Automate Processes – Not Humanity
To grow a successful business, there will come a point when you’ll simply need more than 24 hours in a day in order to get things done.
Automation makes that possible.
By leveraging technology to perform certain tasks and operations, you free up your priceless personal time to do the things that only you can do.
Be careful, though:
Automating processes is a smart move, but trying to automate human interaction can be a recipe for disaster.
Human time is very limited and very valuable.
Even if you hire low-cost employees, their time and energy is worth more (and thus is more expensive than) machine hours.
You and your staff can only effectively perform one thing at a time.
A computer, on the other hand, can carry out hundreds of tasks at once without struggling to maintain productivity.
By properly leveraging technology, people and companies accomplish incredible things.
Today, even solo entrepreneurs have mind-bogglingly powerful tech tools at their disposal – setting up an automated computer process is easier and cheaper than hiring and training a person.
Automation is simple, and it saves time, money, and energy.
It’s not a one-size-fits-all miracle.
Keeping it Real
Computers and machines are wonderful and have contributed to the highest global quality of life the world has ever seen.
But they’ll never replace humans.
Aside from the science fiction story potential, automating certain human processes is just a bad business idea.
Have you ever been stuck on the phone with a computerized customer service phone bot?
Marketers and tech enthusiasts are still trying to make automation feel more personal by building tools that use your name or respond to certain prompts, but that’s a double-edged sword.
Consumers like functionality.
They just don’t like being tricked.
Think of it this way:
When marketers use automated services that try (and fail) to mimic real human interaction, they’re sending the message that they want consumers to feel like there’s a relationship, but they don’t actually want to put forth the effort to build a relationship.
It feels dishonest, and nobody wants to shop from a dishonest company.
You can avoid the mistrust and miscommunications with a thoughtful, smart automation strategy.
Things to Always Automate
Automation is perfect for mundane, repetitive tasks, simple internal processes, and functions that don’t need much real human interaction.
Weekly sales reports can be automatically generated and sent to relevant people.
An email auto-responder that confirms that a question was received, generates a reference number and promises a prompt (human) response is very useful.
You might have a system that automatically orders your most commonly used office supplies each month.
Even subscription services like FilterEasy are good automation in action.
If you’re not using some form of automation to handle routine, but necessary functions, you’re probably not using your time as wisely as you should.
Outside of the mindless little things you must do, though, there’s an automation gray area.
Things to Automate With Discretion
We say this a lot, and it’s still true:
Every business is different.
There’s never a sweeping solution that applies to every company, every time.
There are some universal rules and best practices that any business can use to build an appropriate, custom strategy.
Here’s our rule when it comes to automating in the gray area:
If the net benefit is ultimately more valuable to the consumer, automate it.
That’s not the easiest concept to picture, so let’s consider a real-world example.
Example A of Automation Discretion
Company A is a consulting business that helps new entrepreneurs manage their priorities effectively. They have clients that pay a moderate fee for email support, and some customers that pay much higher rates to have constant telephone access to experts.
Company A finds that they are spending a lot of time answering those support emails.
They’re considering implementing an automated email program that attempts to answer questions based on keywords, and then only forwards the message to an actual person if the user clicks a button indicating that their question wasn’t answered.
It will definitely save employee time, and those employees can spend more hours serving higher paying clients.
That means that there’s a significant value for the people that pay large sums of money for access, and also value for the company who now has the capacity for more premium clients.
But if the vast majority of Company A’s customer base relies on that human email support, there’s not much of a net benefit for them.
Sure, with more time, employees may be able to provide better answers to the emails that eventually end up in their inbox…but it takes more than twice as long for the consumer to actually get that valuable answer.
In this case, the consumer is losing value.
Automation isn’t wise.
Example B of Automation Discretion
Meanwhile, Company B is considering adopting the same email automation program.
Company B is also a consulting firm that helps entrepreneurs prioritize better, but their model is different.
They offer face-to-face group classes for a moderate fee, and their premium clients get monthly one-on-one meetings with a qualified mentor.
Most of the email they get comes from existing customers who attended a recent group class and want to ask a follow-up question, or from new people inquiring about upcoming events.
If Company B adopts this automated email system, their employees will be able to spend more time planning course schedules, preparing for mentorship meetings, and growing their client base.
Better classes and better mentorship sessions benefit all levels of current customers.
Some of the people who email are going to be frustrated by the automated system, but a large number of them will easily find the class schedules and course notes they were looking for.
In total, the net benefit to consumers is positive.
Some people will be annoyed, but even those who feel a little irritated ultimately get more value, since the other service they receive is better.
Company B should seriously consider automating.
Automating Social Media
Social media posts fall within this gray area, too.
There are some social media purists that insist on 100% native, purely human posting.
That means that they don’t use scheduling tools, they don’t post the same thing on multiple social networks, and they don’t automate link sharing or post from a library.
We think these people have great intentions, but maybe aren’t being realistic about the time constraints of running a company.
Here’s what we recommend:
Never post garbage, filler content, automated or not.
Don’t spam your followers with automatic link posting, but do post your links.
Go ahead and automate some of your social media posts.
But always interact with your social following as a real, non-robotic person.
Social media is made of humans, and it’s our duty as marketers, business owners, and people, to respect the actual human beings on the other end of our computer screens.
We’re still fans of native content, so we try not post the same update to all of our social networks.
But we’re also fans of spending time on the other billion things we need to do around the office, rather than manually Tweeting all day.
Things You Should Never Automate
When you begin adopting automated processes, there’s one golden rule to remember:
Never try to pass a robot off as a person.
Here’s what we mean:
If you have an email auto-response, just be honest about it being an email auto-response.
Some marketers try to make it seem like a mass-mailed form message was written just for one person, and while it’s okay to create that feeling with good writing technique, it’s not okay to lie.
This is what happens all too often:
A customer gets your clever email and thinks it’s written just for her, so she responds to it, assuming that you’re going to read her return message.
That generates your auto-response…and it’s the same thing she just responded to.
Now, she feels stupid and a little bit betrayed.
Is that how you want your potential clients to feel about you?
Anyone who’s ever been stuck in an automated phone system would probably insist that you actually answer phone calls, but we’ll refer you back to the “net benefit” section for that.
Some things just need a human touch.
You can’t automate good customer service because it becomes bad customer service.
A doctor couldn’t automate patient visits.
An artist couldn’t automate creativity.
Whatever is the essence of you and your brand should remain under human hands.
Never try to automate humanity.