Automation has become a necessary and, well, automatic part of the way we do business. An increasing number of powerful technological tools are available to make all aspects of work easier, faster and more cost-effective. But is the price we pay for this automation a loss of the personal approach that has previously been so valued?
The use of algorithms, artificial intelligence and analytics can free up time and resources, saving money and introducing greater efficiency. For any business working on a medium to large scale, doing away with automation entirely would be foolhardy if not impossible. Today, only the smallest of local, customer-focused businesses can realistically offer an entirely personal service.
The question then is how do we get the right balance between automation and personalization? We’ve touched on why automation is so valuable, but perhaps at this stage, it would be instructive to remind ourselves of the benefits of a more personal, individual approach. Customers, clients, and contacts expect to be recognized and treated as individual human beings. That makes them feel valued, builds relationships and ultimately increases brand loyalty.
As AI becomes more sophisticated, automated responses can be tailored according to demographic data so as to appear more personal. Currently, however, the difference between a “bot” and a human customer service representative is still noticeable, especially if the conversation deviates from the expected script. Customers can find automated assistance frustrating and alienating when it doesn’t work out, although many have good experiences as well. Automated assistance is generally available instantly, without the need to wait for a human assistant to be free.
Automation is particularly helpful in email marketing and in generating leads. The latest email outreach tools can help businesses locate, sift through and reach out to their connections much faster and more effectively than before. They can also be used to generate personalized emails that are much more likely to be read and responded to than a generic mail-out. In this way, automation can actually be used to provide more personalized approaches.
Automation has allowed for closely targeted advertising, information capture and data analysis that actually leads to the kind of personalized, customized sales and marketing that today’s customers expect. It’s important not to become complacent about this though. The genuine human touch is still something that can’t be entirely replicated, and the automated process does need to be overseen, especially when judgment and sensitivity are required.
It’s worth noting though that customers don’t always prefer a more personalized approach. We all lead busy lives, and the popularity of phenomena like self-service checkouts and online shopping shows that often convenience and efficiency trumps time-consuming human interaction in our choices. This is fine if everything works smoothly, but we still expect personal assistance if something should go wrong or if a mistake needs fixing.
Automation is a great benefit for both businesses and consumers but personalization also benefits both parties and should not be overlooked. The two approaches are far from incompatible however, as automation can actually improve personalization to a degree. As always, it’s about striking the right balance between them.