Automation has come a long way. In the beginning, it was a relatively simple tool that helped people get rid of a few repetitive tasks. Today, it has eliminated thousands of repetitive tasks and, more importantly, it has become one of the biggest growth drivers for most businesses.
Though not single-handedly, automation has played a big role in paving the way for businesses – both big and small – in enhancing their competitiveness in their respective industries. Through automation, many businesses today can effortlessly scale up their operations, reach a wider customer base, and also help their employees to become more productive, innovative, not to mention inspired and motivated.
With shopping trends, preferences, and customer experience expectations constantly shifting, businesses are constantly now required to keep aligning their operations in a way that conforms to these rapid and sometimes unexpected changes.
This is where automation comes in. Without automation and big data, companies would find it extremely difficult to predict their customers’ buying patterns, accurately identify their pain points, or also lay their hands on valuable insights (data) that are critical to their product development and improvement processes.
Automation’s popularity is growing at a steady rate with most executives and marketers agreeing that it’s a must-adopt strategy for modern-day business challenges. According to a Salesforce and Pulse report, which surveyed over 100 global IT and engineering leaders, 73 percent of them confirmed that automation has helped employees save up to 50 percent of the time previously spent performing menial and repetitive tasks.
The same report also indicated that 78 percent of business executives are either currently or planning to use artificial intelligence-driven automation processes in their organizations. Spending on automation is also on a steady rise with 54 percent of organizations spending over $250,000 on process automation
But despite the encouraging pace at which most businesses are integrating automation tools in their day-to-day process, this all-important strategy is beginning to somewhat lose its meaning.
From the onset, the main objective of automation was to use technology to run or perform tasks and processes that needed more or less the same kind of input. Such tasks, although important to the overall business operation, consumed too much of the employee’s time and effort and this was beginning to affect the overall output.
But when automation stepped in, these employees were freed and re-assigned to performing more demanding tasks, including those that required critical decisions to be made.
This strategy has worked perfectly at least for the most part. However, business executives are now increasingly focussing on the technology bit of automation and what it can do for their businesses and are becoming oblivious of how this whole process is affecting their customers.
To put it mildly, automation today is worryingly losing the ‘human touch’ it once had and customers are not happy!
Believe it or not, businesses globally are losing customers in droves, which ultimately translates into rapidly diminishing bottom lines. One factor that’s being attributed to this worrying trend is bad customer experience.
According to a PWC study, 59 percent of customers believe that some brands have completely forgotten or totally disregard the need for human interaction in their customer service efforts.
It is crucial that when embarking on your automation journey you don’t focus solely on the technology side of things at the expense of how your target customer will experience it. And while all the bells and whistles might make your company look tech-savvy and trendy, if your automated processes lack the human touch, all your efforts to wow the customer with an unforgettable experience will be counterproductive in the long run.
It is, therefore, super important to ensure that your automation strategy is human-led for maximum impact.
So, what are some of the things that you need to seriously consider even as you develop your automation strategy? Customer data and, most importantly, how you use it as part of your automation should be your priority.
This is exactly where the battle for automation supremacy is won or lost. You must get this right from the onset to avoid making costly mistakes somewhere down the line. Spam email, for instance, is still a perennial problem that puts marketers and their target audience at loggerheads.
But despite its marginal decrease, from 69 percent in 2018 to 55 percent in 2021, spam email still accounted for over 45.1 percent of all email traffic in March 2021 and chances are that a good chunk of these unsolicited, irrelevant emails was sent by automated email solutions.
While not all spam is dangerous, some have been used to deliver deadly viruses and malware capable of destabilizing companies and leaving a trail of destruction in their wake. In this context, advertising spam is more prevalent, especially when automation comes into the picture.
All this happens when marketers have a tonne of data and no particular framework of how to use it responsibly as per their respective anti-spam laws (laws that protect citizens from receiving unwanted spam emails) and general data protection regulation (GDPR), (a legal framework that sets guidelines for the collection and processing of personal information from individuals).
To get the best out of your automation, you need to anchor your overall strategy on (GDPR)/anti-spam regulations. This way you ensure that your customers’ rights are not violated by your email activities. For instance, if you are running a digital marketing campaign and email is your primary vehicle to reach your target audience, the last thing you want is to send your marketing emails to customers who have already, for one reason or another, opted out of your email list.
Without a proper automation solution that automatically detects email opt-outs and other customer preferences, you will end up spamming your customers’ inboxes and one thing’s for sure, you’ll not be getting any glowing reviews anytime soon.
