You might add a little too much flour, forget about the eggs, or use baking powder instead of baking soda. You end up with an inedible mound of mush with chocolate chips.
If you had used a reliable recipe — like a tried-and-true secret formula passed down from your grandma — you could have had gooey, delicious chocolate perfection. Following that kind of step-by-step plan would have made things way easier for you in the long run and produced better results.
Now think of your business processes as recipes. To reach your goals, you need to use processes that you can trust, and stick to them. Otherwise, your job gets a lot harder: your team has disjointed communication, tasks slip through the cracks, and it starts to feel overwhelming to keep track of it all.
When your business processes are done right, your job gets a lot easier. Your team will become a well-oiled machine, which means you’ll grow faster and deliver better customer experiences — and you’ll have the numbers to prove it. Just like a recipe, each process should be easy for anyone to understand and follow to be successful.
The procedures that keep your business operating should be clearly defined, repeatable, improvable and reported on regularly to set your team on the right track. From there, you can continually improve them by keeping tabs on their effectiveness through automated reporting. Here’s how to start.
Clearly define your processes
Having your processes committed to memory is fine until it comes time to share those processes and identify any potential pitfalls. To make it easier to delegate tasks and oversee performance, start by writing down each process.
For example, let’s say your process for granting new customers access to your membership site has six manual steps that you’ve memorized: You have to process their credit card payment, put them on a recurring billing cycle, update their customer file, create login credentials, send a confirmation email, and mail them a welcome gift. This might be doable if you have five new members each week, but without a documented process, it’s not scalable. If you were to get 50 new members a day, it would be easy for one of those tasks to fall through the cracks. You want to make sure that each step is clearly documented with specific details on how to complete each one.
When defining a process, there are seven key components to keep in mind. A process should be:
- Predictable: Establish a precise and orderly process, then stick to it.This creates a repeatable and consistent customer experience.
- Delegatable: With clear systems in place, it’s easier to delegate responsibilities and avoid micromanaging.
- Measurable: Complete your process the same way each time so you can gather consistent data over time. You can see when everything is operating normally, when something is wrong, and when it’s time to make some changes.
- Improvable: With established processes, you have the ability to create a measurably better business over time by using the time-tested strategy that works for all businesses: trial and error.
- Scalable: Once you have systems that are predictable, measurable and working clearly enough that you can delegate them successfully, doing more becomes a simple matter of allocating more resources.
- Automatable: When a process is clearly defined and understood, it opens the door to automation.
- Sellable: Processes ARE your business. To a prospective buyer, systems that are documented in detail and easy to follow create value for your business.
Using Automation to Streamline Tasks
Once you get into the routine of accurately defining your processes, you will have the information you need to successfully identify roadblocks and streamline your tasks.
A good place to start is by identifying the steps within your processes that take the most time to complete. Going back to our example of a membership site onboarding process, say you discovered that mailing a new customer’s welcome gift was the most time-consuming manual step. Rather than just accepting it, you can ask yourself: Is there a way to use automation to reduce the time it takes to accomplish this step? The answer is often yes — you’d be surprised how much automation can boost efficiency!
Business process automation platforms offer tools such as automated fulfillment lists that can streamline the task of mailing out that gift. You could set up your process to automatically send each new member’s mailing information to the fulfillment center or person who is mailing the welcome gifts. This ensures that every customer receives a consistent experience, while reducing the time it takes for you to provide that experience — and that’s just one example.
Of course, not every process is automatable, but for those that are, using business process automation software can take the burden off you and your team so the business runs more efficiently and reliably.
Using Reporting to Continually Improve
Creating a successful process is more than just documenting the steps involved in executing a task — it’s understanding the process as a whole, including the results that it produces. One of the most overlooked components of process creation is reporting. In fact, reporting is where most businesses find gaping holes in their processes.
Reporting encompasses categories such as who the process should be reported to, what is expected to be seen in the report, and what designates a success or a failure, and more.
Continually reporting on the results of a process can be extremely time-consuming if you’re doing it manually, especially as your business grows. Successfully incorporating automation tools such as Ontraport into your process can increase your efficiency in reporting and allow you to identify which, if any, of your processes are underperforming.
Going back to our previous example of onboarding new members to your membership site, let’s say you weren’t keeping track of the number of logins your website got each week. You might not notice if that number started to trickle off as engagement for new customers went down. By using automated reporting tools in your process, you’d be able to monitor that number and know immediately when to take action.
With an automated reporting tool like Ontraport, you’d gain access to a metrics dashboard that generates a customizable display of your processes’ statistics. You could track real-time updates for conversion rates, email open rates, web page visits, conversion times and anything else you need to see what’s happening live in your business.
Like your grandma’s tried-and-true recipe, your processes need to be clear, reliable and set in stone so that you and your team can feel confident about each task. When you define, automate and report on your processes regularly, you’ll have peace of mind that your business is staying right on track.