Putting humanity into automation – the oxymoron that works

I’m a big believer in the idea that everything happens for a reason.

After a less-than-ideal accident left me bedridden with a broken femur for a whole year as a kid, my life was steered in a whole new direction when my Dad bought me a Commodore 64 – one of the first computers to come out. Unknowingly to the both of us, that piece of equipment that my Dad purchased to keep me entertained throughout a horrible year would set the path for the rest of my life.

With so much free time and a shiny new tool at my fingertips, I was able to dedicate so much time into learning all about coding and programming. Some might call it geeking out but I fell in love with the idea of figuring out problems and automating them at the same time. While that whole process was fascinating, I realised that it all came back to helping people.

Helping people should be at the heart of all automation strategies, and it should always underpin your approach in everything you do in marketing.

Automation is undoubtedly a great thing for a business – many people use it to scale and make their business more efficient and more profitable. But, you want to ensure you are getting results and leads off the back of it to make it worthwhile. To get to that point, your automation efforts still need to make for a good user experience. Unfortunately, many businesses end up dehumanising their services by overdoing it.

Overdoing automation can actually be worse for your business than not making any automation attempts at all – it shouldn’t get to the point where it becomes frustrating to the user because it is now over-automated, over-problematic, and unenjoyable. In what is by nature a robotic process, you still need to have that engagement and that emotion for the people that you’re wanting to convert into sales. That’s the humanity part of automation that should not be overlooked.

What would we have really accomplished or automated by setting up a chat on a website if there was actually no good intention or problem solving ability to it?

After being in the industry for 19 years – 11 spent running my own automation company – one of the main problems businesses come to me with is their automation efforts failing for reasons they haven’t thought of, and that having other knock on effects.

The cause?

Overdoing their automation and not thinking of the full customer lifecycle. For example, their customers have started receiving upwards of 15+ emails a month, they’re starting to mark it as spam, they’re unsubscribing, and then the perception and reputation of the business starts to go downhill and they’re blacklisted. Now, that business has a lot more work to do to fix it – and it costs a lot more to fix than the cost of just doing it right with best practices at the beginning.

Based on my experience, the human element of connection is what’s driving success for the customers that I’ve worked with. Once you get the automation right, that’s where you and your staff are happy and have that extra free time to pick up a phone and talk to somebody based on what the problem is or what they’re wanting. That’s the human part that a lot of companies lose. How often can you actually call a company and get put in touch with the right person from the right department? It’s very rare nowadays.

So, the question you should be asking of your company and yourself is around what experience that automation can provide – not how automation can save you time. Yes, one of the perks of automation is the time-saving and resource-saving aspect, but not at the expense of the customer experience. It should be all about balance – ensuring automation still comes back to helping people.

JR Keene – Digital Consultant

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