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How Automation Can Make You Money

 Everyone is automated.  The other day I ran across “Giggles®” software for babies.  Kids that can barely speak are keyboard and mouse savvy.  Grandparents are storing recipes, emailing and setting up Facebook® pages. Books are being read on screens.  Newspapers encourage you to read their “on-line edition”.  Offices are completely unable to function without email.  People socialize using “social networking”.  What is going on?

Businesses face an automation challenge.  Our world now functions with the use of automation.  It’s become a way of life.  Firms that do not integrate technology with business practices will be less competitive. Many companies mistakenly think that they are automated by implementing sales force automation software.  Staffing firms using this type of software suffer from large functionality gaps.  Usually a heavy amount of customization occurs in attempt to adapt it to the organization. Still, it is unable to do the real job.  This underscores the importance of implementing a fully integrated software model that is specifically designed for the recruiting and staffing industry.

It’s no big secret that technology enabled businesses are more successful.  Those that strategically use technology to position themselves in the marketplace will capture more business and do better planning.  This is especially important now that everyone is scrambling to revitalize revenue growth after it’s been stalled by the recent poor economy.

How do you know if your technology needs an overhaul?  Do you question the effectiveness of your current software solution in terms of supporting your business goals and objectives?  Is your software architecture disconnected with different groups using totally different software?  Is there little communication between temp, direct hire or other groups such as medical staffing and accounting?  Are a lot of your processes still manual?  Are you unable to get detailed business reporting?  If the answer is yes then it is time to take action.

So how can automation make you money?  By integrating technology with business processes you gain more sales visibility, gain efficiency, maximize on revenue opportunities, reduce unnecessary expenses and foster higher margins.  A collaborative architecture can help you achieve this.

All of this starts with a competitive strategy to increase sales.  Technology allows a small and mid-size business to operate like a large business.  It even makes it possible for a small business to do cross-channel marketing.

Powerful technology tools can help you gain more visibility through email marketing, social networking and job boards.  There is some creative work and planning that needs to be done in order to create the campaign and the marketing pieces, but distribution of your message has never been easier.

Did you know that you have a 20 to 40% chance of winning back a customer with repeat email marketing?  A terrific campaign idea is a marketing blitz to “win-back” stray customers.  Another is a post product sale focus.  You are doing business with a customer but do you have all of their business or is there more to be had?  Communication on a regular basis can increase your chances of getting more business.  They may be using you for temporary placements but have been working with another firm for direct hire.  Communicate the benefits of doing both through your firm.  Perhaps isolate this group of customers and come up with a special promotion for them.

What about self-service tools?  Don’t wait for your customers to ask you about this and then end up scrambling to produce.  You can offer web portals so that clients can check on invoices and procure reports on the business they have done with you.  They may also want to approve timesheets on-line.  Applicants may prefer to look up check or W2 information on-line instead of having to call with questions.  All of this will save you time also and improve the relationships that you have with clients and applicants.

How much money can you save by emailing out invoices and direct deposit vouchers?  Even if only some customers wanted emailed invoices there would be a significant savings in manpower and postage.  An automatic text message to applicants when the direct deposit has been deposited to their account is a nice service.  People want these services today. It can make a difference in new marketing and customer and applicant retention.

Once you set your sales goals which include face-to-face calls with a decision maker, cold calls, follow-up calls, etc. you need to monitor this activity.  Technology is a powerful tool to monitor service and sales performance.  You can gain valuable real-time insights into the business.  Goals are unattainable unless they are carried out.  Frequent reporting ensures that this happens.  Make automated activity reporting an integral part of your business.

OnBoarding is an essential component of the staffing business.  Wouldn’t it be great if the entire application and forms process could be automated?  Applicants could fill out the Application, Drug Test and Confidentiality Agreements, I9, W4, etc.  Integrate electronic signatures and automatically store forms in your staffing database attached to the applicant.  Think of the convenience, organization, time-savings and paper reduction.  When forms are stored electronically they won’t get lost or misplaced.

How much are you paying your payroll service?  What would it cost to bring that process in-house?  After all, you are doing the majority of work at this time anyway.  All that’s left is printing the checks.  Even if you have your accountant in to check on your quarterly returns (which you will be printing from your software) you may be able to save a significant amount of money.  Plus, paychecks can be printed at any time so it’s more flexible.  The key to integration here is to have data seamlessly flow from the front to the back office.  This more or less forces the front office to enter assignments into the database – which is a good thing for your management reporting.  Not to mention assignment follow-ups, use of assignment data for repeat business marketing and a host of other major benefits.  You’ll need the assignments anyway if you have applicants enter their time on-line.

