The Ten Commandments of CRM Automation
The Ten Commandments of CRM Automation
1. Thou shalt not assume automation is easy
But if you assume automation is easy, you’re more likely to take shortcuts, dive too deeply too early, or miss out on valuable automation strategies.
2. Thou shalt set clear, measurable goals
You need a plan. But before you can create a plan, you need goals. What are you trying to achieve? Why? How will you know whether and to what extent you have achieved your goals?
If you don’t know the answers to these questions, then one or more of these statements is true:
1. You aren’t working towards anything.
2. You aren’t sure why you’re doing what you’re doing.
3. You have no way of measuring your results.
Any one of these problems can lead to an automation strategy that is unfocused, sub-optimal, or maybe even harmful to your business.
Setting goals helps you to focus and prioritize your automation efforts. It also forces you to analyze your business.
The better you understand what you’ve done, what you’re doing, and how well you’re doing it, the better you’ll be at deciding what you want to be (or should be!) doing.
3. Thou shalt have a plan for achieving and measuring success
Your plan is how to go from goals to reality. Without a plan, it’s easy to fall into a series of tactics rather than building a real strategy. Some of those tactics may pay off for you individually, but they are very unlikely to be as effective as they would be if they were part of a larger strategy.
So, for example, if one of your goals is to reduce your turnaround time on support tickets, then you might consider automating ticket assignments, sending automated notifications to your support team, and automating some of your customer-facing emails to expedite your support process.
The exact details of your plan will depend on your business type, your strengths and weaknesses, and your customers’ expectations.
But you also need a plan for measuring your results.
If you intend to reduce support ticket turnaround time, then you need to know what those times are now, and you need to know what they are once you begin executing your plans.
That’s a simple example, of course. More complicated goals will require more complicated measurements. And even simple plans can have unexpected consequences (both positive and negative).
But the better you are at measuring your results, the more nimble you’ll be when you need to make changes, and the more capable you will be of understanding and replicating success and avoiding repeat mistakes.
4. Thou shalt not automate poor process
CRM automation is an incredibly powerful tool. Among its many benefits, CRM automation allows you to do more with less more quickly.
And that is exactly why it’s so important to get your processes right before automating them.
A friend of mine once received an automated reprimand for billing too many hours during a pay period. She was on salary, so those extra hours cost her company nothing—in fact, they represented revenue she was generating for them above and beyond expectations.
But because the system didn’t distinguish between hourly outside consultants and salaried internal consultants, the first response she got was an automated warning instead of a thank you.
As bad as that incident was, at least it was internal. Imagine you sent a similarly bad email to a prospect in response to a request for more information. That’s worse. It can sour a relationship even before it begins.
Now imagine you send a bad email in response to every such request from a lead or prospect. That can sour a lot of potential relationships.
Before you automate a process, make sure you aren’t simply enabling yourself to make more mistakes faster.
5. Thou shalt align thy departments
CRM automation is a powerful tool to connect your departments. Interdepartmental automation is a great way to increase efficiency and reduce errors in any process that requires touches from more than one department.
For example, our Credit Application Processor helps align your sales and accounting departments.
When an account is ready for a credit check, your salespeople click a box on the account record, and all the necessary information is automatically sent to the accounting department in an organized list.
Once each credit application has been reviewed and completed, the accounting department can click another box to notify the sales team that the account has been processed and is ready to receive orders.
Using automation to align your departments makes multi-department tasks feel effortless, and can dramatically reduce the chance that tasks get derailed as they move from department to department.
6. Thou shalt not ignore sales, service, and business process automation
CRM automation is more than just marketing automation. But too many businesses under-utilize automation by focusing exclusively on marketing when building an automation strategy.
That focus on marketing makes a lot of sense. After all, marketing automation offers a lot of value at the top of your funnel. That’s a big deal. The higher your are in your funnel, the lower your conversion rates. Automating top-of-funnel process allows you to cast a wider and more cost-effective net.
But ignoring other opportunities to automate your sales and service processes is a mistake.
