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30 September 2021 | Minutes to read: 4

The benefits of automation, integration and online payment services

By Laura Johnstone

A frequent discussion I’m having with clients is how to regain some hours in their day – is that there are not enough hours in the day to do what they do, mainly to best serve their customers. Most of the time, this discussion leads to looking for extra staffing requirements. However, I would suggest looking at existing processes and how they can be improved to run the business more efficiently before looking at hiring.

This article considers automation and integration between platforms and the wide range of electronic payment providers that can enable customers to pay for your product or service quickly and efficiently.

Automated and integrated platforms

In today’s market, there are many automation tools available, some are built into the platforms you are using and some even streamline manual processes.

There aren’t many businesses that wouldn’t use more than one software or platform to service their clients. At the very least, you would (hopefully) have an accounting package and email software. Businesses in the retail space would also use a point-of-sale software. In the past, software that could provide the function of the accounting package and point of sale was expensive.. Today, most of the providers have moved away from being a one-stop-shop platform. While they might still offer only one or two functions, generally, software will now integrate with other software – in most cases these platforms offer different functions. For example, you can now integrate your Gmail or Office 365 account with Xero so that you can view your emails through Xero.

More powerful integrations are available between point-of-sale and rostering to your accounting package that will speed up payroll processing, sales processing, and inventory management. These three areas take up a significant amount of time and resources with many businesses employing someone in their accounting team to undertake these responsibilities, or outsourcing the services.   An accountant’s role shouldn’t involve transposing information from one system to another, as it’s a waste of their time and skills and the waste of a wage for the business owner.
Recently, providers have come to market with their own ready to go integrations. You can subscribe to these automation providers, and also use templates they offer for easy integration of your services.

For example, there is a platform called Automate.io that can integrate with Zoom. If someone joins a session, it will prompt an invoice to be raised in Xero to that person for the advice or services given during the Zoom call. This can help improve efficiency for those in the online training or coaching space. It’s also possible to integrate Office 365 and PayPal so that when certain actions occur within PayPal, an email is triggered and sent through Office 365. The emails could detail refunds or updates on a shipping status.  Office 365 also offers the Microsoft Power Automate service, where you can find automated tools ready to use. For example, flagging an email for a follow-up sets up a task in the Microsoft Workflow Planner Software. There are thousands of similar tools within Power Automate that can be used to assist in streamlining business administration.

Don’t be afraid to look around for ways to make things quicker and easier within your business – double entry is the enemy! Take advantage of the technology and the people with the skills to automate things. If you’re unable to find the automation software you need online, write a list of all the tasks that you complete on a regular basis and talk to an IT consultant to see if there is a way to make these processes quicker and easier.

Speeding up cash flow

Another way to better your business is to speed up cash flow by supporting customers to pay you more quickly and efficiently. Being able to service your customers more efficiently comes with many benefits, and increased cash flow is just one of them. In today’s market, if a customer can’t interact with you quickly and easily, they will seek your product or service elsewhere. For example, many may have seen the rise of Amazon Prime payments, where you can order and pay for an item with one click. Just one click and your details are pre-filled, payment pre-authorised and the transaction complete. PayPal offers a similar function, whereby it integrates with some shopping platforms which will populate your personal details from your PayPal account, alleviating the need for you to fill in your details.  Customers today are all about quick payment and fast delivery – everyone wants things now, if not yesterday. Not only is this better for your customers, but fewer steps and a quicker transaction limits the opportunities for customers to second guess their purchase.

Businesses also want their payments to be processed as cheaply as possible and as most business owners would know, there are vast differences between the merchant fees applied among payment platforms. After a quick Google search, you’ll see there are now dozens of platforms available for electronic payments to your business – each with different entry price points and functionalities. If you have been to a market recently, you might have noticed that a lot of those micro businesses have moved away from the traditional merchant facilities provided by the banks and towards the newer offerings in the market, such as Square, where you don’t need a large merchant terminal. These services use a much smaller piece of equipment, and the merchant costs are far less than that of a traditional bank.

In addition to merchant facilities, providing your customers or clients with the ability to pay with different methods adds a level of security that requesting payments by EFT transfer doesn’t achieve. There have been many scams whereby invoice details have been intercepted on transmission to change the payment details, and a client thinks they paid the supplier, but the supplier never received the funds. By using electronic payment methods, such as Stripe, PayPal, and the like, you are adding another level of security and protection for both your business and customer. The bonus is that you can often link the payment platform with your accounting software or CRM. When payments are received, it assists with reconciling them to the right customer and even deals with the merchant fees deducted.

For more information on the raft of automation and integration tools that can boost the efficiency of your business and the experience of your customer, contact your William Buck advisor.  

The benefits of automation, integration and online payment services

Laura Johnstone

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