Ticking The Box VS Going The Extra Mile: Is Automation Hurting The Customer Experience?
The modern small business has a significant amount of electronic communiqué to deal with day-in and day-out. Most likely, they’ll also have a website that’s a large part of their marketing presence. That standalone site and/or their social media presence can become either highly cost-effective marketing tools, or a dark stain on their credibility.
Remarkably, millions of customers still wait days for an email response or follow-up call from a human being, or even weeks for account issues to be sorted. As a small business owner, you’ll immediately recognise that sounds bad. It is bad. Shocking, even, in this era of fierce commercial competition. Reliable remote IT support services abound, yet sluggish customer service persists like a dull canker, making a mockery of our technical sophistication.
For a small business, disinterested or just plain lousy service can be fatal. The modern consumer is still enthused by 1) a polite responsiveness, 2) clear benefits and offers, and 3) an affable human touch.
In a nutshell? Great service!
Tech smart is different than tech savvy
There’s a tendency among small business owners to feel the need to emulate tech automation of larger corporates. For example, you might feel strongly that automating mail responses is essential for your business to survive. You might be right… but you might also feel compelled to apply tech that’s irrelevant to your target market.
To be clear, tech smart is tech applied to create a more intimate relationship with your clients. Tech savvy is simply applying tech to reduce employment costs or because “everyone is doing it.”
There are a host of resources and methodologies for evaluating your effectiveness with your clients, which translates directly into CRM profitability. But before you pick through the details, walk for a moment in your customers’ shoes. Who are you selling to? What is their experience of you, or your competitors? Do corporate-style feedback loops work for you, or are you dealing with people who demand a prompt and personal touch?
The E-twins confused
If you’re trying to optimise sales (who isn’t?) and want to run a more profitable business (who doesn’t?), never forget that the human aspects of business remain unchanged. There’s no substitute for caring honestly about your clients’ issues. If you can’t answer basic questions about who your clients are and why they did or didn’t buy from you, something’s wrong. You might have all the bells and whistles, but you’ve ticked the wrong boxes.
The answer isn’t necessarily to send surveys out. By then, those who’ve walked away will be long gone. The answer lies in making sure your IT is suffused with human understanding. And yes, it might mean automation or other electronic processes are hindering you, not aiding your business aims.
Enter the E-twins, whom most people (including business owners) can’t tell apart. Make no mistake, your customers will identify them more correctly and often, but many people still gush about an “efficient” business as though efficiency translates into effectiveness. Efficiency is not effectivity. Efficiency truly relies upon internal processes which make logical and light work of your primary occupation – for example, developing software packages. Can you see how a client might have no knowledge of (or interest in) the myriad of processes that have gone before, but simply rate you (and pay you) on the basis of a 2-minute interaction?
It’s a vast topic with, unfortunately, legitimate overlap between the concepts, but let’s just say effective businesses make money. Efficient businesses might be effective and profitable too, but efficiency can’t be the starting point. First, you want a good product presented correctly to paying human beings who can use it. That’s the heart of any business. Only after those boxes are ticked should you concern yourself with the efficiency of how well you get essential tasks done.
First consider who’s on the journey, then how you’re going to transport them. Of course, efficiency can translate into better service times, which means happier clients and higher profits. But to aim at being the most sleek and minimalist operation around is a dangerous point of departure, especially when it’s disconnected from what your customers are experiencing.
People pay people
It’s imperative for modern businesses to avoid the broad malaise of automation for its own sake. Let’s be clear: automation must improve only one aspect of a business to translate into profits – the customer experience. It must improve things – not merely adjust things – and certainly not complicate or downgrade the human aspect of interaction.
To be fair, automation can shave costs internally and push profits up. However, for anyone thinking of building a solid small business for the long term, UX should be your prime area of focus. All automation and other technical applications should be evaluated against what your clients need and want.
This means extrapolating – or sampling – the ramifications of automation on your clients before putting processes in place to resolve a certain issue. Businesses are often so busy trying to get away from their clients via automating everything, it’s almost a USP to provide a responsive, caring service!
In the modern connected world, Inbound Marketing has established itself as a timely formalisation of how to deal with clients. Dissected, it’s simply a modern version of caring honestly about clients as they approach you, providing a great service, all the while being as transparent as possible.
For any small business owner looking to succeed in what’s now largely an unknown future, maintaining a welcoming portal and warm dialogue with clients is essential. Whatever processes you have in place, you’d better check to ensure all those chains add up to a single outcome: happy, paying clients who think the best of you!