It’s hard enough to profit from a small business. The last thing you need is your margins disappearing because of inefficient operations. Luckily, there are thousands of software services making even the smallest companies run more effectively and fiscally wise. You’re probably aware of email marketing, accounting, project management, and similar well-known software categories. But other tools exist, too, albeit less well known.
Here are five tools to make your business run a little leaner and greener.
Help Desk Software
Good help desk software puts all customer service issues needing resolution into one location. Everyone on the team can see who is working on which support requests. Customer issues stop falling through the cracks, which makes happier customers. Important communications don’t get buried in individual team members’ inboxes, leaving the rest of the company in the dark. You can create a knowledge base and FAQs on your website for self-serve, 24/7 support, too. Some help desk apps even feature live chat for real-time sales chats. In my business we use Groove. Other choices include FreshDesk, Desk.com, ZenDesk, and Clickdesk.
Electronic Signature Software
Electronic signatures are as enforceable as ink-on-paper signatures for most purposes. They save time. You don’t have to print documents. There’s no faxing or mailing of contracts back and forth. Many e-signature apps automatically forward documents to all who need to sign. They’ll send reminders, too. Electronic signature platforms will safely store your important signed documents so you can find them. I can’t emphasize how much time e-signature apps save. Check out Echosign, Hellosign, Docusign, RightSignature, and SignNow.
Workflow software helps you automate the flow of activities across your business. By using the tools and building blocks in this kind of software you can create tailor-made apps for your business. For instance, you could create an order management system that meets your requirements.
Workflow software can be useful for minimizing errors in hand-offs from one department to another, thereby creating more efficient operational structure.
We use Knack, and although the learning curve was significant, it has made parts of our operations dramatically more efficient. Other workflow apps include KissFlow, ProcessMaker, WorkflowGen, and Zoho Creator.
Scheduling software automates the process of scheduling appointments and staff time. It’s especially good for businesses that operate with regular appointments, such as dentists, doctors, salons, and pet groomers. It’s also essential for businesses that operate a field sales or service force. But even freelancers who charge their time hourly, such as consultants and virtual assistants, may find scheduling software or its cousin, time tracking software, valuable. Some have customer-facing front ends. Others are designed to be used internally by the team.
Resource Guru, NimbleSchedule, Deputy, and FrontDesk are some options.
There are also hybrid cloud apps like Booker.com. Booker has an appointment booking function built in. But it goes well beyond scheduling -- it actually serves as an end-to-end platform to run a local service business. In addition to customers being able to book appointments, it offers the ability for your business to accept sales and process payments; manage inventory; handle employee scheduling and payroll; and perform retention marketing with email marketing and loyalty rewards.
Forms Builder Apps
Form builder software is one of those categories that has exploded as businesses have gotten more serious about generating sales leads on their sites. With form builders, your Web developer doesn’t need to manually build form pages. Instead, a non-technical person can build a form in a matter of minutes. Forms are easily embedded on your website with a small piece of code. On the backend, the information collected can be exported in spreadsheets or into other software applications. WuFoo, Formdesk, NinjaForms, and FormStack are just some of the many options.
These tools can get your business running smoothly and give you leverage to grow. Just be sure to take the necessary time to evaluate and implement them fully. The devil’s always in the details.