28 August 2012 ~ 2 Comments

How much automation is too much?

Computers are here to make our lives easier, right? The more you can automate in your business, the better off you are.. or are you?

As someone who is running a business based on the internet, regular tasks can become a bit overwhelming at times, it can be difficult just to stay afloat sometimes, so obviously I have became a huge fan of automating tasks, whenever there is a way I can make a process more efficient or able to be completed by itself, I jump on the chance to reduce my workload.  That’s what it is all about right? Maximizing profits while simultaneously reducing resource expense (in this case, time!)

Automating some tasks will hugely increase the experience of your customers, some things should be automated 100% of the time on most of our business. Product purchases should be automated, this improves your customers experience because if it is a digital delivery product they will receive it instantly when purchased, or if it is a physical product, they can receive notification that the process has started, this greatly strengthens consumer confidence in your products, because they don’t have to sit and wonder how long it will take to process, or if it will even process at all.  Another great thing to automate are regular events or features.  In the traffic exchange market it is no question that website owners love to have regular events, or bonuses awarded as gifts for achieving activity.  It can greatly increase your user experience to automate these things, this allows consistency in timing week after week, but also in expectations of results.  If one week you don’t switch the promo on until an hour late, but get the results back right at the end, however the next week your child has a violin recital you may be several hours late in delivering the results, in some cases I’ve seen site owners delay it by days or even weeks before giving the results.  Being able to automate this not only makes it easier for you to determine winners and deliver prizes, but it increases the consistency for your members, they know when this event happens that they can expect it to happen on time every time and for everything to be delivered as promised immediately, since we love the instant gratification.

This sort of automation not only increases your users experience while using the site, but also frees up time for you to work on development and marketing of the project, while simple day to day tasks complete themselves, but can there be too much automation?  From my experience it is like a bell curve which I will post below.  The more you automate, the more time you have to interact with your community and work on building or developing new projects, however too much automation can begin to backfire and actually decrease the users experience

 

You would never guess by the quality of the graph that I am actually a design graduate, but it was just quicky.  As you can see, if you have no automation, you will have a low user experience, people will be waiting for purchases to be processed, waiting for ads to be approved, waiting for events to be followed through as promised, and all this time you are spending doing that, you are taking away from your time to fix bugs and implement new features so your end user experience continues to suffer.   As you start to automate more, you are given more time to increase features, better promote, and overall increase the quality and value of your product, because you aren’t so tied up doing day to day tasks.

When you start to automate more and more and more and reach the right side of that curve, you notice that your customers experience actually begins to decrease again.  How can this be?  Well simply put the downside to automation is that you are taking away human interaction, and the more you automate, the less interaction you are giving your customers. If you get to that phase where you are automating customer support and service requests, you have definitely gone too far.  Major businesses today are moving away from automated phone systems and towards having real people there for support, they have discovered that automation, while saving you a lot of time and resources, can have a downside.

People love interaction, and for you to build your brand and reputation with your customers, you must be reachable for interaction, you absolutely can not automate customer service.  If you are overstretching yourself and have not enough time for customer service requests a simple frequently asked questions or knowledge-base can take care of the easy ones for you. It is imperative to create the time to provide regular real interaction with your customers, especially when they have reached your support department, you are being handed a huge opportunity to build your brand.  Customer Service is our opportunity to represent our businesses. We can show our customers that we care enough to put real time and energy into helping them, not only in the support requests but proactively by being engaged with them as well.  Connecting with our members in social media and other areas is a huge opportunity to engage your user base and help them be the best they can be with your products that will make you stand out above the competition, especially in an over-saturated market.

I know that went off on a bit of a tangent there, but it is really the ultimate point of this post.  A lot of people start at the left with no automation, they get tired and burned out and either their business suffers, or they determine that they need to change something to start automating these tasks.  They start automating and see how much time it is saving them, customer experience is increasing, sales is increasing, so they increase the automation.  They end up with a product that operates flawlessly like a well oiled machine, but sales and activity decrease and they are left scratching their heads.  When it comes to automation you have to automate just enough to provide you with enough resources and time to give your customers the energy and time they deserve.

What are your experiences with website automation, can perfect synergy between automation and human interaction be attained?

How has automation helped your business? How has it harmed it? Please use the comments box below to share your thoughts and experiences.

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