From inputting customer data, drafting emails, to chasing payments, there’re plenty of administrative tasks that take up precious time.
They’re all necessary, but they’re often tedious. It’s also true that time spent on these repetitive tasks is time not spent pursuing new opportunities…
So, what can you do to save your team time?
That’s where a workflow engine comes in.
This digital tool can be transformative and help your team can focus on more exciting work.
Below, we’re taking a look at how a workflow engine (or workflow management tool) can help your maintenance, installation, or service business.
Let’s explore how you can become more successful:
1. What is a workflow engine?
Simply put, a workflow engine is a software tool designed to improve efficiency. With it, you can set up digital processes (workflows) that trigger as a response after certain actions have been taken.
A workflow engine can be used to set up all sorts of different automated processes and actions. That means staff can get assistance with tasks like invoicing, sending emails, communications, and more.
It’s all managed by a management system that takes over specific manual processes that a person would otherwise be in charge of controlling.
“Workflows route a series of tasks, pushing them from one step to the next. They not only automate tasks, but they also decrease decision-making processes by guiding the process to the most efficient step.”
While workflow engines can be used to make sending emails, notifications, and filling in forms faster, they can also be used in more complex ways, as we’ll explore.
2. How does a workflow engine work?
The simplest way to think of a workflow is in terms of: “If A happens, then B happens” sequence.
A concrete example of a workflow in action that you might find useful would be:
“If a new diary appointment is created, then the assigned engineer will get a notification.”
That’s a basic workflow. It’s typical of something a workflow engine will allow you to set up if you’re using software to manage your maintenance, installation, or service business.
With different workflows in place, you can more reliably take care of tedious tasks. You’ll also reduce the likelihood that human error will cause delays or problems.
3. What are the benefits of a workflow engine?
A workflow engine’s true value is in simplifying day-to-day tasks and saving time.
With less time spent on manually doing admin, it can mean:
Increased efficiency so time can be spent productively elsewhere
More transparency so it’s easy to track processes and find information
Improved customer experiences with faster response times
Crystal clear accountability so the responsibility for tasks is always apparent
A hypothetical scenario of a complex workflow in action:
To demonstrate the value of a workflow in more detail, let’s take invoicing as an example.
You’ll have staff responsible for checking if an invoice has been paid, or if it’s still pending. It’s likely that, currently, they’ll have to click their way through a variety of different screens to find the information. They’ll then manually create an invoice, write an email, send it, or even make a phone call to chase.
Managing invoices is often a full-time job in itself. It can require hours of data entry to copy and paste information and ensure payment deadlines are being met.
Fortunately, a workflow engine can eliminate much of that pain for you.
For instance, you could create a custom workflow to routinely check and see if a payment is still pending. If it is, then the workflow will automatically create a detailed response to send to the customer.
Your team can instead review the automated response and check it for accuracy. This is much faster than if they were to manually process all the information themselves.
And it gets better. Automated responses can be timed.
A more advanced workflow can follow these same steps but at varying intervals, triggering different responses.
Let’s say a customer hasn’t paid you:
A workflow can be created to send them prompts that encourage them to pay. As an example, you could schedule 3 payment reminders. One at 2 weeks’ notice, another at 1-weeks’ notice, and another with 1 day’s notice. Whatever you decide, you can customise your workflow to reach out automatically.
With this solution, you save your team from having to get personally involved at every single step.
A workflow engine still requires a human touch
After all, while automation tools are fantastic, they’re not a miracle cure for every problem.
In the scenario above, customers might miss or ignore the automated emails that they receive.
You’ll get nowhere just sending more, so it’s clear someone should get involved.
Fortunately, your workflow automation software can be set up to trigger a response to help. After a set period, it can create an office task and prompts a member of staff to reach out instead.
In most cases, a delayed or missed payment will be down to simple human error. Hearing from an actual person is often all that’s needed to solve a problem.
In this way, you’re never 100% reliant on the workflow and instead, benefit from having a failsafe solution. This increases the odds that no task will fall through the cracks.
Of course, if the automated email prompts work and the customer replies, you’ll have saved your team time. However, if the customer doesn’t reply, then the workflow process still covers your team and ensures different actions are taken, increasing the odds that a resolution is found.
4. How can a workflow engine help your business?
Workflows can give your team more time to focus on staying on task. When your engineers can work without interruption, it makes completing an installation or sorting a repair even easier.
As a result, it means your team can work more efficiently and focus on important tasks that require genuine attention. In an ideal world, we’d all love to be able to enter into that flow state where we can just do our job; particularly if it’s something fiddly or technical.
Now that you’ve ditched physical paperwork and are enjoying the benefits of digital admin, you can benefit from software that’s designed to reduce further interruptions from slowing you down.
Making use of a workflow automation tool is a whole level-up from that digital experience. It will significantly reduce the steps your staff need to take regarding repetitive tasks.
With a workflow engine supporting your business, you can continue to take customers on world-class journeys and offer them the convenience that we’ve all come to expect.
A workflow engine is all designed around taking logical steps to reach a specific conclusion. With it, you can map out all sorts of friction-free pathways and, as we’ve explained, even establish contingencies to take care of things when these plans go awry.
Workflow automation [makes] complicated business processes easier to manage.
Of course, if you want to automate for a variety of complex scenarios, then a customisable workflow engine could be perfect for you to explore…
5. How easy is it to use a workflow engine?
Using a workflow engine and creating automated processes doesn’t need to be complicated.
After all, well-designed software should be easy-to-use. There may be a learning curve, but like any tool, getting to grips with it will empower your team to take care of complex or time-consuming tasks more easily.
As above, the workflows you choose to use can be simple.
Most businesses will follow the same patterns when it comes to debt-chasing or sending invoices so these processes are easy to implement.
At the same time, there will be tasks that you do differently, and that’s where customisable workflows can come in handy. You may wish to create entire workflows of your own based on processes you know you can streamline.
A customisable workflow engine gives you the means to set up any number of automated processes. If you have niche tasks specific to your services, then these more sophisticated workflow management tools can still help them run smoothly.
Create workflows of your own:
If you want to eliminate tedious admin, then workflows can help you to do just that.
Why spend 15 minutes fiddling with an email when a programme can do it for you?
Not only will all your staff enjoy using workflows for themselves, but automated workflows can spread this ultra-efficient mindset to your entire company. And so to help you out on your automation journey, we’ve prepared some email templates that you can use.
Whether you’re sending service reminders, creating estimates, or giving customers a helpful nudge, explore our Practical Guide to Automation, and for regular updates, be sure to subscribe to our Newsletter!
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