? We invite you to watch our demo video, to witness for yourself what custom, automated forms and workflows can do for your business.