I was chatting with an IT Consultant recently, a “one man band” who supported the IT infrastructures of a number of local small businesses. We were discussing how he, like many other IT businesses I’ve spoken to recently, had seen an upswing in enquiries from potential clients.
In fact, the demand for him to meet with potential new clients was so great that he was struggling to balance them against the demands of supporting existing clients.
“And so it’s even more frustrating” he shared with me “when I arrive for client meetings and they’ve forgotten we were scheduled to meet!”.
I could feel his frustration. I’ve been there myself. Turning up at a client sites to fix an issue or have a scheduled meeting, only to be told “It’s not convenient right now” is a waste of time, especially when you have so many other people and places you could have been spending your time with instead.
Interestingly though, when I asked the IT Consultant what he was doing to mitigate against this waste of his time and energy, he told me that “I really should telephone ahead on the day of the meeting to make sure the client remembers, but I’m often too busy to remember to make that call!”
This is a prime example of a system created to solve a problem which then fails because of one crucial factor – the human element.
The human element
You’re probably familiar with the human element within your client’s businesses. How many clients do you have who have a data backup strategy that requires somebody to change a USB Hard Disk or a DLT tape each day? How many times does that backup fail because somebody has neglected to change the USB drive or the tape — especially on a Friday afternoon when their mind is focused on trying to get out of the door and go home for the weekend?
Any process that involves the human element — a requirement for a person to do something — is prone to failure. Why? Because we, as human beings, easily forget things, especially when we are busy or distracted.
The answer? Automate these processes to remove the human elements wherever possible
Automating Processes for efficiency
Move your clients from a manual process of backing up to USB Hard Drive to automated on line backup software, and watch as the reliability of backups increases. Sure, there is a cost involved — but I’d encourage you to consider the cost to your business of remediating backups that have failed due to the human element. Count the minutes (and hours) that you spend on this each month, multiply by the cost of the staff time involved, then compare it the cost of automating the solution. Chances are that you’ll actually be saving money through automation.
In the example of our IT Consultant, he knows he’s losing time and money by not confirming appointments with clients, yet his solution — to call the client on the day of the meeting — is a process that also fails because it involves the human element, he often fails to make the call himself.
Instead, he could try using an online calendar such as Timendo for bookings that sends out reminders via email and SMS. The process of contacting the client on the day of the meeting would be automatic, and would save him wasted time travelling to meetings that should have been cancelled. It’s a step he could take today and start reaping the benefits of immediately.
Automated systems = Trust and Professionalism
These type of automated systems often engender a feeling of trust and professionalism with clients too, giving you a competitive advantage as well as a cost saving.
If you need convincing of this, consider yourself and compare any courier business you’ve recently used either for personal or for business.
I’m willing to bet the courier companies you are a fan of are the ones who allow you to track where your package is, and then send an SMS or email to your Smartphone when the package is due to be delivered. Those other couriers who don’t use these automated systems? Even if their service is good, I’m going to guess you don’t view them as favourably as the company who communicates more effectively through automated systems.
Which business systems can you automate today? Which systems or processes do you have in place which could be made more robust by removing the human element and replacing with an automated system?
Calculate the actual cost of the human element in any of your existing systems. Be realistic. Then look at the investment required to automate any of those systems. The cost savings can often be surprising.