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.

 

AUTOMATION CAN BE HELL …

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?

 

WE TRIED 3 TIMES !!!

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.

 

PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY STILL NEEDED …

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.

 

NEED RX FOR NEW PHONE SYSTEM …

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.

 

CREATING COMMUNICATION BARRIERS …

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.

 

HAVE YOU EVER?

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.”

 

 

EFFICIENCY & CUSTOMER SERVICE MUST …

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.

The Importance of Customer Service – Part 2

 

In our last blog, we talked about the importance of customer service and the impact it can have on your business.

Businesses are focusing on customer service as they examine increasing other costs in other areas of the business and look for ways to reduce customer service costs.

We’ve elected to discuss some key customer service skills that businesses have forgotten, are underestimating, or never learned.

 

4 CRITICAL SKILLS …

Here are four customer service skills that can be the difference in success or failure to a business.

 

1. PATIENCE

If there’s one thing that has come to define the digital age, it’s speed. High-speed internet, instant video streaming, Wikipedia-style informational databases, online shopping with next-day delivery-all seem to promise customers everything, all without having to wait for it.

Businesses believe that by rushing potential customers through the sales process, they’ll have more time to devote to acquiring new leads. However, there’s something to be said for taking a more leisurely approach.

When companies and clients are able to move slowly through the sales funnel, the extra time allows for better mutual understanding. Of course, many customers may still insist on a quick resolution.

It’s the responsibility of the business to ensure the customer fully understands what he or she is committing to.

When necessary, explain to hurried customers that in order to provide the best customer service, there are important steps that can’t be rushed.

Most customers would rather invest the time to ensure competent service, than be quickly rushed into something they may end up regretting.

 

2. KNOWLEDGE

Few things are more frustrating for a customer than having to deal with unknowledgeable company representatives.

A nightmare situation many consumers have experienced happens when a customer is transferred from department to department, having to re-explain their situation again and again to representatives who either don’t have the authority or understanding to make things right.

The majority of employees who work directly with customers are often situated at the bottom rung of the corporate ladder.  

It’s become even more prevalent as many businesses are now choosing to outsource customer service departments in answer to their growing customer base.  

But while it may make sense financially to spend less on customer-service specialists, it makes absolutely no sense at all when you consider the customer service implications.

Your customers are your company’s most important resource, and without them your business ceases to exist.

So, spend necessary time, effort, and money to ensure that those within your organization who work directly with your customers have the training and authority necessary to give them a positive experience.

Think of these added expenses as investments: 55% of customers would be willing to pay more for a better customer experience, so go ahead and charge a little bit more to make up for the added training.

 

3. UNDERSTANDING

When you have the opportunity to meet your customers directly and communicate with them face-to-face, it’s generally less difficult to understand them.

But as more and more customer interactions are taking place on the virtual stage, the ability to accurately ‘read’ customers is diminishing. This is because there are many more layers to conversation than can be conveyed through words.

Body language, voice inflection, and a thousand other details that are vital to communication are garbled when businesses and customers attempt to communicate through text, telephone, or video conferencing.

These limitations can be circumvented, however.   A 2013 Business Insider article provides a number of useful tips on how to read people, and many of those tips can be easily adapted for use in long-distance communication.

That having been said, when it comes to accurately conveying intentions, feelings, and ideas, there is no substitute for honesty.   If customers and representatives can communicate openly, they’ll be more likely to reach a favorable outcome.

 

4. APPROACHABILITY

Customers don’t simply want the best products or the best prices; they want the best people.

Personality has always been an important aspect of the customer-business dichotomy.

But with the necessary automation of sales processes, it’s becoming more difficult for customers to connect with businesses. 

As a result, businesses become faceless, uncaring entities in the eyes of the consumer. 

The remedy: A simple name tag. 

A name tag shows your customers that you welcome their questions, concerns and anything else.

Of course, when operating over a digital medium, a physical name tag becomes somewhat ineffective.  You can make up for that via social media pages that are well-maintained and give your customers a place to connect with your organization.

The benefits of this kind of connection have been well documented: 77% of buyers are more likely to buy from a company if its CEO is active in social media, and 46% of web users visit a company’s social media pages before committing to a purchase.  

Also, organizations that deliver customer support through social media achieve gains of 7.5%, in comparison to the 2.9% gains seen by those organizations that do not.

The digital age has opened up an entirely new universe in which businesses are able to generate new leads and establish customer relationships.  

Unfortunately, it has also played a part in driving a wedge between consumers and organizations.

However, by identifying the aspects of customer service that are routinely being neglected and training employees to focus their attention on repairing these breaches, your organization can take advantage of the increased speed and reach of the 21st century digital landscape.

Don’t let customer neglect separate your business from the people on whom it depends. Recommit to customer retention and satisfaction through building customer service skills, and you’ll find that as you make their happiness your priority, your customers will respond accordingly.

 

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.