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Five ways that bot workers can help SMEs win

By , CEO, Apollo Studios
24 May 2023

By Filum Ho, CEO of Apollo Studios

Filum Ho, CEO, Apollo Studios.
Filum Ho, CEO, Apollo Studios.

Technology is moving so quickly that many business owners might feel overwhelmed with all the sudden hype around artificial intelligence, ChatGPT and other trends.

We’re still coming to terms with what this technology means and how we can use AI in any meaningful way.

However, automation is a related but different field to AI. And it is something that has been with us for a longer period of time, having been practically implemented by many companies in different sectors to gain efficiencies.

One growing part of the automation ecosystem is something called Robotic Process Automation (RPAs), which is commonly referred to as “bots” or “bot workers”.

This form of technology involves software programs that are trained to mimic repetitive human actions to perform various assignments, ranging from data entries in CRM systems, to automated invoicing, text recognition, and more.

RPAs can operate 24/7 and be used for different industries, from finance, insurance, automotive, healthcare and more.

This technology used to be the domain of larger companies given the excessive costs. But it’s increasingly becoming available to all sizes of businesses — and especially SMEs. If used correctly, SMEs can dramatically benefit from RPAs and level the operating playing field with larger competitors. In turn, this can help SMEs grow faster and create more jobs for South Africa.

Here’s five ways that SMEs can benefit from RPAs:

Automating repetitive tasks

SMEs often find themselves burdened with repetitive tasks that consume valuable resources and time. Bot workers excel at handling such tasks by emulating human actions, enabling SMEs to automate processes such as data entries, invoice processing, inventory management, and more. This automation further eliminates errors caused by manual entry, improves efficiency, and frees up human employees to focus on more strategic and value-added activities. Consequently, your business can enhance its productivity, reduce operational costs, and allocate your workforce to tasks that require human intelligence and creativity.

Enhancing customer service

Customer service is a crucial aspect of any business's success, and SMEs can leverage bot workers to optimise in this area. Chatbots and virtual assistants powered by a RPA can handle routine customer inquiries, provide instant responses, and even perform basic troubleshooting tasks. By automating these interactions, smaller businesses can offer round-the-clock support, enhance response times, and provide consistent service quality.

Streamlining supply chains

Efficient supply chain management is essential for businesses of all sizes to meet customer demands, reduce costs, and remain competitive. RPAs can streamline various aspects of the supply chain, such as inventory management, order processing, and logistics tracking. By automating these processes, bot workers ensure accurate data entry, real-time monitoring, and seamless coordination among different stakeholders.

Improving data analytics

Data is a valuable asset, especially for smaller businesses, and RPAs can play a pivotal role in extracting meaningful insights from large volumes of information. Bot workers can analyse data from multiple sources, identify patterns, generate reports, and provide real-time analytics. This capability enables businesses to make data-driven decisions, identify market trends, personalise customer experiences, and improve overall business strategies. By harnessing this power, SMEs can gain a competitive advantage and react quickly to changing market dynamics.

Scaling operations with agility

SMEs often face challenges when scaling their operations due to limited resources and manual processes. Bot workers offer the flexibility and scalability required to expand business operations seamlessly. Whether it's onboarding new employees, managing additional customer accounts, or handling increased order volumes, bot workers can adapt to changing demands without compromising efficiency.

As outlined above, these are just some of the ways that using robotic process automation can help businesses become more efficient, scale and reduce operational costs. At Apollo Studios, we’ve been a pioneer in introducing this technology to more businesses in South Africa.

But with South Africa’s unemployment challenges, it is also crucially important to highlight how RPAs can be a force for good by placing an emphasis on the need for companies to upskill and further develop their staff.

There are many options in this regard, with programmes in South Africa ranging from adult matric to other accredited certifications in aspects such as accounting and HR, among many more.

Furthermore, companies in South Africa can receive tax rebates and additional B-BBEE points for upskilling their staff. In fact, the skills development pillar of the B-BBEE Act can contribute up to 20 points of a company’s BEE rating.

The age of automation and AI are in full swing, and how we choose to navigate it now will help us to derive the most benefits from it going forward. 

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