As more and more SMEs jump on the automation bandwagon, business owners considering implementing these technologies should ask: How will automation grow our customer relationships? Where’s the personal touch?
As such, consider these six points to ensure that your automated processes deliver for your customers, not just for your business:
1. Keep your customer central to your automation decision
If you’re an organisation that keeps your customers at the centre of how and why you do business (and you should be!), include the customer experience in your purchase decision. Ask yourself: What will the customer experience if we automate this process? It’s helpful to us, but is it helpful to them?
For example, automation can add value to your credit customers if the system collates all outstanding invoices into one monthly statement, making it easy for debtors to see how much they owe you without bombarding their inbox. It saves you time and it saves time for your customers, too.
2. Look for automation that includes your voice
Automation doesn’t need to be vanilla. Look for automation that allows you to incorporate your brand tone and voice, so communications to customers look and sound like they come from you. Refresh templates regularly so your communications reflect your current policies/language/offers.
Start with being clear, professional, polite and add your own flavour.
3. Use automation that responds to customer conversations
Most businesses won’t be looking to completely automate one-on-one conversations with customers, so let’s assume those still happen. Your automation software should have the capacity to respond to those conversations, so your automations are in sync with your real-life exchanges.
Sticking with the debtor example, your automation software might allow you to pause a customer from getting system-generated invoice reminders if they have told you they’ll be away on holidays.
4. Personalise your automations
The ‘one size fits all’ adage shouldn’t apply to your automation solution. Each of your customers is unique, so even automated communications should be customisable and personalised for each customer.
For example, if some of your customers prefer to communicate via email, your automation system should generate personalised emails for you. If other customers require statements by post, your automation solution should enable postal services.
Understanding your customers will help you understand the solution that will meet their needs, as well as yours.
5. Your intelligence still matters
A great automated system will have incredible in-built intelligence but it’s unlikely to have the intelligence you hold as a business owner or manager at the coalface of operations.
Look for automation that allows user-generated actions. At critical points in your customer’s journey with you, you want to have the option to move out of auto-pilot and make decisions as situations arise.
For example, if debtors fail to respond to multiple automated reminders, you might always want to assess each situation before referring customers to a debt collection agency. In this case, you’d be looking for automation that allows you to prompt that action only when you decide (as opposed to automatically sending everyone to debt collection).
6. Use your free time to connect with customers
You’re automating because you want to free up time to be productive in other parts of the business, so invest the extra time you’ve created into your customer relationships.
Have you freed up administration time that you can now re-allocate to customer support? Can you now spend more time with customers on your sales calls? Have you finally got the extra time you need to turn customer satisfaction into customer delight?
Automation has come a long way. It’s no longer the cold and distant prototype of 1980s movies. In fact, it may just afford you the customer connection you’ve been looking for.
Aj Singh is the co-founder and managing director of ezyCollect, an automated debtor management solution for SMEs.