Save time and increase customer service when applicants and clients call in with questions about their billing or payroll.  Front office should be able to access this information easily from the front office solution without having to punt back to the back office people.  The customer gets serviced faster and more efficiently and the front office person has a golden opportunity to solicit more business from them while on the phone.  This process is enhanced when the customer is impressed with the quick answer they just received.  Let’s face it no one wants to be passed back to accounting.

How about penetration into some of your large customer accounts?  Do you know who they are?  Sales analysis reporting can make this very clear and you may be surprised at what you find.  You can also analyze what percentage of your business is concentrated among accounts?  Do you do a dangerously high % with a specific customer?  What about margins?  All of this can help you design marketing and sales campaigns that will address problem areas.

Do you spend endless hours posting job order information on Twitter®, job boards like CareerBuilder® and other on-line venues?  Save time by automatically posting from your job order screen and eliminate redundant typing.  Do recruiting in the same way and integrate your business practices with the software that you are using.  There is an added efficiency with the ability to download applicant information, including resumes into your database directly from services that you work with.  Wouldn’t it be convenient to directly connect with these services from your staffing software screen?

Let applicants know about available opportunities, start times for temp assignments and more with email or text messaging from your staffing software.

Import resumes and create database records while at the same time positioning the data for search availability.  Get the information in quick and have it ready to access so that you can begin using it to make placements.  Develop an ongoing recruiting program so that your database is always rich with highly qualified applicants.  Qualified applicants are the key to placements.  Keep in touch with emails, text messaging and other means of communication which are fast and easy to accomplish with the right technology.

The right back office software can make you money too.  Are you mailing or emailing accounts receivable statements?  It’s a fact that payments are received quicker when you send out a statement of account.  This will improve your cash flow and reduce time spent on collection calls.

Are collection calls documented in your system? Can front and back office personnel view this information?  Collection calls, follow-ups and results should be documented and visible to anyone involved with the client.  This can help with good business decisions in relation to taking orders.

Direct deposit is popular and can be accomplished as an end result of your payroll application.  Automatically send direct deposit information to the bank.  Prefer debit cards?  Debit card transactions can be sent in the same way as direct deposit.  And don’t forget that automatic text message to the applicant letting them know that the deposit took place.  A voucher with deposit information can also automatically be sent via email to the applicant.

Automatic check reconciliation helps deter fraud.  A lot of money is lost on fraudulent check cashing.  Get check transactions from your bank so that direct reconciliation can be made with the checks that you processed.

A good back office needs to contain audit trails.  Invoice and check information should never be altered.  Choose a system that is GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) compliant.  This will protect you from any internal fraud or embezzlement.  This can happen more than you think and you do not want to be the recipient of this bad experience.  Audit trails (reports produced whenever items are posted) will help secure your database. A system that does not allow unaudited changes to information will protect the integrity of your automated system.  Should you ever get audited by the government, you will always have the appropriate paper trail to back the information.

Sales Analysis, one of the outputs of back office, is the road map to your business performance.  What was billed can help you assess the profitability of the business, take note of trends, statistically learn who your best customers are, save you money on worker’s compensation, provide the ability to produce client billing reports for your customers and give you the power to do more accurate business forecasting.

Last, back office designed for staffing provides you with the ability to set up specific breakouts for business billed by position.  For example, if you have multiple branches and support several lines of business, it is helpful to post revenue and expenses with those in mind.  The only way to seamlessly capture this information is to specify your branch, line of business and position on the job order.  This will take care of your posting to general ledger as well as an entry for worker’s compensation.  This will enhance your financial reporting and provide real-time financial score sheets to better manage the business.  The byproduct is a more profitable company.

This article was published by TempNet at their annual conference in January 2011. www.tempnet.org  www.tempnet.org/annual.html

Terri Roeslmeier is President of Automated Business Designs, Inc., software developer of Ultra-Staff software for the staffing and direct hire industry.  Ultra-Staff is a staffing software business solution with components for front office, back office and the web.  Terri’s email address is TAR@abd.net or for more information on Ultra-Staff go to www.abd.net

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