Wednesday, October 16, 2019

The Limits of Marketing (and Customer Service) Automation


In the past few years, I have used marketing automation extensively for my own business and I have interacted with marketing automation from many other businesses. While there is the argument that marketing automation enables one to market 24/7, even when one is sleeping, there are also some cautions that should occur regarding this technology.

First, technology should not completely replace human interaction, which allows for emotional connection. If one uses technology independent of human interaction, it will be more difficult to make or close a sale and it will be virtually impossible to create customer loyalty based on that emotional connection. You must carefully integrate your marketing automation with human interaction.

Second, older people would rather talk to other people, not read FAQs, click through predetermined menus, "press one for...," fill out forms, receive auto responses, etc.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, many companies are not fully competent at designing their marketing automation systems. They don't turn off a prospect email drip campaign when the prospect turns into a customer, leading to confusing or annoying email messages. Or they present the customer with an automated cost estimate that only allows for an "accept" response with no ability to ask questions, discuss or partially accept the estimate.

I have encountered companies that have put me on multiple email streams based on how they coded me on their systems. Because of this, I am inundated with multiple email messages a day from these companies. I have also encountered a couple of companies for which "unsubscribe" only turns off one email stream, not all of them. I find that I have to repeat the "unsubscribe" request multiple times until I am actually unsubscribed from all of their email streams.

Then there are faulty executions of older automated telephone customer service approaches, which can be quite frustrating. Some systems don't mention your need in their menu of choices, forcing one or more of a few things to happen - choosing an option that may get you to the wrong person, putting you into a continuous loop of scrolling through the options again and again, or worst of all, hanging up on you. Another problem is when one system sends you to another system, for which you need to reenter your name, account number, password, PIN, telephone number or payment method.  People don't like to have to do this more than once, and the best CRM systems, if programmed correctly, can eliminate the need to do much of this even once.

Marketing automation and customer service automation are here to stay but don't overestimate their ability to make a sale for you or build your brand. And don't underestimate their potential to annoy your customers.

The best systems are carefully constructed with sophisticated filters, triggers and decision logic. And they provide for human interaction at critical points throughout the process. I have encountered too many systems that are poorly constructed, with the potential to damage the brands they were designed to help.

So be very careful when designing your marketing and customer service automation systems. They are useful tools but need to be carefully designed.

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