Customers’ data is hard to come by and should, therefore, always be put to good use. The last thing you want is to lose an opportunity to engage with your customer just because your substandard automation system is not designed to avoid sending spam emails.
It all starts with acquiring reputable automation solutions like Salesforce or NetSuite as the cornerstones of your marketing automation. Traditionally, these two platforms work exceptionally well on their own and get the job done.
They don’t protect you from sending spam, of course. That is not what a CRM or an ERP does.
But it’s what an email marketing automation solution should do. Solutions like Mailchimp or Constant Contact have basic GDPR/anti-spam features, so you will always get a warning when you’re about to cross a line.
For an added layer of protection and for better email ethics, you can integrate your CRM/ERP with your marketing automation platform. However, not all integrations are built equal.
You need to look for an integration solution that is anti-spam and GDPR-compliant. Otherwise, all the features in your email marketing solution will be rendered useless.
SyncApps, for instance, does more than preserve the anti-spam features of Mailchimp or Constant Contact. It can help you really take charge of your marketing ethics and ensure that all your records are compliant. For example, you can automatically delete records in Salesforce, 365 or NetSuite that have unsubscribed in Mailchimp or Constant Contact.
This way, there’s no chance your digital marketing department can send unwanted marketing emails to these contacts. How cool is that?
Now that we’ve covered the first step of what automation with a human touch should look like, let’s dig deeper. Let’s see how we can make automation work for humans, not just instead of them.
Most organizations that have adopted automation have, for the most part, only focused on a cost-driven automation model. This happened partly because it’s easily attainable, more quantifiable and the rewards are almost instant.
The opportunity to drive down costs and boost revenue and efficiency creates a blindspot for everyone, right? But, after a good run on a cost-driven automation strategy, marketers need to consider how their automation affects their customers. They need to take a step back and reevaluate their automation strategy to determine how it resonates with the customers.
A human-centric approach to automation will generate enormous benefits for your business. For starters, human-centered automation should use technology to optimize workflows, processes, and tasks. This way it conserves human time and effort to ultimately deliver an exceptional experience both at the employee and customer level.
To humanize your automation you also need to build consistency into customer interactions.
Using cloud platforms paired with reliable automation solutions. Having platforms that talk to each other through integration allows for easy flow of information so that your automated tasks can trigger automatic responses with relevant information that your customers are looking for to solve their queries.
See how we emphasized relevant information? We did it twice now, just to make sure. Because “relevant” is key here.
Automation without relevance is by no means human-centric or adapted to your customers’ needs. It’s just there to take things off your plate. And no customer ever stayed loyal to a brand just because its employees don’t send emails manually.
While we’re not suggesting you start sending emails manually like it’s 1999 again, we are suggesting that you should never completely eliminate human interactions from your marketing, sales, or customer support strategy.
Last but not least, invest in live chat.
Because speed is king and, well, most customers don’t like being kept waiting, especially if they are about to spend their money. Eighty percent of American consumers point to speed, convenience, knowledgeable help, and friendly service as the most important elements of a positive customer experience.
Live chats are, therefore, a great way of adding that all-important human touch to your automation. This tool can be used to handle routine customer queries or even point the customer to a self-service option. This also gives the customer the autonomy to solve their problem, hence saving them valuable time in the process.
Another way to add a human touch to everything you do is to have an excellent human-led support department. At SyncApps, we take great pride in our 24/7 customer support. It’s 100% human and 100% free, even for our subscribers on free plans.
Why do we do it, even though our business is automation and we could find a million ways to automate at least part of it?
Because we build integration and automation solutions for humans. And we need to get to know them if we want our solutions to get better and help even more humans.
So we have an extensive Help Center library for people who prefer to solve issues on their own. But we also have a friendly and knowledgeable human team that works around the clock to offer support with a human touch.
Whether it’s about setting up your first integration or solving an advanced issue in an existing Set Up or Sync profile, they are always there. And they are a big part of why we have a single-digit customer turnover!
Even though automation is designed to help companies boost productivity and efficiency, this solution should also consider the human experience. As you consider automating some of your internal processes and especially the ones that your customers will come into contact with, make sure you reevaluate the solution first to help you determine the benefits, if any, it will bring to your customers.
You also need to identify the points of the customer journey that require automation. Finally, get to know your customers and the channels they use frequently, and for which purpose. By understanding this, you will know which processes to automate and which to leave to humans.