Fix your sales-service handoff to enhance the customer experience
There’s no doubt about it: we’ve reached the age of automation, and today’s MSPs are using it to streamline their services in a number of ways. Whether it’s using email templates and workflow automation in CRM (customer relationship management) systems to eliminate hours of repetitive work from the sales process, or pushing customers to self-service portals for logging tickets, automation can allow you to eliminate the repetitive and redundant parts of a job, which in turn can improve employee satisfaction and increase productivity.
Automation can also help you find cost savings in a number of areas of your business. Find enough efficiencies, and you might be able to lower your headcount or retrain your employees for new roles.
Given these advantages, it can be tempting to automate everything. If one automated process is good, two will be better, right?
Here’s the thing: automation misfires. Systems break. Employees make mistakes. Software gets buggy.
Automation will never be able to override human error. If your process now allows you to do more things faster, it stands to reason that a mistake will impact your business on a much larger scale. The thing that you praised when it allowed you to contact 500 prospects in two minutes? You will be cursing it when all 500 of those prospects receive the wrong email. Let’s take a look at the pluses—and pitfalls—of using automation to streamline your sales to service handoff.
Where automation works
Look, I am by no means saying that automation is a bad thing. Automating certain tasks can really, truly make a difference in your day-to-day life. When people ask me what should be automated, the answer is easy: any task that makes people bored and/or complacent.
Many MSPs use an automated quoting tool that integrates with their Professional Services Automation (PSA) platform. Automated quoting is great, because it really does allow your salespeople to get out of the drudgery of clicking over and over, and streamlines something laborious that may not always be worth the amount of work it demands (a prospect is not yet a client, after all).
Likewise, setting up a sales nurture email campaign can be a great way to warm up colder prospects and coax them back into the sales funnel. If a prospect is too early on in their buying journey, or if they’re still working out what exactly they need in order to solve their problems, keeping them in the loop with an automated email cadence isn’t a bad idea.
… and where it doesn’t
There are some major caveats to the examples listed above, however. Let’s look at the example of using quoting software first. Let’s say you use quoting software to fire off a quote to a prospect, and that prospect wants to go ahead and sign a contract. The contract gets sent off and e-signed, and the prospect signs on for an onboarding date. You got a new client and no one had to lift a finger, right?
But now let’s say five other prospects just went through the same process, and they’ve all been promised the same onboarding date. Here’s where reality ruins everything. When the entire process from quoting to signing on are automated, there are no checks and balances in place.
There needs to be a place between service and sales where a human can come in and flag something. If there’s no capacity to onboard a client within the timeframe that was promised, that needs to be caught before the papers are signed. If not, you’re off to a not-great start with a new client when you have to go back on your word right away.
Now, let’s look at the example of using an automated sales nurture email flow. As I mentioned, they’re a great tool to use on colder prospects. And that’s it. Put yourself in the prospect’s shoes: if you just had a great call with a sales rep for an hour, and then an hour later you get an automated email from them, it feels impersonal and doesn’t fit the experience you just had. Automation should be overridden for warm prospects. You owe it to them to give them your full, human attention.
The lesson? Automation works well for many parts of your sales process, but it’s never a blanket solution. There are many points where you can easily differentiate yourself from your competitors by putting on your “white gloves” to treat the prospect with care.
Be aware of your limits
The trick is to find where the limits of automation exist within your business. The larger your company is, the more you can benefit from automation, but also, the more likely you are to experience automation gone awry.
Taking stock of your sales process and flagging all the parts where automation needs to end and a human needs to step in is important. A good rule of thumb is to look for the points in the sales process at which things stop being straightforward. This is often the point at which work is scoped and promises are made.
No client or prospect wants to feel like the work you’re doing with them is mundane, repetitive, or redundant, so you need to be aware of when things could start to tip this way. I’ll never forget one MSP that sent me a proposal with the name of my biggest competitor in all the places where my business’ name should have been. How is a prospect supposed to feel confident that an MSP can provide a unique or special service if they fail to catch something like that?
Quality control is key
One big lesson that seems to be difficult for some MSPs to learn is that automation is never a “set it and forget it” scenario. One MSP I know of changed over to a new PSA system to manage their ticketing process, but failed to realize for three months that the ticketing process wasn’t firing effectively. They lost three clients in a month because of it. This is more of a quality control issue than an automation one. Who was there checking the system to make sure it actually worked?
Let’s use an analogy that’s well-known in the IT world. People buy backup and disaster recovery products that are supposed to automatically check your backups every night. These things often misfire, though, so they’re often checked to make sure things were backed up correctly. The stakes are high, and no MSP wants to be held responsible for losing a client’s data simply because they forgot to check if something was firing properly.
You should approach your automation quality control the same way. You would never not check your backups, so why not apply the same vigilance to your sales and marketing software? Make sure you’re looking at each stage of the process to see where the bugs are, and check in frequently to make sure everything is still working as planned.
A final thought
There’s no doubt that automation can help you get out of the weeds and focus on the parts of your business that need attention. At the end of the day, how much you automate is up to you.
It can help to put on your “customer” hat. As a customer, automation is great when it makes sense. Who doesn’t love using the self-checkout line at their local grocery store? But if you walked into Tiffany’s and they had a self-checkout line, you’d be confused.
If you want your prospects and customers to feel valued, think about where that value shows up in the sales and onboarding process. Then, make a vow to yourself to never automate that part of the process. You owe it to your customers—and your business—to show up where it counts.
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