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4 Times When Automation Is Actually A Bad Idea

When not to automate

We help companies large and small automate a wide variety of tasks in order to become more efficient in their day to day operations, marketing and sales. We love watching our customers ooooh and ahhh their way through our capstone demonstrations upon successful projects, filled with the knowledge that they are going to put dozens or hundreds of hours back in their week or month while critical tasks are being executed around the clock.

That type of satisfaction is addictive and leads to customers wanting to automate everything, no matter the nature of the task. But are there times when automation doesn't make sense? Should customers have second thoughts about automating certain tasks even if it appears that automating the tasks would save time or be beneficial to your business? Spoiler Alert! Yes. Here are several times when automation is a terrible idea.

1. When you are flat out told not to do it.

If you are reading this, you are probably on LinkedIn right now or at least have a LinkedIn account. Wouldn't it be just grand if you could automate all of those connection requests to the thousands of people you desperately want to connect with? Well, before you do that, let's take a quick look at LinkedIn's User Agreement that you *ahem* read before signing up for LinkedIn's service. Go ahead, I will give you a minute. All finished? Ok, did you read section 8 "Do's and Dont's?" How about these two paragraphs:

8.2 b. You will NOT Develop, support or use software, devices, scripts, robots, or any other means or processes (including crawlers, browser plugins and add-ons, or any other technology) to scrape the Services or otherwise copy profiles and other data from the Services;


8.2 m. You will NOT use bots or other automated methods to access the Services, add or download contacts, send or redirect messages;

I am not a lawyer, but I really don't know how it gets more clear than this. I know what you are thinking though. "But there are companies out there that offer automated LinkedIn connection requests." Yes, there are. But keep in mind that all of these companies do the same thing. They ask you for your LinkedIn credentials...not THEIRS. The automating of connection requests has to look like it comes from you, and people need to respond back to you and your account. Therefore, it is your account that will get banned if you get caught violating LinkedIn's terms.

2. When you are introducing yourself.

Back to LinkedIn for a moment. Want another reason for why LinkedIn automation is a bad idea? How many times have you gotten a connection request that looks like this:

"Hello <insert name here>, please accept my connection request."

Reasons not to automate

Accept What?

I have gotten dozens if not hundreds of these over the years from a variety of different folks. The stultifying dullness of these requests simply chips away at my soul as I am reminded that I simply don't matter to this person. This may not even be an automated outreach....but it looks like one, which is just as bad. Don't do this. Take some time, get to know the person you are connecting with, and read their profile. If you aren't sure about the best way to connect, check this out.

3. When a person is in trouble, needs help or is truly angry.

We automate a lot of help desk workflows and customer handling. Provisioning a customer, add them to a CRM, uploading their information to a ticketing system and dozens more tasks are totally appropriate when dealing with a customer. Even automating resolution of issues like automating the rebooting of a server, restarting a process, ordering a new part or setting up a new service are reasonable. What's not appropriate is this:

When someone is sending messages to your support site or to your chat window and they are clearly unhappy, get a person out in front of this. Do not send canned responses when they clearly aren't working or the problem is past the point of a scripted answer. This is true for big businesses, but it is critical for small businesses. The smaller you are, the less customer satisfaction you can afford. When you have a customer that is angry and has a legitimate complaint, the only automation you should be thinking about is speed dialing their number to talk about their problem.

4. When automation increases work or cost.

Customers know that they can automate tasks, but sometimes don't know when automating makes sense. There is something they do that's repetitive and tedious but it has to be done. "I am going to automate you if its the last thing I do..." they say to themselves with utter disdain as they perform whatever mundane task with keystroke after mind numbing keystroke. Sadness and despair set in as they watch 15 precious seconds of Candy Crush time seep away.

A common task in this category is that "upload" or "download" of some data from somewhere to somewhere else. Almost every company needs to do this and it is usually the job of the person that didn't show up to last meeting to get it done. It stinks, you know you can automate this, and you are scared that you might forget to do it and end up on another week of coffee fetching detail for the rest of the office.

When automation is a bad idea

It's only cool when he's fetching things...

But lemme ask you this. Have you ever driven in a car that has cruise control? Did you use cruise control when you drove that 2 miles to pick up the groceries? No, you didn't. You were simply the master of your domain for 10 minutes while you gently put your foot on that gas pedal. As you took control of what seems like the last thing you have control over, you got to the grocery store and you picked up those groceries like the independent, self-reliant superstar you are. Flipping cruise control on and off was not only unnecessary, but isn't really saving you any miles per gallon as you never hit your cruising speed anyway.

Here are a few questions to ask when automating:

1) How much time, per month, do you honestly spend doing the task? If you aren't saving at least .5 days a month, don't bring in a software package to automate this. You will spend .5 days a month administering whatever software that's saving you .5 days a month.

2) How critical is it if you miss doing the task right on time? If the company implodes because you missed "the upload" time, then maybe automate it, but use a script or simple program that's free (there are a TON out there).

3) Is there significant cost savings to automating? If there are significant penalties or fees for missing a task, then perhaps automate it and make sure there is a record that you can access proving the task was accomplished. Short of this, draw a line back to the hours saved and see if it is significant.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. If you want to learn more about automation, follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more information and articles on automation. Or, you can stay right here on LinkedIn and check out our page to see what we got cooking.

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