Does Automation Help or Hurt Your Business?

Both large businesses and small are moving toward increased automation. After all, automation can solve numerous problems for business. 

It can make the business more efficient and can cut costs for employees.

But in the process, a business that does not manage the automation process runs the risk of alienating its employees and most importantly, it’s customers.



Members of Revitalization Partners recently ran into the “hell” of automation in both a very large company and a very small one.

The first issue relates to something that most of us use: Fed Ex.  We were at an offsite location and had to get a couple of packages in Fed Ex.  We located the Fed Ex packages, addressed them, put a credit card on the package and put them in a Fed Ex box at the airport.

The next day, we received a call from Fed Ex indicating that they could no longer accept credit cards for packages dropped off at Fed Ex boxes.  When asked: “What should we do?’ the answer was to go online and set up a Fed Ex account using the credit card we used to ship the packages.  Seemed easy, right?



After trying three times to set up the account and having the attempt rejected by Fed Ex, we finally called the company.  We got a very helpful agent that was able to set up the account using the same credit card we had been using. 

When we asked him why there was a problem with the online system, he indicated that it had been having trouble accepting credit cards.  When asked how long this had been a problem, he indicated that it had been five or six months!

Obviously, the people responsible for the online system don’t seem to know that it is failing customers.  And more importantly, some employees don’t know either; witness the person who suggested we set up the account online.



This is a good example of while an automated system can help connect with more customers than physical representatives, it should not relieve the employees responsible of personal responsibility.

In order to be effective, in terms of increasing business, automation should help employees while reducing human error and risk. Personal responsibility is essential to establishing trust with customers.

Performed properly, automation should act and feel the same as if employees were doing the task manually.  The Fed Ex online system is failing in that goal.



On a smaller scale, one of the members at Revitalization Partners often submits prescriptions to a local pharmacy.  These for years have been able to be submitted to a phone-based system and have them approved by the physician and filled. They can then be picked up the next day without waiting.

The pharmacy recently installed a new phone system that does not have this feature.  Now a prescription must be either called in to a live person or taken to the pharmacy and picked up when it is ready. 

Since there are a number of online pharmacy’s that will accept a prescription at any hour of the day or night and arrange delivery, either the next day or day after, the reduction in local service may have a negative impact on those customers that used the former service.



One of the top reasons why automation isn’t beneficial for most businesses is that it impinges communication between employees, customers and suppliers.

Automated systems are helpful when navigating through a general task or problem, but the fact of the matter is that automation generally treats every unit as the same despite how personalized a problem or project may be.

In order for customers to feel their concerns are genuinely being heard, automated systems need to provide personalization, or they will instantly create a communication wall between stakeholders.



For example, have you ever called your cable provider to get help with your internet or cable service and the automated attendant picks up and you get 15 minutes into the call and you cough accidentally and the attendant says, “So you want to hang up and quit this call?”

You then quickly say “No,” but you still have something caught in your throat and the attendant then says, “You have confirmed that you would like to end this call…goodbye.”

You’re screaming at the stupid phone and yelling expletives because you said “No” but the “automated” system thought you said “Yes.”




From Fed Ex to the local pharmacy to cable companies, these companies believe that automation helps their cost structure and efficiency.

But over time, as they watch their customer base decline, they may begin the realize that efficiency and customer service need to go hand in hand.

Revitalization Partners specializes in improving the operational and financial results of companies and providing hands-on expertise in virtually every circumstance, with a focus on small and mid-market organizations. Whether your requirement is Interim Management, a Business Assessment, Revitalization and Reengineering or Receivership/Bankruptcy Support, we focus on giving you the best resolution in the fastest time with the highest possible return.

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Over the years, through our many assignments, the Principals of Revitalization Partners frequently said to ourselves: “One day, we should write a book about our work and how we can help companies through our experiences.” This is that book and we hope that you find words of value to you and your business.

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