When Should You Automate Services?

There is a common drive for most businesses to automate services and reduce the cost to serve. The question these days isn’t whether it can be done, it is more about when you should consider it and for what services. This question often drives businesses towards a range of potential technology solutions in the hope that they can cut costs and enable customers to self-serve so that it will improve their overall experience. Sadly, many experiences don’t live up to the hype and leave customers frustrated, which then needs to be resolved through manual intervention i.e. they pick up the phone to call a human!

The issue surrounding automation is driven by the need to cut costs, but are you really cutting costs if the technology doesn’t drive the right behaviour in customers? Probably not – so when should you apply automation?

The first decision that a business needs to reach is whether the business is currently delivering high quality services productively? If the answer is yes, it may well be time to consider improving things further by introducing automated technologies. If the answer is no or not yet, then consider addressing this point first. To put this simply, if you decide to automate in advance of optimising and improving your core services you will likely automate the existing practice… and if that’s poor, inadequate or even an average service then automating it will continue this experience, plus the cost of procuring the technology of course.

It’s key not to fall into this trap; find ways to improve your core services without investing in automated technology first. If you don’t have the skills or knowledge in house then seek external advice, you will be glad that you did. It will at least validate your current course of action before it’s too late, and it will confirm that the automation services being applied will continue to deliver high standards at the lowest cost.

Once you have concluded that your service is optimised and you can measure the effectiveness of each stage or transaction, it’s at this point you will need to consider whether it is worth automating. Just because you can doesn’t mean that you should. Ask; is it in the best long term interests of your company and brand identity; where is your market and can a large proportion of your customers adapt to the automated changes; what is the return on investment from automating and does this make sound financial sense?

Don’t gamble that this will add value to your service or customer experience without fully researching your options. Fully evaluate your existing skills, services and capabilities. Ensure that your conclusion is supported by the facts. Don’t risk alienating customers or staff through poorly considered technology solutions that are designed to save money, but end up costing you more in terms of lost customers or ineffective processes that require more human intervention!