What To Automate First
When it comes to automation, there are differing levels of sophistication. Some people, like me, have their entire businesses almost automated. Others just discovering the power of automation take it one step at a time.
Payment & Order Related Processes
The first things you should automate are payment and order related processes.
The owner of a local service business I use quite frequently introduced his monthly maintenance program to me. He proceeded to tell me that my card would automatically be billed on the first of every month (a good start). Upon asking him what system he uses, he replied: "Oh, my secretary just takes out your file and manually types in your order on the first of every month. It's pretty hectic on that day as she does this with about 80 other clients so if you don't get billed til' the second, don't worry."
Juxtapose that with my business billing 300 people a day, automatically, without any human intervention. What's more, if a card declines, it automatically spits out a predetermined e-mail with instructions on how to log-in online and update billing information. Then, if their recurring invoice isn't paid in 3 days, it will attempt to bill their card again. On the second decline, a task to call member is created for one of my employees who will immediately see it upon logging into our automated crm system. Meanwhile, 3 days later, their card is attempted again. Upon each decline, they are sent an e-mail. On the 8th attempt, they are temporarily removed from the program and another task is created to save the client.
When a new customer orders for the first time, they are put on an automated campaign that immediately sends them a thank you post card, leaves a voicemail (in my own voice) on their answering machine the next day, and sends them another 30-day thank you letter and 45-day catalog, among other things. And it's all automated and outsourced. Not a single person on my payroll is responsible for stuffing a letter, licking a stamp, or even arranging a post office pickup.
To handle cancellations, I created www.CancelProgram.com. Sure, some strategists advocate putting up barriers for people to cancel or return programs but I don't believe in all that. Besides, I'm about decreasing customer service, not creating or exacerbating the frequency of inbound inquiries. Not only can they automatically cancel but on the confirmation page, there is an automated offer which entices them to give the club another try. If they click the acceptance button, they are automatically enrolled back in the club and their cancellation is reversed.
Once you've automated payment and order-related processes, you can move on to automating customer service tasks, sales ascension and conversion, retention, and more.