Automation is obviously all around us. In every business, school, and community, automation is there to lend a helping hand. It can take a huge burden off of people who have better things to do than remember a million little tasks, or send the same email to twenty people, or tell you where your next package is. Automation is a very influential tool. But with that influence, comes either a positive or negative outcome.
So when does automation move from being incredibly helpful to a real negative? Is there any easy way to decide when you should automate and when you should not? Well, as a matter of fact there is. Before you automate something, it needs to pass a very simple test – Does this automation make things better for the business AND the customer? If it doesn’t, then out the window it goes.
Only Automate When It’s Best for the Business AND the Customer
So often a business will automate something that seems to make things easier for the business, even though it makes things more difficult for the customer. Things like calling and talking to a computer and telling them 15 times what you want, never getting it right, and then hanging up in complete frustration. Maybe, at least for the short term, that did make things easier for the business. They never had to deal with the phone call. The client is the only one who had to bear the burden of the automation. But, justice eventually is served, and the client will either complain to 15 friends about their bad experience, they’ll go onto social media to complain, or they’ll consider taking their business elsewhere. So what may have seemed like a good idea at one point, eventually became something that puts the business and the customer at odds with one another.
In your design firm, it’s the same. You only want to automate things that will make life better for both you and the client, otherwise it often ends up hurting both of you anyways. So, automating an immediate email if a person purchases an e-design service from your website, absolutely! And then automating an email the next day to give them further information about what they can expect with you and answer some FAQs or have them fill out a questionnaire, absolutely! Or someone who reserves you for a designer for a day or two hour consultation and your calendar availability is automatically sent? Again, absolutely!
The automation in these situations makes great sense for everyone! You don’t need to stop and get involved as these tasks don’t really need personal involvement. And the client doesn’t have to wait around for you to send an email where you go back and forth trying to find a shared time, especially if the client made the purchase on late Friday night and they won’t hear back from you until Monday morning. These kinds of tasks not only can be automated, but should be automated, as it highly benefits both parties.
Personalize Tasks When Automation May Harm Client Communication or Relationships
However, when it comes to things like, birthday cards, thank you cards, discussing with your client how they feel the project is going, or talking to the client about how to best prepare for install day, it’s time to take things slow and steady. Sometimes personalized is just better. When it comes to things like birthday cards and thank you cards, it’s best not to automate them. Receiving an e-card or a birthday card that’s printed with your message and then sent in the mail, or a thank you card that’s clearly been written for everyone and then sent out in mass, just doesn’t have the same effect that personalization does. Automating these tasks is often both a waste of money, and can even do more harm than good, as it can appear to tell clients “I don’t have enough time for you. So I just wanted to give the illusion of caring.” Sounds harsh, but it’s true. Because no matter what happens to society, and no matter how far technology goes, people want the time and attention of other people. Even if in this world of technology, we’re not so great at giving attention, we still all want it for ourselves.
The same thing goes with talking to clients about how the project is going, or discussing with them what will happen on install day. If there isn’t enough human interaction and personalization to these, clients can feel a bit neglected because these are big subjects. Automated emails can tell clients when and where you’re having your next meeting, but it can’t easily and with great expertise explain what will happen in their install, for their specific home. So it’s crucial to really let the client know you want to give them the time they need by explaining your process, answering any questions, or understanding their thoughts and feelings on how the project is going.
Technology Should Only Replace People When It’s Better at a Task
So the next time you’re wondering if something should be automated, first ask yourself if it will make things better for both you AND the client. Because if it won’t, it’s guaranteed to be more trouble than it’s worth. Automation is only for when a technological system can handle a situation better than a person. Automation remembers things that you may not, or is awake and working when you’re not. But it can’t describe the nature of your relationship in a thank you card, or write out a meaningful message in a birthday card.
And I know it can seem reallllly tempting to use technology for almost everything if the technology is available. I mean, some of those postcard/birthday card companies provide fonts that look pretty close to handwriting. But the proof is in the pudding right there. They’re trying to make it look like a human being sat down and took the time to write you a birthday message. But, they didn’t. And so the effort has been lost and unappreciated. Because humans, and human interactions, can never and will never be replaced. And really, that’s just good news for everyone. Because I don’t know about you, but I’m not a fan of robots taking over.
If you’d like even more ideas on how to provide the kind of client experience that gets you higher fees and profits, get on the Wait List for the next session of “The Exceptional Experience”!