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Automate! But please don’t automate!!

Isn't this title an oxymoron? If you are still thinking that something is wrong with the title, you should read this post to have clarity.


The customer support team is the face of any enterprise. The agent-customer interactions fosters relationships, cultivating brand loyalty, ensuring customer experiences. These relationships do not happen overnight. They are built over a period of time and they involve emotions.

I know a professional counsellor who offers relationship advices for couples, gives psychological counselling for people going through emotional issues. Recently he has incorporated Robo-counsellors to offer services. The first thought that hit me when I came to know about this was "What is so bad about his inter personal counselling skills that he had to disrupt the counselling service?" In a way, instead of automating processes, he started automating relationships.

The whole reason people choose counsellors is so they have an understanding person who listens to their problems and offers a solution. Someone they can trust. Now if all their secrets are stored in a data processing unit, their secret is not safe anymore. Ignoring the human element in businesses is a big mistake. Automation can inadvertently replace human interaction. Sure, it may save time on your end, and possibly your client's end too, but it may be doing more harm than good. Regular face time and phone calls with your client is a critical element in building relationships. This is where you build stronger customer relationships and it's in these conversations where issues are addressed and trust factor is developed.

Automation gone wrong 

Last December (2015), Chennai was hit by one of the worst floods the world has ever seen. Many lives were lost. Just two weeks after the flood ravaged the city, Facebook came up with their "Year in Review" video. Do you remember that? Facebook offered to generate a collage of popular Facebook moments which was a collation of all the updates and photos that garnered the most number of likes, comments and shares. I have a friend who lost his house in the floods. His video also had his damaged house picture (that garnered more comments). Facebook's automation did not serve its purpose. It was actually a very sad year for my friend. But the video ended with the tag line- "It's been a great year!"

The million dollar decision 

I want to be clear that automation has many benefits, and I'm certainly not saying that automation should be kicked out. Automation does make lot of sense in processes; but the one question that one has to ask is "Will my automation idea help someone or hurt them?" Automation must be done the right way; it's not a cure for all of your IT activities. Make sure you understand where automation can help you and hurt you, and be wary of automating every IT task.

Automate processes and not relationships

Relationships should not be automated as they can turn off the customers. However processes that involve time and effort in building relationships can be automated. Be careful to only automate the things that won't drive away your customers from you. When used in the right way, automations can help you save thousands of employee hours every year, save time and reduce cost.

Do you use any automations in your customer service? What have been your biggest automation wins so far?

- Arogya Sekar

Arogya Sekar

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