There’s never enough time in the day to get through your entire to-do list. Hey, that’s part of being a business owner, right? But what about the part that promised more freedom and flexibility? That’s every business owner’s dream and only the reality of a few, it seems.
You’ve given it a lot of thought, and after hearing promising things about automation, you’ve decided that maybe that’s the key to having a little more freedom and a little more time. So you’re going all the way.
You’re automating everything you can, and if an automation system or tool requires even the smallest action on your part, it doesn’t make the cut. Hands-off or bust.
You’re automating repetitive tasks, putting autoresponders on your email, and swapping your sales team for an automated sales outreach system. But is there anything you should be careful of when you go from a hands-on to a totally hands-off approach in your business?
Sure, automation can save tons of time and make it possible for you to consistently do things that need to be done (like ask for reviews, follow up on estimates, and connect with customers). But if you’re not careful, total automation can actually hurt your business, rather than help it.
Here are three undesirable consequences of automation and how you can avoid them:
#1 A nonexistent or inconsistent brand
Sometimes automation takes your brand completely out of the equation. Maybe you’re sending emails that look like they could have come from anybody or you have generic, robotic reminder texts that don’t sound like your brand at all.
You should never opt for automation that doesn’t allow you to customize things for your brand, because brand consistency is important for the growth of your company and the peace of mind of your customers.
So if you’re automating communication or anything else, sprinkle little bits of your brand throughout — like your logo and your brand voice — and make sure that what your customers are seeing, hearing, and experiencing is consistent with your brand.
#2 A frustrating, friction-filled customer experience
A lot of companies make the mistake of prioritizing the convenience of automation for them over the experience of their customers. But if automation creates friction and makes life harder for your customers, it’s not helping the people who matter most — the ones who pay you.
Let’s consider call centers. These can make things easier on businesses by making sure every phone call gets answered, without requiring someone at the office to manage overwhelming call loads or waste time on phone calls that aren’t necessarily good leads.
What business owners don’t consider is that while they may be making things easier on themselves, they may also be making things harder on their customers.
For example, my parents recently had their brand new car broken into in Selma, NC while on their way home from vacation. After hours of talking with the police and the hotel manager, all they wanted was to get home. But first, they needed to have their window sealed up for the drive back. So, they called a local SafeLite.
Trouble is, that local number forwarded to a call center in Arizona. So my dad had to waste time explaining where he was located and which SafeLite he was trying to reach — even though he’d dialed a local number that presumably should have gone directly to that local shop
In the end, this automation wasted his time (and the time of the call center) and made my dad (their potential customer) even more frustrated. He was ready to hand over his money to these people, but they created so much friction and wasted so much of his time that he decided to drive to Home Depot, get some supplies, and seal up the window himself.
#3 A decrease in customer loyalty
Insurance companies are notorious for boasting about their agents and the personal relationships you’ll have with them when you choose Company X. Instead of dealing with a massive, faceless insurance company, when you need help, your agent will be there, right?
Naturally, my parents were in a hurry to have their car repaired once they got back into town, so they headed to the dealership where they had purchased the car about a week and a half prior.
From the dealership, they called their State Farm agent to file a claim. But when they dialed the number on his card, they were walked through an automated directory and the call was forwarded to a call center for claims.
As icing on the cake, during the wait, my dad got to listen to a recording all about how great his agent was and how he would always be there for you when you needed him most. But he wasn’t even given the opportunity to speak to the agent being praised. Instead, he was sent to a total stranger at some call center.
This was an opportunity for State Farm to confirm my parents trust in and loyalty to their company, but they totally blew it. If you’re paying to have an agent you can count on to be there for you, but you just end up getting handed off to some stranger at the agency, what reason do you have for being loyal to that company? There’s no real relationship — just the false promise of one.
Automate Thoughtfully & Find Balance
Yes, automation can change your business and your life for the better, but it’s time for some tough love. As special as your business is to you, it’s not that special to those in your community if you take away your people, your brand, and your personal touch.
The reality is that people do business with people they like. If you lose sight of what makes for a good customer experience and remove your brand, your people, and your personal touch because you’re hell-bent on automating everything completely, you’ll do more harm than good. You’ll create friction for your customers, diminish loyalty, and lose business rather than gaining it.
So when you’re looking at things to automate or researching how to automate them, think about what’s best for your customers and find the right balance of automation and personalization. Make sure the systems and tools you invest in allow you to keep things personal and brand consistent, and give you the ability to oversee what’s happening and step in where needed.
Many of the best automation tools require a little bit of manual action for this very reason: it’s better for the customers and it’s better for the business. So don’t look at automation as something that allows you to be totally hands off — look at it as a helping hand that frees you up and makes life just a little bit easier for you and your customers.