Yesterday I received a phone call from a vendor whose service involves sending personalized postcards and greeting cards – with pictures if you like – simply by pounding on their website for a moment.
I really like the service – they even let me create a font of individual letters using my handwriting, so that the text I type into the website is printed in my writing. BUT… (you knew that was coming)…their ability to let you automate this service is almost non-existent.
You can import a list from your Outlook or whatever, but that isn’t automation. It’s manual and a pain.
Once you’ve done that, you can setup a series of cards or postcards or notes to go out over a period of days as you like. Setting it up is a pain, but it works.
Their goal should be to make it as easy to send cards and postcards as they possibly can, since their profit depends on two things: the revenue from sending cards and postcards, and the exposure they get to new people who receive those cards and start using the service on their own.
As it is now, it isn’t real automation. Automation occurs when things happen automatically because something else happened, manual or otherwise.
I tried explaining this to the vendor and gave them a few examples.
One of them assumes that I’m performing a service or selling an item to customers who come back intermittently. Your internal point of sale and invoicing system should have the information needed to produce a list of “Who hasn’t been here in 30 days?” (or 60, or whatever).
If you’re on top of things, someone is currently printing out that list and having someone mail them a postcard, or a note, or calling them to see if they’re doing ok, need an appointment, etc.
If you aren’t, you’re simply waiting on the random behavior of your customers to visit your business again. Depending on random behavior is not what smart businesses do.
Smart businesses show up (and/or deliver) the way that Flathead-based Total Label USA CEO Don Ferris calls it: “Just before just-in-time”. They also make a point of reminding their customers to come back when it’s best for the customer, without being an annoying nag about it.
What do your customers use every month? What do they own that requires maintenance every quarter? If they aren’t buying or maintaining those things on that basis, every day they wait is costing you money *and* it could cost them money too.
Oh yeah, back to that every 30 days list.
What if your systems were automated and knew to send out a postcard (not one of those lame ones from the corporate office that no one reads) when someone should have an appointment coming up? And the system knows not to mail one if you already have an appointment scheduled in the next few weeks. And it knows to email the right person in your business 10 days after the postcard is mailed to remind them to call that person if and only if they don’t have an appointment (or haven’t made a purchase).
This isn’t rocket science, but the vendor didn’t seem to get how valuable this was not only to me, but to their bottom line.
Why do you need to automate your business? You need to because you aren’t getting it all done otherwise.
Want proof? Call a vendor in the Flathead who performs a service or sells an item that requires installation. More often than not, you’ll not find someone who can deliver today, or even this week.
Now don’t get me wrong, that’s good thing because it means they’re busy. Busy is good. Means they are doing some things right.
But backlogged and having to force businesses and consumers to go to your competition isn’t good, and it’s a fine line between busy and too busy.
On one side of the fine line: things that require your expertise. On the other is stuff that a high school kid could do in their sleep (and they need more sleep anyhow, right?). Those are the things to target for automation.
It isn’t about getting rid of people. It’s about giving the people you have the kind of work that generates profit, rather than simply keeping them busy.
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