Two co-owners of a coffee shop are seated at a table and are engaged in a lively discussion. They are reviewing data on a tablet and a laptop.
Small business owners can use artificial intelligence to collect and analyze data and then leverage technology platforms to automate and streamline processes. — Getty Images/visualspace

Certain aspects of business are out of your control or are less manipulatable, like taxes and fixed costs. But efficiency is something you can always improve. And 94% of U.S. Chamber of Commerce survey respondents said, “Technology helps them run their business more efficiently. ”

Efficient companies leverage technology platforms to automate processes and streamline workflows. They use artificial intelligence (AI) to collect and analyze data, boosting their operational efficiency by 33% compared to peers.

By ensuring optimal resource utilization, small businesses improve overall performance and profitability. Reduce waste in your organization by starting with these core tech platforms.

Customer relationship management (CRM) programs

CRM systems enable marketing and sales teams to generate leads, personalize messaging, and foster customer relationships. With CRM features like AI-powered lead scoring and automated follow-up responses, small businesses can save time. Indeed, a Google Cloud study reported that data and AI leaders achieved 32% higher customer loyalty and retention than their peers.

Integrations with e-commerce, point-of-sale (POS), and business phone systems can record interactions in your CRM from all channels. It gives your staff a 360-degree view of a client’s history and sentiment without requiring manual data entry.

The best CRM platforms include:

  • Zoho CRM: Automation and process management tools optimize your sales cycle while improving customer acquisition. Zoho CRM pricing starts at $20 per user monthly or begin with the free edition.
  • Freshsales: Create time-based workflows and use AI-powered contact scoring to close deals faster. Freshsales is free for three users, and monthly pricing starts at $18 per person.
  • Monday Sales CRM: Automate reminders and lead assignments with Monday Sales CRM. It includes unlimited contacts and pipelines. Pricing starts at $10.50 per seat monthly.
  • Salesforce: Increase the speed of sales and improve internal collaboration with the powerful Salesforce platform. Small business pricing starts at $25 per employee monthly with annual billing.
  • NetSuite CRM: Companies can enhance the entire customer lifecycle with sales and marketing automation plus customer service management. NetSuite CRM is one module included with the NetSuite platform.
  • Pipedrive: Empower your sales team and automate growth with AI technologies that simplify administrative work, routine tasks, and reporting. Pipedrive pricing starts at $14.90 per employee monthly.
  • HubSpot: Complete sales and marketing tasks quicker with the AI email writer, meeting scheduler, and pipeline management tools. Use the free version or the HubSpot CRM Suite Starter, which costs $20 for two users with monthly billing.

[Read more: 12 Common CRM Questions, Answered]

Accounting software

According to Bank of America's 2023 Small Business Owner Report, 90% of small business owners surveyed believe “automating processes with digital tools helps operations run more efficiently.” As a result, 53% said it was easier to “manage cash flow.” Decreasing manual data entry and errors means your team can focus on the big picture, like analyzing financial forecasts to identify potential problems and opportunities.

Check out these providers when choosing accounting software for your business:

  • Zoho Books: Generate invoices in seconds, get paid faster, and automate payment reminders with Zoho Books. It’s free for companies with less than $50,000 in annual revenue, and pricing starts at $20 monthly.
  • Xero: Capture bill and receipt data automatically while saving time reconciling bank transactions and invoicing clients. Xero pricing starts at $9.25 monthly.
  • QuickBooks Online: Invoice and get paid four times faster than with manual workflows by using QuickBooks Online. It offers receipt captures, mileage tracking, and reporting tools. Pricing starts at $30 monthly.
  • NetSuite Accounting: Automate accounts payable and tax management to save hours on repetitive tasks, reporting, and reconciling statements. The accounting module comes with the NetSuite platform license.
  • FreshBooks: Run reports to save time during tax season and automate payment reminders to collect funds sooner. FreshBooks pricing starts at $15 monthly.

Efficient companies leverage technology platforms to automate processes and streamline workflows.

