Automations have been around for a while. You know, all those robots that now put your car together on the assembly line, or hydrate your produce at the grocery store, or fly your airplane through the friendly skies. Automation is making our world more productive, more consistent and often times, easier. This same efficiency is now available in the world of developing customer relationships, but you need to understand what it is and how your business can use it. As we learned from the Jetsons, just turning relationships over to robots can go hilariously wrong.
You hear more and more about CRM and marketing automation, but people use it to describe so many different aspects of the marketing and sales efforts that it’s hard to understand just what it means and whether or not it’s something that can benefit your business. As we start to roll out our new, easy CRM automation, we’d like to help you better understand automations and which ones will be useful to you.
What is CRM Automation?
CRM automation is the use of technology to monitor specific events in the entire customer relationship process – both sales and support efforts – and trigger an automatic reaction based on that event without a person being involved. CRM automation is the umbrella term for all of the automation activities used throughout a customer’s relationship with a business: marketing automation, workflow automation, sales force automation and customer service automation. Automation can be as simple as sending an automatic “a real person is going to look at this and get back to you within 2 days” email message when someone writes into your support team. Or, automation can be as advanced as tracking a potential buyer’s abandoned shopping cart items and automatically showing them in banner ads on every other e-commerce website they visit.
What is Marketing Automation?
Marketing automation applies automation technology to the events happening in the very early stages of a customer discovering a new product or company. The marketing stage of the customer relationship is where you decide who will benefit from your product, how you can best communicate what your product does and where you should go to start spreading the message. This stage is what MBAs refer to as the “top of the funnel,” when you advertise, work on content to get good Google search traffic, find good partners to spread the word about your service, and test out other channels to reach new customers. Automation tools at the top of the funnel are mature, as the largest number of people come through this stage more than any other, so it’s hard – and virtually impossible for most small businesses – to get a person involved in every single interaction.
Some popular uses of marketing automation for small businesses are:
- Automatic email replies when someone signs up for a newsletter
- Automatic email when someone clicks on a link in a newsletter
- Automatic thank you email when someone attends a webinar or event
What is Workflow Automation?
Workflow automation is the use of automatic triggers to increase the efficiency of a workflow by getting the right people involved at the right time. As your business grows and you learn which marketing channels and which follow-up events are most helpful in selling to new customers, you’ll find that adding some structure to the follow-up process helps your team manage and learn from their efforts. This process can involve collecting contact information from the customer, determining shipping options and any special delivery information, setting price and collecting payment information, charting the schedule of any services being rendered, bundling any add-on products or services, including educational materials or resources, delivering the product and an enthusiastic welcome and onboarding experience. The automation of any of the steps in this process will make your team more productive and help your business grow. While there are some good automation tools available at this stage, they generally involve a mix of automated messaging and real person intervention.
Some popular uses of workflow automation for small businesses are:
- A series of tasks assigned to the sales team when a potential customer fills out a webform or writes in with an inquiry
- A series of tasks automatically assigned to the fulfillment team when a purchase is made
- An automatic follow-up assigned to the management team when a VIP writes in
What is Sales Force Automation?
Sales force automation has traditionally been the equivalent of CRM automation, but as more and more businesses take the customer relationship efforts outside of the traditional sales efforts (to include ongoing support) this term is used frequently to describe medium-to-large-sized businesses and their sales department’s use of automation to create efficiencies in the sales and fulfillment processes as well as to better forecast sales projections.
What is Customer Service Automation?
Customer service automation is the use of automation technology to create efficiencies when providing help desk support, education and training to customers. This customer support stage of the process is frequently the most hands-on point of your relationship with a customer, so automation should be used carefully. It can, however, be very useful in setting expectations for support responses, recommending educational tools and gathering information to speed up the troubleshooting process.
Some popular uses of customer service automation for small businesses are:
- Automatically gathering information from a web application user’s local system (browser version, operating system, etc.) in order to troubleshoot more accurately and quickly
- Automatic email letting customers know your support team’s expected wait time
- Automatic email of educational videos based on purchases or software usage
Can Automations Work for You?
Automations can be tricky. You need to operate your business as efficiently as possible, but you don’t want to lose touch with your customers, and you certainly don’t want them to feel like they’re being auto-ignored. As we roll out Batchbook CRM automations, we’re developing resources not only for building some time-saving and care-giving automations, but also resources for learning how best to use them, along with creative ways other businesses are automating the great relationships they’re building with their customers.