Business

Improve your productivity (by improving your workflow)

Adam Sykes  

Improving your workflow

If you have read our first guide, 'What is a workflow?', then you should now know what it is and have your current workflow(s) documented. If not, please have a read of that first, and you will gain more from this guide.

So, you should now have a series of steps, with the who, what, where, when, and how, you provide your service or product. We will use the example from last time, to see how we can improve your productivity by improving the workflow.

Step 1 - Initial Enquiry Email
Who: Admin Team
What: Collect contact details and enquiry message
When: Within one business hour
Where: Internal Office
How: Copy and paste details into CRM. Pass on to sales team by email. Add to shared enquiry spreadsheet on Dropbox.

Step 2 - Send proposal
Who: Sales Team
What: Send lead an offer letter
When: Within two business hours
Where: Internal Office
How: Copy and paste details into proposal document, and write the rest of offer letter. Save to Dropbox. Email to lead.

Step 3 - Wait for a response from the lead
Who: Lead
What: Agree or decline offer
When: Chase after three days - Step 4
Where: External
How: Email, mail, phone to accept or reject the offer -> Skip to Step 5

Step 4: Chase the lead for a decision
Who: Sales Team
What: Chase lead for decision
When: 3 days after step 3
Where: Internal Office
How: Phone lead to get an answer

Step 5: Start the service order
Who: Sales Team
What: Deal with proposal decision
When: Within one business day
Where: Internal Office
How: Add file to new work or rejected folder in Dropbox, based on the decision. Email provision team with order details if proceeding.

Step 6: Close the enquiry
Who: Sales Team Lead
What: Close enquiry
When: Within one business day
Where: Internal Office
How: Mark file as complete on enquiry spreadsheet.

Productive data capture

Let's start with Step 1 which has plenty of opportunities to improve productivity, but also to reduce errors in the process.

First, there is the way that we collect the information. Email is a popular choice for the start of a process, but it is also worth considering that if your clients are on an internet-enabled device, then they could directly enter their data via your website, or a specific web portal.

If they are B2B customers, they may even have their own system, which could integrate directly via an API.

Both of these methods would cut out the whole process of 'Copy and paste to a CRM', thereby reducing errors from transcribing, and improving your productivity.

You could also consider automating the handling of your email, by having it automatically create a work task for you, including all the relevant details from the contents of the email, and any attachments.

By having a workflow management system in place, you would not need to email the sales team, a new task would, automatically, drop into their work queue for step two. The shared spreadsheet that becomes unwieldy as job numbers increase, where staff use inconsistent ways to record work, they forget to add jobs and work is lost, can become a thing of the past. Again, we have removed a requirement for the process, improving efficiency.

On to step two.

Efficient document generation

We have already got the workflow management system to create a new task for our sales team. We can automatically assign the job to a staff member, based on whether they are in work, and they have the right skills to do the job.

We can, also, set an alert to make sure that the process hits the SLA of a proposal within two business hours, so, your managers don't need to remember to check in with the team on every task.

Next, we can see the dreaded 'copy and paste'. If you have admin staff doing this, we can certainly improve your productivity. Documents originating from your business should be consistent, to both portray a professional image and uniformity of service. We can achieve this through well-made document templates. No more 'copy and paste', the document templates can be used to generate professional communications, automatically, from the data you have collected.

With a workflow management system, enough data collected, and verified, in step one, we could completely automate step two. We can format the data in a nice template, send it to the email address on file, and save it in the document manager, all attached to the job with an audit trail. We don't even need the sales team to type a thing - productivity maximised.

Next step.

Automate your emails

Now we have to wait for the lead to respond. Now depending on what service you are offering and your price point, this may be a big decision or a quick one, however, either way, you will have a follow-up strategy that fits.

If you include chase emails or text messages, we can increase efficiency. Automatically send these at pre-set intervals to keep your sales process on-track.

If you like the personal touch, how do you know that your team pick up the phone? It is best practice that, you track all contacts made with your lead, and in a place that everyone who needs to know can find it easily. Keep this all together in your workflow management system.

Time for step five.

Connect your workflows

Looking back to step three, we left something out. How does your customer let you know that they want to proceed? Can we improve the efficiency of this part of the process?

Well, if we have an online portal, or we connect to our lead's system via an API, then we could ask them to accept directly via these methods. If not, we could set up a link in the email or the text message, that they could agree to proceed or reject the proposal. Alternatively, we could process their email reply, to continue the process.

All of these options mean that we could remove step five, and even step 6.

A more efficient process

Let's talk this through.

The lead accepts, or rejects, by one of the methods. We record the lead's response against the task. On acceptance, we automatically launch a new workflow to provide the actual service.

The new job drops into the queue for the team responsible. We can alert the new team with an email, but this is not necessary if the staff work to their job queues.

The files related to the enquiry can be, automatically, added to the new workflow - no need for a shared dropbox, with multiple, out-of-sync, copies of the same data.

If the lead rejects the offer, we could either end the workflow, or return the task to step two, and send it around the proposal process again. Using the same workflow keeps all the relevant information in one place.

The sales team lead can always have an overview of all the jobs, how they are meeting the SLAs and the outcomes. So, we don't need a final email to go to them, and the process will finish, automatically.

So, how does our new more efficient process look?

Step 1 - Initial enquiry & proposal generation
Who: Workflow Management System
What: Send a new proposal based on enquiry information from web-form/API/email handler to the lead
When: Within one business hour
Where: Workflow Management System
How: Populate proposal template from captured data, automatically save to document manager, and send to lead via email.

Step 2 - Wait for a response from the lead
Who: Lead
What: Agree or decline offer
When: Chase after three days - Step 4
Where: External
How: Email, mail, phone or click a link to accept or reject the offer -> Skip to Step 4

Step 3: Chase the lead for a decision
Who: Sales Team/Workflow Management System
What: Chase lead for a decision via automatic emails/texts, ultimately by phone call
When: 3 days after step 3
Where: Workflow Management System/Internal Office
How: Send scheduled emails automatically. If no response prompt the sales team to phone the lead to get an answer

Step 4: Start the service order and close enquiry
Who: Workflow Management System
What: Start service and close the enquiry
When: Within one business day
Where: Workflow Management System
How: If the proposal accepted after step two, create a new service workflow, which adds to the service provision team's work queue. Mark workflow as complete. If the lead rejects the proposal, then return to step two.

Try these ideas for your workflows

  • Look for opportunities to remove steps through automation and shared information.
  • Create templates for your documents that you can reproduce quickly.
  • Meet your SLAs by using alerts to let you know if there are issues.
  • Find steps where you can re-use parts of the workflow to keep information in one place.
  • Connect workflows, and automatically create related tasks.

Let us know how you improved your productivity and much time you have saved your business.

SwiftCase helps thriving businesses, swamped by growing demand, automate and organise, to focus on what matters — loved by 1000s of users across Insurance, Finance, Legal, Service & Contractor sectors.