How valuable is it to save your sales team follow-up and data entry time? Or to ensure they never miss meetings or forget to check in with a customer or prospect?
How valuable is it to ensure quick, accurate responses to support requests? Or to keep customers up-to-date on their support tickets without requiring extra steps from your support team?
Don’t ignore how valuable CRM automation can be for your non-marketing teams. Let your CRM manage more of your team’s time.
7. Thou shalt automate more than one type of process
There is more than one way to under-utilize automation. Too many businesses never progress past automated emails, no matter whether they are for marketing, sales, service, or accounting. Others set automated alerts, but nothing else.
Don’t make your CRM into a glorified auto-dialer or alarm clock.
You don’t need tons of highly complicated automations to generate value from your CRM, and there is nothing wrong with starting simply.
But long term, CRM automation should help you streamline as many processes as you reasonably can. Ignoring huge swaths of your process is a recipe for sub-optimal CRM automation, and will reduce the ROI of your system.
8. Thou shalt not try to do too much too soon
At the same time, it’s important not to try to do too much too soon. Again, there is nothing wrong with keeping things simple at first as long as you build from there.
But don’t add more automations before you’re ready. If you haven’t mastered your first couple of email automations yet, don’t pile more on. That’s likely to result in automating poor process in violation of the 4th CRM Automation Commandment.
Some of your automations will be simple to build and easy to optimize. Others will not be. Don’t be afraid to spend a little extra time mastering your more complex automations before building off them or moving on. As long as you are building, you’re moving in the right direction.
9. Thou shalt not lose the human touch
A few years ago, the USPS lost a package of mine. This sort of thing happens from time to time, especially around the winter holiday season, which is when this particular package shipped. But this time around, I had been shipped something that was time-sensitive and could not easily be replaced.
And so began my slog through the United States Postal Service’s automated customer support labyrinth.
I’ll spare you the gory details, but I spent about two hours getting passed around by clunky automated operators, none of which offered the options I needed in order to track down my lost package, and none of which offered the option to speak to an actual person.
A little research revealed just how many people had run into the exact same problem (and just how angry they were). A little more research revealed a loophole: a series of contradictory menu choices that would confuse the system and make it call on a human for help.
That’s right: I had to crash the automated USPS system to get the help I needed.
Once I had a human customer service representative on the phone, he was incredibly personable, competent, and efficient. Within minutes, he had my case entered and escalated. Two days later my package was found at the wrong address and redelivered to the correct address.
I got tremendous customer service from the person I spoke to, and my problem was resolved well within my time constraints. If that had been my interaction with the USPS, I would have left that incident feeling very good about and confident in the postal service.
Instead, I got jerked around by machines for hours first, leaving me furious.
Don’t do this to your customers.
Customer-facing automation is good. It saves you time and resources. But automation should also save your customers time when possible, and it should do so without making them feel undervalued or under served. Good automation augments your customer interactions. It doesn’t replace them.
10. Thou shalt not run on autopilot
It can be incredibly tempting to set-and-forget your automations. But that is a trap.
Regularly test your automated processes, especially the customer-facing ones, and make sure they are working (and working optimally).
And when you get feedback on an automated process, don’t ignore it. Positive feedback can offer you ways to apply success in one area to other areas of your business process. Negative feedback can help you improve or fix what isn’t working well, and avoid similar issues in the future. Both are incredibly useful.
Negative feedback is particularly important to address. Ignoring poor automation doesn’t just increase the likelihood of more negative user experiences in the future; it increases the intensity of those negative experiences.
When I started researching the USPS customer service system, I found two-year-old complaints from people experiencing my exact problem, and it just made me more angry. After all, from my perspective they’d been screwing up for two years and hadn’t bothered to fix it!
Don’t autopilot your way to soured or even hostile customer relationships.
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David Marincic is head of publishing at Azamba. He focuses on education and outreach, and manages and edits Azamba publications and social media channels.
David believes in the importance of good planning, sound practice, effective communication, and continued education in order to get the most from any technology solution.