Business phone systems

A cloud-based small business phone service can simplify everyday tasks. Many integrate with company calendars, directories, CRM software, and email. So when employees answer the phone, the information they need is on the screen, and they don’t have to open another application. Other time-saving features include visual voicemail, auto attendants with call routing, and AI-powered meeting summaries.

Select a unified communications platform to reduce app switching and enable online collaboration. Advanced reporting tools allow leaders to identify inefficient processes affecting callers, like bottlenecks in specific departments.

Consider the following VoIP phone systems:

  • RingCentral: AI meeting insights, multilevel auto attendants, and task management tools make RingCentral an all-in-one business communication tool. Pricing starts at $30 per user monthly.
  • Ooma: With over 50 business phone features, dedicated U.S. support agents, and a user-friendly interface, small companies can save time when switching to Ooma. Pricing starts at $19.95 per user monthly.
  • Vonage: Stay connected with mobile and desktop apps, collaboration tools, and call routing features. Vonage starts at $19.99 per line monthly.
  • Mitel: Customize your unified communications system by choosing between on-site, public, or private cloud installation. Plus, Mitel offers subscription or on-time licensing.
  • Nextiva: Boost productivity with collaboration, communication, and scheduling tools. Nextiva starts at $18.95 per user monthly for five to 19 users.

HR software and services

Studies show employee engagement and satisfaction improve retention rates, customer satisfaction, and productivity. Yet, many small businesses don’t have the resources for a huge human resources (HR) department. HR software and services help you manage your workforce and provide better experiences without investing hours of your time.

HR products and services include professional employer organizations, human resources information systems, human resources management systems, and human capital management. Many have employee self-service features, which decrease calls to your HR department. They also offer digital onboarding, training, and performance management tools.

Compare HR software and services from vendors like:

  • Insperity: Decrease your liability and improve employee benefits by outsourcing HR and payroll to Insperity. It provides an online tech platform and a full-service HR team.
  • Rippling: Automate workflows involving Rippling and third-party software using the Rippling Workflow Studio. Simply choose your modules and create a custom HR system for your business.
  • Gusto: This all-in-one HR platform includes payroll, hiring, benefits management, and an application tracking system. You can even provision software without leaving the Gusto app.
  • Bambee: Outsource your HR compliance to protect your business, improve employee relations, and document your policies. Bambee provides a dedicated HR manager and only works with companies that have fewer than 500 employees.

[Read more: 8 HR Technology Trends for Innovation in 2023]

Payroll

Payroll challenges can take precious time away from revenue-generating activities. Moreover, errors can cost your small business money, cause tax issues, and damage your company's reputation. According to a study conducted by Ceridian on behalf of the American Payroll Association and the Global Payroll Management Institute, the top payroll pain points are “compliance challenges (43%), managing the complexities of multi-jurisdictional payroll (34%), and inefficient processes (27%).”

Full-service payroll systems automatically calculate wages, taxes, and deductions. The tools remit tax forms and payments. With employee self-service portals and AI-powered error detection, businesses can prevent mistakes and run payroll in minutes instead of hours.

Explore online payroll services, such as:

  • Paychex: Manage cash flow, automate new hire reporting, and process payroll faster with Paychex. It offers scalable solutions for small businesses and enterprises.
  • ADP Payroll: Set payroll to autopilot and avoid expensive mistakes with ADP Payroll solutions. Run by ADP or Roll by ADP are both excellent options.
  • Gusto Payroll: Process payroll in minutes, and let Gusto automatically file your taxes. It has built-in compliance, HR, and self-service tools.
  • QuickBooks Payroll: Pay your team quicker, and set payroll to run automatically with QuickBooks Payroll. It syncs with QuickBooks Online and includes automated tax payments.
  • OnPay: With expert support and deep software integrations, OnPay helps small businesses run payroll efficiently. Plus, it provides many HR tools.
  • Paycor: Slash payroll processing time with autorun functionality and employee self-service tools. Paycor provides full-service payroll software.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

CO—is committed to helping you start, run and grow your small business. Learn more about the benefits of small business membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, here.

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