Time is precious for small business owners. It’s incredibly common for them to be directly involved in almost every aspect of daily operations, including sales, customer service, product or service fulfilment, supply chain management, and hiring and managing employees. With so many tasks vying for their attention, it’s tough to find time to plan future operations and develop strategies for business growth. It’s even harder to achieve a healthy work-life balance. If you’re a small business owner looking to optimise your time and reduce your stress levels, check out these four helpful tools that could help you boost your efficiency and apply your time to the tasks that matter most.
Project management software
A great way to streamline the staff management aspects of your business is to use project management software. This allows you to plan projects, allocate resources and responsibilities, keep track of individual tasks within each project, and support collaboration between team members. Software makes it easy to see the status and progress of projects and tasks at a glance which is helpful for both you and your team.
You may find that project management software helps you reduce the number of meetings you have to have with your team and clients. Plus, you might be able to use the software to track your team’s productivity and use this data to better manage timescales and deadlines in the future.
Different software has different capabilities, but many allow you to set up new projects in line with popular project management methods, such as Kanban, Scrum, Agile, and Waterfall. This means you can easily integrate the software with your team’s preferred management style.
AI email responders
AI is becoming increasingly sophisticated in its ability to handle common digital tasks, and as its technology improves so does its uptake. According to reports by Quantexa, 45% of people in business use AI to respond to texts and emails. Many emails that small business owners receive from customers, suppliers, and staff involve relatively simple requests and responses that can easily be handled by AI. By letting AI tools reply to such emails, you can free up your time for more complex and important tasks and minimize interruptions in your workday from email notifications.
There are a variety of email responders on the market. Some generate suggested responses that you can efficiently scan, edit, and send. These are a handy way to streamline your workflow and spend less time stuck in your inbox. Other AI tools can generate email responses and send them instantly without you having to lift a finger. This is a great time-saver in the long term, but it often requires an investment in your time at the beginning so you can train the AI to send appropriate responses.
AI customer service chatbots
Much like AI email responders, AI customer service chatbots can handle simple customer queries and customer service tasks so that there’s less demand on your human customer service team. They can answer questions about your products or services, and automate routine tasks such as setting appointments, receiving orders, or processing return requests. When the customer needs more complex support, AI chatbots can gather data about the issue and forward it to human customer service agents.
There’s some debate over the usefulness of AI chatbots for customer service, but it seems that Gen Z and Millennials are most receptive to this technology. They feel that it helps them resolve simple problems faster than when talking to a human. For small business owners with tight budgets, AI chatbots can allow them to provide a certain amount of instant customer service on their website without hiring a dedicated agent. For business owners who handle some or all customer service themselves, AI chatbots can provide an efficient way to deal with simple queries and free up a great deal of their time.
Website and app blockers
Many small business owners could be significantly more efficient if they were freed up from distractions. It takes on average 23 minutes to refocus on a task after being interrupted, and as the head of the organization business owners can face more distractions than regular employees.
There are many sources of distractions and disruptions, but many come in the form of notifications on our devices. Emails, texts, and social media updates all demand our attention, and it can be hard to get ourselves back on task after checking them. Social media apps are a particularly big drain on our time because they are designed to keep us engaged for as long as possible.
If your business relies on the use of social media for marketing and sales, and these days most businesses do, you’ll know it’s impossible to switch off from these apps completely. Instead, you can use website and app blockers to temporarily cut out all distractions when you need to focus on a demanding task. You could set up daily time limits for specific apps or sites, or block access during certain hours of the day when you know you need to eliminate distractions.
Use tools to streamline your workday and grow your business
The more efficient you become the more efficient your business becomes. By streamlining your processes with some of these handy tools for small business owners, you can free up more time to both grow your business and enjoy some much needed rest.