The one thing you dare not automate

The personal touch your clients appreciated when you were small can get lost in the chaos of growth. It eventually feels like tedious, recurring, mind-numbing work. That’s when someone like me suggests that you automate it.

Just don’t automate the wrong things.

Why automate?

Automation outside of manufacturing environments is mostly about doing tedious things and doing so consistently as the business grows. When you’re small, it’s easy to send a thank you email or a follow up survey.

As your business moves from 100 to 1000 or 10000 clients – things will change. You’ll shift from doing to managing. Your ability to spend time to manually send emails for routine but important follow ups will disappear, but the need to send them will not.

While growing, we want to:

  • Create a consistently high-quality experience for everyone.
  • Reduce the amount of tedious, but important work that must be done manually.
  • Get things done that probably wouldn’t get done otherwise, either because of time constraints, the volume of work, or both.

Follow up is a good example. There are so many opportunities to follow up with our clientele. Many opportunities are lost because following up is time-consuming. When follow up happens consistently, it’s often because it’s automated. As long as your follow up automated emails (or letter, postcards, etc) are written to sound like you talk, it’s OK.

Automating this work doesn’t reduce its importance, it simply makes space in your team’s day to perform other tasks that can’t or shouldn’t be automated.

In 2018, there are still a few things that can’t be automated, at least not very well. More importantly, there are those things that you simply shouldn’t ever automate.

The magic you bring is one of those things.

Magic means many things

There are many things you can automate. What you simply mustn’t automate is the magic you and your people create.

Think back to your favorite speech. It might be from a President, or during an event keynote – like one from Steve Jobs.

We have plenty of easy-to-use technology that can read the text of a Jobs keynote. None of these tools can even begin to sell, influence and convince like Steve did from the stage. Apple could email the text of the speech to their customers and we could read it. While a few might hear it in Steve’s voice thanks to “our mind’s ear”, most of us won’t. It’ll simply be words in an email.

The impact of someone who can speak on stage like Steve is the kind of magic I’m referring to. Magic appears in many forms and it’s management’s job to nurture it.

There are robots that can weld 24×7 with incredible consistency and quality. Even so, there are people who can weld like they’re the combination of Roger Staubach, Tom Brady, and John Elway executing a comeback in the last two minutes of a big game. Robots can’t replace that welder and you wouldn’t want them to. You deploy robots so that your magician has more time where magic is needed.

Great leaders do their magic by calmly & confidently assessing a crisis situation with their team, then leading them to the solution. IBM Watson might be able to analyze 100,000 chess move sequences and probable responses in a few seconds, but it can’t lead a team through a crisis.

You can automate the assessment of thousands of resumes to produce an ideal short list of candidates. What you can’t currently automate is reading and assessing character, motivation, hustle and the like. Your best interviewers can do that. Magic is watching them interview someone as compared to a “typical” interviewer.

You can automate the collection of feedback. Assessing that feedback, discussing it with clients, and prioritizing what to do about it – you dare not automate this work. When clients invest their time in a response to provide you with feedback, how you consume that feedback is critically important. Scanning it for keywords and soliciting additional details is huge.

Leverage your automation against the mundane, tedious and mind-numbing in order to make more time to keep the magic and guard those who create it.

Lose the magic and your company is just another business customers don’t cling to.

Photo by audrey_sel